As volunteer travel gains popularity across the world, our reader Dronacharya Dave takes us through why India has become a popular destination for foreign volunteer travellers.
Before you start wondering what this ‘Volunteer Travelling’ is all about, let us talk about the travelling scene in India. Travellers from all parts of the world fulfill their wanderlust by visiting the magical land of India. The diverse culture, spicy cuisines, colorful festivals, serene landscapes, and hospitable people create a great environment of a travel experience. India has something for every kind of traveller, whether you are a nomad backpacker, adventure seeker, business traveller, or a student traveller on your gap year.
However, the most common hindrance for most travellers is choosing the expedition. Unless you hire a professional guide (which includes additional cost) or have a friend/relative already living in the country, it becomes a bit tricky to know the correct places and activities to do, in order to experience the real India. Being a traveler myself, I can totally relate to this.
To overcome such situations, travellers normally choose two ways:
1. Do a thorough research about the destination and make an entire itinerary before embarking for their journey.
2. Hire a professional guide for the complete trip.
While the first one takes a lot of background work and utilizes a lot of time without guaranteeing that things would turn out the way they are planned, the second includes extra cost to your travel expenses.
Volunteer Travelling helps overcome any of such cumbersome preparations and/or additional expenses.
The concept is in practice in most foreign countries, and is popularly known as ‘Gap Year Travel’.
This is no regular way of travelling as it involves volunteer work with NGO projects in India, making the travel more meaningful. This kind of travelling is mostly undertaken by students in college or those who have just completed school, thus giving them an opportunity to experience independence and learn about the culture and traditions of other countries.
Along with students, professionals on sabbatical, explorers, and backpackers too take up volunteer travelling to make the most of their expedition.
There are volunteer placement agencies which helps with placing volunteer travellers under different projects in India, and take care of their entire trip. All the way from accommodation, meals, local guidance, cultural orientation, and city tours, they take care of everything. This certainly eases out the process for the travellers, as they don’t have to face common travel hassles and can just focus on their work and enjoy their sojourn.
After speaking to several travellers who chose volunteering in India, it was clear that there are several differentiating factors which gives it an edge over regular trips to India. These factors include:
1. Opportunity to live with local families
Photo source: photos.sandeepachetan.com
Several placement agencies provide accommodation with host families as well. This gives travellers an opportunity to understand and witness a basic Indian lifestyle.
2. Making friends from different parts of the world in just one trip to India
Travellers from various different countries do volunteering in India. This brings together people from different backgrounds, races, ages, and culture, under one roof. They get to make friends with those from different nationalities and share cultural information.
3. Travel to spots which are not popular
Photo source: photos.sandeepachetan.com
A true explorer always has the urge to go off the path and discover places which are not popular tourist spots. But, of course, not everyone would do that. A native usually knows such lesser-known but beautiful places. Placement agencies provide local co-ordinators who help explore locations that may not even be marked on the map, because of which regular tourists may miss out on them.
4. Opportunity to capture moments and not just monuments
Regular travellers to India will certainly have their camera memory full of pictures of heritage sites and landscapes. But when you will skim through the camera of a volunteer traveller, you can find pictures of typical life in India, moments shared with the inmates at the project center, food served by the host family, and many such intimate moments from the entire trip.
5. An opportunity to help improve several lives
Photo Source: Flickr/Sistak
The main objective and significant proportion of volunteer travel is working under an NGO. It can be at an orphanage, a local village school (to teach English), women empowerment centers, and so on. This makes travel meaningful and creates memories for a lifetime.
6. It’s highly cost-effective
Volunteering travel is a highly affordable way to travel abroad, as the fee that the placement agencies charge to be a part of a project is very reasonable. And considering the fact that this fee covers your accommodation, meals, local guidance, etc. it is certainly a great bargain if nothing more.
How do I know all this? I am an ardent traveller myself and have been travelling to places since the age of 16. I first experienced volunteer travelling at the age of 18 when I was on an expedition to Cambodia. And since then, there has been no looking back. This is certainly a great channel to explore any destination and I hope this would motivate you to add volunteering to your next expedition abroad as well.
Have questions? Share your queries in the comment box below and I’ll be happy to answer them all.
– Dronacharya Dave