Volunteering has been misunderstood for many years. It is now seen as an exploration ventured only by the young, an indulgence molded by the ‘gap year’ phenomenon of the past decade, and, as a result, overshadowing the meaning of what volunteering abroad is all about. Late teens, early twenties may be embracing these projects, but it does not mean to say the older generations are not capable and should not participate. Volunteering abroad is an extremely rewarding experience, which will only add meaning to your travels.
It allows you to immerse yourself into a culture; tasting and acknowledging what is around you, making you an expert on your situation and enabling you to remove the binoculars and view the world in a completely new light. Volunteering removes the tourist connotations that come with travel. It provides structure to a trip, allowing you to give back to those who are less fortunate, enriching your life and giving you a more rounded cultured persona.
It will not only change your life but also the lives of those who you are helping. Volunteering will allow you to become intimately involved within the community, providing you with an in-depth insight into the country’s culture.
Projects like these seek older volunteers, ones who have the expertise and transferable life skills, which will help the project progress, supplementing the lives of those who are affected around you.
There are many volunteering projects available throughout the world; they fly you to a place that you might not necessarily have envisioned as a holiday location. There is no need to be shy; these projects will remind you of how incredible this planet we live on is, opening your eyes to a whole new way of life.
We all live busy lives. It’s a part of modern culture, but don’t let this stop you. Time constraints hold many people back from travel; volunteering projects have the misconceptions of requiring a dedicated long period of time off. However, projects run from as short as two weeks to as long as you dare.
Volunteering is not just for the young and adventurous, it’s for all ages. There is no age restriction. There is so much experience in the older generations that is needed but lost to the connotations or expectations that volunteering is a youthful game. Conservation and development non-profit NGO’s (non-government organization) have a volunteering project for almost anything, meaning you can usually find something that interests you. It’s an off-the-beaten-track experience enabling you to become a valued global citizen who is a part of a wider global project. As a result, it’s having a huge impact on the conservation of endangered animals and on the development of impoverished communities, with its longevity witnessed every day.
Volunteering projects need older generations to partake; they have the experience, the patience, and understanding. They have the time, skills, and attributes of which so much is transferable. Everyday is a school day and we do not stop growing or learning. Volunteering abroad is an extremely rewarding and promising experience which should not be dismissed by older travelers as a youthful indulgence.
Author Ed Hawes is an Online Journalism Intern at Frontier, an international non-profit volunteering NGO that runs over 300 conservation, community, and adventure projects worldwide. He can be found blogging on Frontier’s Gap Year Blog or posting on the Frontier Official Facebook page.