Traveling & Volunteering Are A Perfect Combo For Happiness
When we travel, we like to find ways to volunteer during our trips. This helps us create fond memories of the journey. Most importantly, it helps others along the way. It’s special to be able to enter into a city that you don’t really know and have something to offer to kind strangers: your time. If you find something you are passionate about to volunteer your time doing for a few hours or a whole day, you will leave a bit of yourself behind.
Ahead of one cross-country trip, we picked a few major cities along our route and researched volunteer events that coincided with the days we would be passing through. We contacted a YMCA after seeing a volunteer posting requesting help teaching kids with disabilities how to swim for a few hours on a Saturday.
We contacted the coordinator of the program and explained what we wanted to do. She couldn’t believe that people would stop along their trip to help out. To us, we wanted to make a change in the world.
There are so many people saying, “I’d love to do that” but end up not doing anything about it. Why? Actions speak louder than words. Be the change you wish to see in the world.
The coordinator told us that she would take as much help as she could get because it was a juggling act with nearly 30 kids in different time slots. We didn’t know what to expect upon getting to the pool. How able-bodied would these kids be? Would they take to the water or be terrified? Some had autism, down syndrome, or any number of challenges. But all of them just wanted to swim and be happy. One mother told us that this was the pinnacle of her son’s week and a major incentive for him to behave well.
At first, some kids were afraid to jump in. So we helped them with the simple task of getting into the water. We gave them floaties and kickboards to make them feel safer. Each kid had about 20 minutes in their own swimming lane and a few volunteers like us to guide them into basic swimming exercises.
These sweet kids also made us laugh as they voiced observations that only small children could get away with saying out loud. One of the more extroverted kids, who was nervous about being in the water, took to Tim right away. The 7-year-old tried distracting himself by peppering Tim with questions. Who are you? Where do you work? Are you two married (we weren’t at the time)? Why not? It was so cute and funny that he only wanted to talk with Tim and nobody else. A meaningful connection was made.
We marveled at how the kids’ comfort levels in the water increased so dramatically in such a short period of time. By the end of the 20 minutes, most children needed little help to keep swimming. Some kids got out of the water, jumped back in, and repeated the process. They couldn’t get enough of it! This was a simple reminder to enjoy the present and take it all in.
Looking back on that experience always brings smiles to our faces. We were able to connect with people in a city that was not “home” to us. We gave of ourselves and our time, but inadvertently received happiness in return. We were able to leave that city a tiny bit better than when we entered it.
Next time you are traveling or on a road trip, volunteer in that city or a city en route if you are driving. This will help you learn more about the community, leave the world a better place, allow you to have fonder memories of the trip, and much more.
If you can make the world a better place around you, why wouldn’t you?
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