The Best Gap-Year Volunteer Opportunities On The Planet

The Best Gap-Year Volunteer Opportunities On The Planet

Australian volunteer Tamara Baillie worked as a business development officer with the Thanh Xuan Organic project in Vietnam, 2010. Photo: Tamara Baillie / AusAID
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Taking time out to volunteer abroad is one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do with your life. Not only will you help improve the lives of others, you’ll help discover more about yourself. Many school leavers are pushed into university, then pushed straight into jobs. Before you know it, you’re stuck in a career that leaves you feeling empty. It’s crucial to remember that you’re still young. The world is yours for the taking! Don’t follow the well-trodden path. Look further afield. Find new adventures and discover what you really want to do with your life.

That’s why volunteering abroad is such a great option. It allows you to get away from the stresses of everyday life. By seeing the way that other cultures live, you’ll gain some perspective on the world around you. You’ll speak to new people and get a deeper insight into the planet. Volunteering, specifically, lets you get closer to other communities, and put your own struggles into perspective.

If we’ve managed to convince you, the only thing left to do is pick an adventure! The world is wide open for the taking here. Every corner of the globe is crying out for volunteers. Where will you choose, and what activity is important to you? The key thing to remember here is to follow your heart. Are you passionate about animals? Are you terrified of a future that does nothing to slow climate change? Does your heart lie with young children, and helping them make a better start? All of these and more are possible. Let’s take a look.


Wildlife Conservation

It’s no secret that animal communities around the planet are in grave danger. Modern forces of urbanisation are destroying habitats and natural ecosystems. Global warming is irreversibly changing the landscape we live in. Poachers and hunters are decimating animal populations on every continent. If your eyes are welling up just thinking about it, perhaps a wildlife conservation trip is for you! There are communities across the world fighting to save the natural environments of animals. You can join them and help. The best part? You’ll get up close and personal with tigers, polar bears or even pandas!


Environmental Conservation

The last decade has seen a major shift in public conscience. We are more concerned than ever about climate change and the devastating effects of global warming. The effects are wreaking havoc throughout the globe, meaning there are opportunities in many countries. From the shrinking ice caps in the arctic to the low lying Asian coast. There are also conservation communities helping protect the dense Amazon forest. This area of natural beauty is currently being torn apart at a fantastic rate to feed the world’s lumber supply. Perhaps you could join forces, and help slow down the process.



One of the best ways to volunteer your time is to teach. Use your skills to empower an underprivileged community. Joining volunteer groups across Africa or South America will put you right in the heart of the most troubled communities. Thanks to you, they’ll learn vital skills like English and maths. It’s these basic skills that could help them escape from poverty and secure a better life. It could help their country grow and become self-sufficient. If nothing else, you’ll love watching their smiling faces as they learn and play.


Blue mountains
Photo credit: Adam Kubalica –

Adventure trip leader

If you’re looking for more of an adventure gap-year experience, why not become a trip leader? You can volunteer to take groups on guided tours, or take on adventure challenges. This route is perfect for adrenaline junkies! You could lead rock-climbing tours in the American Rockies. You could take a ski instructor course in the Alps or manage the bungee jumps in Australia! There are lots of possibilities here, and thousands of gap-year students are waiting to follow your lead.


Marine conservation

We’ve already looked at a couple of conservation ideas, but what about the ocean? If you feel a deep connection to the sea, this might be a better choice. There are some amazing marine conservation projects on, and you can be part of them. The best places in the world for marine conservation are Madagascar and the Bahamas. Here, the marine population is under threat. It’s often due to declining coral quality or human intervention. You’ll help monitor the local sealife population and map out damaged reefs. Every day, you’ll have a real impact on the ocean around you.



These trips are fairly similar to teaching, but you’ll look after younger children! So, if you can’t handle the noisy teenagers and squabbling students, try the au pair route instead. You can do this all over the world. Parents and families are always looking for responsible people to look after their children. It’s even better if you can teach them some English along the way. Best of all, the family will often provide accommodation or cover your costs. Again, it’s another chance to make a positive impact on someone’s life.


Community building

Community building is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when you consider volunteering. In this trip, you’ll immerse yourself in underprivileged communities. It might be indigenous populations, or poverty-ravaged villages across sub-Saharan Africa. Alongside others, you’ll help build wells, provide emergency healthcare, and improve their lives. Community building is perhaps the most emotionally challenging volunteer project. However, it’s also the most enriching.


Trail building

If the thought of travelling to Asia, Africa or South America leaves you feeling overwhelmed, why not look closer to home? For the adventurers among us, North America is in desperate need of hiking trail builders. These vast areas up and down the Rocky Mountains suffer ongoing damage and degradation. A corp of volunteers ensure these trails are accessible at all times. They keep things protected under law and make sure the habitat is as natural as possible. You’ll need the best trekking equipment, but if you’re a hiker, you’ll love it!


Are you feeling inspired? We certainly are! The world is full to the brim of exciting prospects and possibilities. Where would you go?

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