¨You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.¨
Why I Love Volunteering and Learning Vacations
Volunteering and learning experiences are my favorite type of travel experiences. These experiences have given me a unique, insider’s view of daily life. While participating in these experiences, I have met numerous long-standing friends, including a couple of girlfriends and my ex-wife. Also thanks mainly to these experiences, I can communicate in French, Spanish, Italian, and Russian.
I have discovered more about myself, my interests, and my passions by participating in volunteer and learning travel than perhaps anything else in my life. Memories from volunteering and learning programs have also left an indelible imprint on my life.
The Downsides of Volunteering and Learning Vacations
That said, volunteering and studying vacations are not always the most fun or comfortable experiences. I have:
- Stayed in some pretty small and not very comfortable homes. I have never been so cold as I was during a three-week homestay in May, winter in the Southern Hemisphere, in Cuzco, Peru;
- Spent five weeks in Milan, Italy, with a woman who I never really learned to like very much. She would go on hour-long diatribes about fake news stories in rapid speed Italian without ever hearing a word of my conversations; and
- Attended classes that were way over my head. Don’t ask me why I ever thought that I could learn how to surf in Costa Rica.
My Best Volunteering and Learning Vacations
That said, most of my volunteering and learning vacations have been the most enjoyable times in my life, such as:
- Watching turtles lay eggs; learning about rural Mexican life; hanging out with fun young volunteers; and consuming way too many tequila shots as a volunteer in Colola, Michoacan, Mexico (Volunteers for Peace);
- Being spoiled rotten as a teenager as a Youth for Understanding exchange student in Yaizu, Japan;
- Studying French and French culture in a beautiful gite (apartment) with my private guide and language teacher (Parfum de France) in Fontevraud L’Abbaye, France;
- Improving my Spanish, partying, living in the hipster Palermo neighborhood, and trying to learn the tango in Buenos Aires. (By the way, I still have two left feet). (The school is unfortunately out of business).
- Staying in a beautiful, spacious room in Siena, Italy; eating copious and tasty home-cooked meals, and learning basic Italian quickly- (Saena Italy–one of the best-organized language schools I’ve attended) ; and
- Living in a beautiful large room (with my bathroom) in a 15th-century apartment in Venice; polishing up my Italian, and getting to know this spectacular city through the eyes of locals. (Venice Italian School)
Overall, despite a few relatively small bumps in the road, I wholeheartedly recommend that all Fifty-Plus Nomads check out volunteering and learning vacations. (Sometimes I think I loved the programs partially because of the problems). I believe that you, like me, will be glad you did.