Unexpected Joys of Volunteering Abroad

Volunteering comes in many different ways, whether it is helping at a local food bank, helping the elderly get some fresh air or teaching in and building a school abroad. There’s no doubt that volunteering helps individuals and communities but surprisingly the volunteers also benefit.

More and more people are choosing to help further away from their local community and choosing to volunteer abroad. But why are so many people opting for this way of travel?

There are many unexpected joys which accompany volunteering abroad. Here are just a few:

International Friends

I made friends with many different people from all over the world and from different walks of life. I would have never met these people in my everyday life.

Volunteer groups contain a cross section of society, they all have different stories and experience. I also received insider tips on career paths, which I never would have learnt about otherwise.


Previously when I had travelled for longer periods of time, I easily got through about £700 a month on hotels, meals and getting around without the flights and everything else. I had to save for months.

When I volunteered abroad, I could stay away for longer depending on programme fees. Some projects included food or had a kitchen, so I saved money by eating in the volunteer house rather than wasting money in cafes.

Another unexpected saving was extending my stay for longer for lower than the advertised rates, but this is something best left to after you have stayed awhile already and shown your commitment and enthusiasm.

New Foods

Since travelling my taste in food has broadened. Volunteering abroad made me become less fussy and open to new food. I used to believe that a meal wasn’t complete unless there was meat on the plate at least one form of carbs. Whilst travelling I often prepared salads and many rice and veg meals. When eating out now I consider the whole menu now rather than just looking at the burger and chips.

Learning About Yourself

Spending time away from your everyday routine frees up space to reflect. I didn’t realise how bashful I was until I stood up to teach on my first day. I always believed I was confident until I taught for the first time. With some encouragement from long stay volunteers I got over my nerves by the end of my first week.

I also realised I was a lot messier than a lot of the other volunteers, this was new to me and certainly something I have worked on since.

Volunteering made me also learn a lot of positive attributes I had never realised before. New volunteers seemed to gravitate towards me and open up easier than others, apparently I was a good listener. I never thought of myself as an exceptional listener, but many people noted this. Oh, and I learnt to swim properly!

Getting Fitter

I never realised how sedentary my life was at home. I was just going from chair to chair and grabbing food on the go. I began to notice how unfit I was when I volunteered, shamefully I was worn out at the end of the day, even without doing any major exercise. Standing in front of a class for an hour at a time, combined with walking to the school, running around with the kids at break and eating a healthier diet due to the lack of fast food around. All of this made me healthier and fitter.

Friends for Life

Being in a group with others twenty-four seven forces you to form a deep connection. There are no secrets, they have seen you without your make-up and when you’re cranky in the morning with bed head. You get to go through the highs and the lows together.

Friends tend not to live together in their home country, you get to pick and choose when you want to see them according to your mood.

After living with these people, I was encouraged to travel and volunteer again with them. I knew I got along with them despite my mood. Rather than risk ruining a friendship with someone who I have never travelled before and didn’t know if we were travel compatible.

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