overseas volunteering

I arrived on this ship full of energy to pour into the lives of others and I was so psyched to live abroad on a ship for a full year (although it turned into 3 years). It wasn’t a huge sacrifice for me; it was something I couldn’t wait to try. I heard so many people say, “I could never do that. I’d never be able to live far from family with no steady source of income.” I totally get that, but if only they knew what they’re missing! Would they say that if I told them what it’s really like?

I’ve learned things that would have come in really useful two years ago. I’m not talking about the fluffy, spiritual benefits that are hard to relate to secondhand. [I’ve had plenty of fluffy, spiritual moments; I love those.] I’m talking about experiences that make you feel epic and everyone deserves to feel epic once in a while! Here are the unexpected perks; you’ve gotta try it!

You’ll have fuel for small talk.

When you go to a neighborhood BBQ or a networking event, small talk with strangers is inevitable. You know those initial encounters where you bounce a few questions back and forth, but still have no idea what the other person is talking about? Or you realize they are the most boring person ever? You will now be ready. My time overseas volunteering has given me fodder for quite a few BBQs to come. I’ve learned about so many more states and countries. I can make a very accurate guess as to whether your accent is from Australia, South Africa, Canada, or Great Britain. I can tell you that I’ve been an electrician, dental hygienist, and nurse! I’ve had lemurs steal bananas from my bag and I’ve run out of water while climbing Table Mountain. Travel and volunteer work gives you context for endless life situations.

Some friendships get better.

For me, this resulted in part due to building relationships with my supporters. I don’t get paid; we are volunteers living off of donated funds. This decreases my sense of independence and increases our sense of gratefulness. It’s such a blessing to see who steps up to support us and I love learning more about what drives people to reach out in this way. Additionally, the friends that don’t support us financially but check up on us and love us from afar give me fresh steam to keep going when I feel discouraged. I have a few friendships that have blossomed while I’ve been abroad. That is one aspect that people don’t mention often, but these precious friends fill a crucial role in a balanced life for me and my husband.

temporary escape from our madhouse country.

I keep reading about all the Americans who want to leave the heart-warming, endearing U.S.of A. Can you believe that? Oh, you can? Trust me; me too. I certainly relate and it’s a relief to have some literal distance from my country. No matter how patriotic you are, you cannot tell me you haven’t fantasized about moving away from our madness-saturated “home of the free”. If there is a spectrum of volunteers overseas, ranging from, “I volunteer abroad because I can’t stand the U.S.” to “I’d prefer to be serving my fellow citizens, but for now I’m abroad,” I fall towards the latter. I love my country and I know there are many who need someone to fight for them in my own neighborhood, but it sure can be nice to not have to deal with American politics, negativity, and drama in it’s unadulterated, full-strength form.

tempted yet?

Even if you’re still not sold on the idea of leaving your comfortable home and stable job, I hope I’ve sold you to the bright side of traveling. It’s not all sacrifice and homesick, lonely nights. We haven’t even touched on the rewards of volunteering itself! When you combine all these elements, you might understand why I’m so glad I took the plunge two and a half years ago.

For those of you who never needed any convincing in the first place, maybe these reasons are what you need to show your mom when she asks you for the 18th time why you’re throwing your life away. My mom never asked, but I have lots of friends who get the question again and again.

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20 comments on “Overseas Volunteering: 3 Tempting Reasons to Try It!”

  1. I thought about volunteering overseas when I was at university. I really wanted to do something for others but sadly all options I looked at required participants to pay a lot of money for the programmes to cover the stay etc.

    • Izabela, university is a great time to do it, but it’s also a time when many have tight budgets. I get that. My secret is finding a cause I really believe in and asking friends and family from home to support my costs if they believe in it too.

  2. It’s seems that this type of volunteering makes the best out of everything, helping others and both making possible for those who apply to learn something new and meet different cultures. 🙂

  3. I say it’s always good to “leave the womb” and what better way than to be a volutneer overseas! I even have a dear friend who joined the Peace Corp late in life. There is no expiration date on doing good.

  4. Overseas volunteering isn’t for me. No matter how tempting it is, I just couldn’t give my whole heart to it. My sister did, on the other hand. She loves helping others and she likes the experience. I think she would really enjoy reading this post of yours. Will be sharing this to her. 🙂

  5. I so wish I had the means to do this right now. I think it would be incredible. But it is absolutely something I aspire to do when my kids are grown. I want to travel the world and help as many people as I can.

    • I hope you can carve out a trip in the future. It will be so worth it. Thankfully, we don’t have to go far to learn about a new culture or help a neighbor.

  6. I worked as a missionary and volunteer aid for a couple summers in the colonias of Tecate, Mexico and it was a wonderful experience and did all the things you pointed out here. I remember coming back to the states and was immediately bombarded with tabloids and reality TV ads and just feeling so turned off by it all. It’s really great for the soul to get away and focus on putting others’ needs before your own and to see what is really important in life. Thanks for sharing!

    Elisabeth Wallace -www.theabstractlife.com

  7. I lived in mainland China for a year teaching English. It was incredibly enlightening to see how others view the United States- the good and the bad. I also learned a lot about our country, culture, and simply our way of life by viewing it through the eyes of others…and having to explain it to others as well. It truly was the best year of my life!

    • I would love to experience that from the perspective of several different cultures! So cool you got to experience that in China.

  8. Whenever I read your blog posts it makes me just want to pack up my bags and head back to the ship! I hope to be back someday soon it was such a life changing and eye opening experience. I really appreciate your perspective.

    • Thanks for commenting Marlayna! We hope you come back too! Heck, I hope I come back again and again… although maybe not all at once.

  9. I love the getting a break from our madhouse country. Just got back from 2 weeks in England. OMG, you couldn’t escape the madness of the election across the ocean. And we were subjected to the locals opinions. Ugh.

    • “subjected to the opinions of the locals” Haha for some reason that makes it harder. When I’m talking to others from other countries, even if they are well-informed, I feel like, “But you don’t get a say!” 🙂

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