In the summer of 2012, I had the opportunity to spend four weeks in Australia participating in a voluntourism program called International Student Volunteers. Voluntourism? If you're not familiar with the term "voluntourism" you're not alone. It basically means that you volunteer and travel sustainably all during one trip, sometimes at the same time, in complementary programs. You could volunteer for a portion of your trip and then continue on to travel or travel while you volunteer for different organizations or businesses.
The program that I chose to participate in was a 2 + 2 program, meaning that I spent two weeks volunteering and two weeks learning about sustainable tourism and traveling down the east coast of Australia, all with the same organization.
During the volunteer portion of my program, I had the amazing opportunity to plant trees in a deforested valley in New South Wales, Australia through ISV with Australian Ecosystems Foundation. I, along with five other young women, our group leader, and a couple of other Australian workers, ended the program with around 4,620 trees planted along the banks of a disparaged creek in Wolgan Valley. Ultimately, the goal is to reintroduce native wildlife to the valley when our saplings have grown into established trees.
We stayed in a small cottage in Lithgow, New South Wales (a few hours outside of Sydney in the Blue Mountains) where we cooked our own food, used an outdoor "roto-loo" and shower, and chopped firewood for warmth for two weeks.
After our volunteering portion was complete, we traveled via train back to Sydney where we then flew to Cairns, Queensland. Like I said, I then spent the next two weeks building upon my volunteer experience and learning about myself as well as the world around me. I did things I thought I would never do: bungee jumping, white water rafting, surfing, climbing a giant bridge, running from emus, abseiling, eating mussels straight from the sea, and so much more that contributed to who I have ultimately become. During this portion, I traveled via tour bus to Cairns, Airlie Beach, Fraser Island, Byron Bay, and Sydney.
Any trip has its pros and cons but in my opinion, voluntourism's pros outweigh the cons. Did I enjoy showering in a bathtub with no shower head in 30 degree (F) weather? Eh, probably not. But experiences like that helped me grow, and looking back that is much more important than comfort. If you're looking for a rewarding, exciting trip of a lifetime (literally) then take a volunteer program into consideration. I know that I will never regret my time volunteering and thriving in Australia.
Hi, I'm Madeline
Blogger, teacher, writer, traveler, reader. Welcome to Mad's Muses!
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