What’s The Difference Between A Volunteer Traveler And A Tourist?

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There are tourists, explorers, discoverers, and then there are volunteers!

While it’s kinda easy to be a tourist, plan a trip to an exotic location, stay at some fancy resort and indulge in all good things – like of a volunteer traveler isn’t quite similar! Yet, the experiences that the latter will gather will be way more valuable than what any tourist will ever know.

Also, in this 21st Century when the concept of traveling is changing dynamically and people are keen on making a valuable difference to the lives of the people of the host country, let’s take a quick look at this and understand the differences between a Volunteer Traveler and a Tourist:

volunteer work in tanzania

1. No expectations, Only motivation!

A volunteer traveler is always aware of the fact that the destination they are traveling to volunteer abroad may not have living facilities as comfortable as available at home. The accommodation will be shared property, adjustments have to be made over the kind of meals provided, traveling will have to be done by local transports, and so on. But, this is hardly of any concern for them as they are focused only on the tasks they will have to execute while working under a project and, the ways they can do it the best. Also, all these adjustments are actually what makes a volunteering journey even more fun-filled. 

2. The objective of traveling is to make a difference.

Most of the volunteering programs require a volunteer to work for at least 7 – 8 hours a day, for 4 – 5 days per week. Being a volunteer traveler, the main focus always remains on how to make an impact in the lives of the people with whom he/she is associated with, in the host country. The dedication to do something worthy keeps them excited always. And there’s always a breather – on the weekends! The fact that the weekends are mostly off for all the projects, volunteers use this as the only time to take a break and explore the destination.

3. Explore to understand the culture and lifestyle of the host country.

While a tourist only gets to spend a few days in the destination, a volunteer traveler dedicates quality time in the place and has more opportunities for exploration. Living with the locals and working with them is the best possible way to understand the culture and lifestyle of the people. On a regular basis, a volunteer has to communicate with the locals, trying to find out how to help them and make things a tad bit easier. Amidst this process, one also gets a chance of learning the local language, which is often impossible for the tourists while on the go! A volunteer traveler gets to join the local festivities, explore the country’s history and heritage, binge on authentic local cuisine and eventually, learn a lot more about that place.

volunteer travel in nepal

4. Always in search of the next volunteering destination than planning a holiday!

There can’t be anything truer than this! If I have to talk about my own experiences, I recently returned back from Kenya after spending a month with the tiny toddlers while volunteering for the childcare program, and I’m already thinking of heading to Thailand to volunteer with the elephants! To be really honest, once you get associated with something as beautiful as volunteering, there’s no looking back. All you want will be more goodness! There’s an eagerness to travel and volunteer, to help as much as one can and to gather experiences that are truly priceless. While a tourist will always search for a fancy destination to get some Instagram-worthy selfies, a volunteer traveler will be happy to share photographs of the project and his/her experiences with everyone else!

5. Tourists need guides, volunteer travelers are better without them!

When you choose to spend nearly a month in one particular land, you tend to make some local friends who will happily tell you about the nooks and corners of the country where tourists will never go! In general, tourists mostly head off to the over-crowded areas, where they seek help from a guide narrates the tales of the place. On the other hand, volunteer travelers explore the hidden gems and often rely on their own research and guidebooks like the Lonely Planet or so. It’s more thrilling and funfilled, as one can end up discovering something new and beautiful. Also, most of the volunteer travelers who opt for a program with a reputed organization are mostly guided by the local coordinator, who’s best at telling about the roads less traveled!

6. Knowing the meaning and importance of ‘Responsible Tourism’.

Being a tourist, one opts to stay at a fancy resort or go to the fine dining places, shop endlessly from the duty-free stores and splurge on exotic experiences like hitting a spa or getting a body massage! On the other hand, a volunteer traveler knows that it’s important to uplift the local economy and hence, one would choose to buy souvenirs from a local shop or eat at a local restaurant. And of course, the experiences of a volunteer traveler is way beyond those materialistic and tangible pleasures of life! A volunteer knows the meaning of ‘responsible tourism’ and will make sure that his/her journey only adds up to the host country’s welfare.

7. Return home with more memories than photographs

A volunteer traveler returns home getting richer – with new friends and social connections, a family in a different land, new skills and learnings, and memories to cherish for a lifetime! While a tourist is busy gathering memories by clicking selfies and random photographs, a volunteer traveler makes memories of the experiences. Even today, as I look back to those days in Kenya when I used to be surrounded by the kids, I feel so blessed that I can’t express in words! I know it for sure that if would have gone there like any other tourist, just for the game drives, I wouldn’t have got the authentic Kenyan flavors and the unconditional love that I felt. Truly, it was the best thing I could have ever received! So trust me when I say this, being a volunteer is a matter of joy that tourists never get to know!

A traveler who has volunteered abroad will certainly understand these traits that set them apart from a tourist, and those who are planning to volunteer abroad during their next international trip can certainly look forward to some amazing times! Still thinking how to go about it? Change your way of traveling abroad for once, and feel the difference. You can drop us a mail at [email protected] and our experts will soon get back to you with more details.


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