Travelling solo? High five! Honestly we believe that it’s the best way to make new friends and truly become the person you’re destined to be. Yet how do you immerse yourself fully into a culture and step off the tourist trail? How do you experience a community like a local and contribute to the society you know you are going to fall in love with, without exploiting it?
Volunteer! It’s the best way to step out of your comfort zone and dip your toes into the unknown. You’ll have peace of mind that there’s 24/7 in country assistance, will meet others with the same mentality as you because you are all there for the same purpose, and you’ll never be lonely. You will become stronger, know your own mind and know what you want and don’t want.
Where to start?
Find a program that is aligned with your interests, passions and skills. Let your heart guide you instead of your wallet. Where there is a will there is a way (and fundraising). Read between the lines and do your research to make sure that the organization is reliable, safe, trustworthy and sustainable. We stalked a few organizations on social media and blogs!
Who did we choose?
After much research with the help of Responsible Travel, I decided to venture to Cambodia with Reach Out Volunteers. They do incredible work across Asia, Africa and South America, but I chose Cambodia not only because of a life long fascination with the country, but also because of the chance to delve into both a school community project and jungle project working alongside elephants. This is the Village and Elephant program.
Why Reach Out Volunteers?
“We believe you can change the world, one village at a time”. You can. Reach Out is founded on the principle that anyone who wants to make a difference can make a donation to the Charity and see the real change their contribution brings about in the lives of people far less fortunate than themselves.
There are free volunteering programs out there. But don’t be fooled. Why are they free and are you actually benefiting the community you are working in? Here the money for the cost of the program goes directly into the project itself, and the beauty in this is that you are developing the project so you get to experience this first hand. All of the projects are developed by the local community and create long-term sustainable benefit. You assist in providing food, water, education, sanitation and shelter to deprived communities and help to protect endangered species of animal by tracking, monitoring, feeding, and building safe and vegetated habitats.
Honestly, this was the best experience of my life. I’m trying not to be too biased in writing this but I truly believe there is no other organisation that could run something as incredible as this on a personal level so smoothly! From the application process to balancing on top of a wooden beam attaching a roof, if i ever had any questions, doubts or intrigue, our team leader was there to help. Even better, everything is included. From food and water, accommodation and transport on the ground to program activities and materials needed for projects. This is transparent, sustainable volunteering with a purpose.
As an independent individual there were times when being alone was just as harmonious as working together in a group. Taking time to capture the perfect moment on your camera or going for a dip in the pool by yourself is fine – just because you are working in a group you still have the chance to breathe and really soak in the experience. And that’s an equally important part of getting to be comfortable in your own skin. You have to be comfortable with yourself to feel at peace with yourself in what can sometimes be a world full of chaos.
So if you long to dance in circles, learn a language and skills from incredible smiling locals, sing at the top of your voice, feed and protect elephants, and explore the hidden depths of the human soul, Reach Out are there to help your dreams become a reality.