I am feeling disappointed. I lost my memory card which had pictures from my last five months of travel. Like they say, every cloud has a silver lining, I began looking for one.
This got me digging through my old pictures I had backed up eight years ago. Nostalgia engulfed me. The pictures reminded me of the time I first set foot to “my kind of travel.”
At 21, I was selected for a six-week fellowship that allowed me to work with an organisation, 40 km from Pune, a city in Maharashtra in the western part of India. As a part of the fellowship, I was to live and work with mentally disabled adults. I was open to the new learning and accepted what came my way. This opportunity, for the lack of a better word, made me observe people from a different perspective.
The six weeks also allowed me to live in remote areas away from the connectivity of the world. Books came to my rescue. Surprisingly, I liked the alone and quiet time.
I would sit by the riverside and sing songs all by myself.
I would call home and talk about the adventures of living in a village.
I would look forward to the weekly offs which allowed me to grab a thick mango milkshake in Pune city. This time, also gave me an opportunity to visit a cyber cafe and access internet!
I realised those little joys of life made more sense to me than living for things in life.
Disclaimer: I am not romanticising a village life. I am aware of the challenges people face living in rural areas.
This entire experience that I lived eight years ago, is today coined as voluntourism.
Now that the word exists, there is this debate on the pros and cons of it. In my opinion, working and travelling in a place for a week is not really volunteering. One can’t really learn, unlearn and “give back. ” However, if you are into long term travel, or want to pursue travel, see the world from a different perspective, voluntourism may be a start. For me, it was an experience that filled me with gratitude.
It reminded me of a journey I embarked on. The vision was a blur. However, now it seems like things are falling into place. Below are a few pictures from my stay at the host NGO.
As I write this, I yearn to go back to the organisation and see if I can meet the same faces, live by the same places. Would they remember me as much as I remember them?
How much do things change in eight years and how much do things remain constant?
What are your thoughts about volunteering, travelling and voluntourism?
Do you wish to volunteer and wonder how to go ahead with it?
List down your skills
See what you can offer to an organisation and how you can be resourceful to them
People are looking for good work, always.
How would you find the right door and knock? It is simple, keep knocking, unless you find one.
There are many organisations that want volunteers. A lot of resources are available online.
Fellowships are another good place to look for interesting volunteering work.