With a lot of people using Patchwork to plan and fund their Gap Years at the moment, we thought we’d talk to Neil Barnes of travel blog Backpacks and Bunkbeds about his experiences volunteering in South Africa, Sri Lanka and India. Here are his five reasons to take the leap:
The people you meet:
Play your cards right and your could just make a friend (or two) for life. I still see a couple of my fellow volunteers now, even 8 years after we lived together in Sri Lanka. I count them among some of my best friends.
Volunteering isn’t all one way traffic, yes, you are helping people by teaching/building/caring in their local area, but the people you meet and the work you take part in will help you to develop as a person also. You might find that you’ve become a bit more grounded, confident and more able to communicate.
Getting a sense of perspective:
I feel that material possessions mean less now than they once did, that the simpler things bring more happiness. I’m a more adaptable and resourceful person than I was before.
If you are lucky enough to befriend a local and they offer to show you their country and culture, say yes, PLEASE say yes! It may seem scary at first, but they will show you a new world, full of exciting experiences that few other tourists or travellers will ever get to see. From having dinner with locals, being invited to family weddings and playing sports games in makeshift arenas. These are the things you’ll write home and tell stories about for years to come.
Boosting your CV:
This obviously shouldn’t be the sole reason for going on a GAP year, but time spent volunteering will impress prospective universities and employers. You’ll have lots of new skills to add to your CV – a newly learnt language perhaps – and your volunteer supervisors can provide you with useful references regarding your work, attitude and application.
If this post has inspired you to take the leap and start planning your own gap year, you can customise one of our readymade gap year patchworks or create your own from scratch.