7 Ways to Volunteer From The Road
As a long-term traveler in the US, it can be easy to begin feeling disconnected from the communities you encounter. We've found that volunteering is a great way to combat these feelings for a number of reasons:
- With van travel, you have a unique opportunity to spread a positive impact around to communities you wouldn't normally lend a hand to otherwise. How cool is that?
- Through volunteering, you can get to know people in the community quickly and create friendships through mutual interests.
- If you're worried about a 'gap' in your resume while you take time off of work, regular volunteering is a great way to learn something new, remain accountable to another group, and put a project on your resume that means something to you.
Plus, it feels good to be lending your time to others, and can be a fun experience!
One challenge we immediately came upon with wanting to volunteer is the level of commitment needed for many volunteer positions. For obvious reasons, a lot of non-profits don't want to train everyone who comes through their doors for a short-term project, so it's common to see requests like "6-month commitment, 4 hours/week" when looking around for ways to get involved. Don't be discouraged by this! There are still lots of ways to get involved on a local level. Check out some of our ideas, below and get to giving back.
Join MeetUp groups that plan volunteer events.
We have had luck with finding Meetup groups that plan regular volunteering activities, like serving food at a homeless shelter. By searching through Meetup you can find a variety of 1-time volunteer events, like trail maintenance, animal shelter work, and more.
Donate clothes or food to a local shelter.
Even if you don't have a lot of spare funds on the road, I'm sure you have some clothing and canned food you forgot about in your rig. The next time you clean it out, take any gently-worn items to a shelter, and bring your unopened, non-perishable food with you!
Donate your blood or plasma.
Every community needs blood donations, so if you qualify to donate (especially if you're a rare blood type) you can always go to a donation center and give a pint. If you decide to donate plasma, you can also pocket a few extra dollars for your time and donation.
Here's how you can find blood donation centers in your current location.
Find opportunities on Idealist.org.
Idealist.org isn't just a job search site-- it's also a great resource for local volunteer opportunities. This is one resource you'll need to make sure you choose volunteering roles you can commit to, but what's great about it is how comprehensive it is, so you can find the perfect fit for your interests.
If you're interested in giving back to local farmers, WWOOFing could be a great opportunity. WWOOFing is based on a non-monetary exchange, meaning that typically farm volunteers get to live with their hosts, making this a great deal for everyone involved.
It seems simple, but even the act of shopping local is a way of giving back to the small communities you visit and live in. While we all have our own creature comforts that come from big brands, remembering to visit local coffee shops, book stores, restaurants, and other services is truly valued by the individuals and families who want to see a growing economy in their town.
Hopefully this was helpful and makes you feel like volunteering on the road is possible! Have any of your own tips for giving back while traveling in your camper? Leave them in the comments!