Volunteering On The Road Part I – Why Do It?
Given our new-found entry into RV volunteering I figured I would share a few posts about the whole process. Now volunteering is actually something I’ve always done in some form or another even before we went on the road. When I was a child I volunteered at my local school zoo (yes, we had one) and as an adult I continued that trend as an animal shelter volunteer, eventually ending up as a certified dog trainer volunteer. For many years I’ve also run a free online forum for cat issues and have done lots of other smaller volunteer jobs in between. In total I’ve easily logged thousands of volunteer hours over the years (amazing how it adds up). The truth is I’ve always enjoyed it tremendously and when we hit the road one of my goals was to continue that trend.
Now, finding volunteer jobs while full-time RVing has it’s own set of challenges which I’ll write more about in my next post, but for this post I wanted to focus on the why’s. Why do I do it? Or why should you? Everybody has their own (very) personal reasons of course, but here are the top 5 that come to my mind:
1/ For the Love Of Learning
One of the things I always strive to do in life is continuously learn and develop. It’s one of the reasons I’m so very fascinated by old stories and how things function (the whole reason I became a scientist too). Volunteering is a great way to do that. By immersing yourself in a job like ours you naturally learn alot about the place, the people and the history of the way things used to be. Other volunteer jobs teach you in different ways, but there is always a learning aspect to all of them.
2/ For the Love Of The Place/People/Animals/Wildlife
Volunteering is very simply a way of giving back to the community while doing something you care about. Whether it’s a historic place (such as our lighthouse), people, animals or wildlife there are groups and volunteer jobs that allow you to touch each and every one of those areas. My years as an animal volunteer was all about the animals. Here it’s about the place and the people who come to learn about it.
3/ For the Love of Community
Volunteering means being part of a community. Once you start the process you’re immediately part of a like-minded group of people who are all there for the same reasons. It’s the power of combined spirit and my experience with these things is that you always end up enjoying the folks you work with. Everybody is here to help and so they end up being a naturally friendly and helpful bunch! Within our first day here at we had already been introduced to all the other volunteers in the park, been invited to our very first pot-luck and gotten firm support for any help we needed. Many of the volunteers here have been coming for years, and the draw of community is one of the many reasons they keep coming back.
4/ To Have A Purpose
When you start fulltime RVing many folks struggle with a sense of purpose. Living in a fixed house with a fixed job is a natural framework for life progress. When you give that up, either in retirement or for travel on the road it can cause a real loss of sense of self and purpose. Now, I admit I’ve never personally had this issue (I’m a natural-born nomad), but Paul has struggled with this and I’ve met many others who have too. So, for some folks volunteering can be a way to regain that sense of productivity and ultimately, their sense of purpose in life.
5/ Because It’s Rewarding and Fun!!
One of the absolute best parts of volunteering are the rewards you get from folks you interact with. Whether it be the old history buff who’s come in for some stories or the young kid who’s eager to learn, it’s alwaysrewarding to share something and pass it along. Back when I volunteered with animals my reward was seeing those animals rehabilitate and get adopted as lovable pets. Here at the lighthouse my reward is passing on stories to those who come to hear them. And no matter what the volunteer job there are rewards inherent to the job. It’s one of the most fun things about doing what we do.
And the only reason you might not volunteer? For the money! The very nature of volunteering means you’re giving away your time for free. Most of the volunteering I’ve done in the past (animal rescue and my online forum) has been entirely on my own time and dollar. Here at the lighthouse we get the benefit of a free campsite (which would run around $720/month), plus we’re covered under workers compensation by the park while at work so there IS a definite $$ benefit, but if you work it out in absolute numbers it’s much less than minimum wage. For some RVers simply getting a free campsite is reason enough and if the volunteer job offers one, the budget savings in camping fees over the long-term can be significant (perhaps even enough to enable the lifestyle!). In our case we’re here for all the positive reasons above and we love the fact that we get a nice, free site, but we’re not in it for the money.
And that pretty much sums it up. For those of you who volunteer, why do YOU do it?
P.S. In my next post I’ll cover what kind of options are out there (there are MANY, many more than you think) and some tips on how to get your dream volunteer job, so stay tuned for the grippingly exciting sequel…..