Traveling with a purpose

06 August 2015

Be it in the city amidst the hustle and bustle of skyscrapers and museums, experiencing the slow life in a rustic backwater town or a chill-out beach vacation, volunteer travel, or voluntourism, is gaining much popularity as a way to help others while enjoying a great holiday abroad. To some, this would be more enriching than staying in a luxury hotel or spending most of the time sightseeing and shopping.

Malaysia has its share of exciting travel destinations where you can gain new experiences through other cultures while help better the lives of others, be it humans or other organisms. Here are three things you might want to try if having a zest for travel while helping others is right up your alley.

Love The Ocean?

The Perhentian Islands are well known for its pristine beached and crystal clear waters, making it a top destination for backpackers and travellers alike. Unfortunately, popularity comes at a cost as environmental activists fear overcrowding could hurt the delicate balance of the ocean’s ecosystem.

The good news is that you can be an eco-warrior yourself the next time you hit the beach by joining any of the programs available where tourists can spend a portion of their holidays helping to maintain the island’s beauty for the benefit of future visitors. Take your pick from collecting coral bleaching data during the day to protecting nesting sea turtles at night, to any other coral reef-saving activities you may prefer. The program you join can last from a week up to as long as you like so you can make it a fantastic family getaway with a twist where you will be able to meet local villagers to share your enthusiasm about environmental conservation as you design creative lessons for the children (and yours) through their environmental club.  

(Photo credit : Flickr/gvimedia)

(Photo credit : Flickr/gvimedia)

Even small villages already conducted regular projects on its beaches – such as the Biomate Composting Machine to encourage composting, and beautification projects to spiff up the beach and its surroundings - thanks to a growing awareness and concern for our local marine life. To sign up for a unique, unforgettable vacation experience with a sun-kissed tan to boot, check out the many initiatives on www.leoproject.org.

Teaching While Travelling

If you have a genuine interest in the education of our future leaders and a passion to provide knowledge to underprivileged schools, how about achieving all that while travelling?

Teach for Malaysia is a non-profit organisation driven to end education inadequacy in Malaysia. If you already are a part of the Teach network, that’s great as you can connect with the Malaysian chapter to volunteer. However, if you are not involved but would like to be, the Teach for Malaysia team warmly welcomes volunteers, both foreign and local. There is always a need for committed individuals who yearn to create a literate and well-informed community in high-need areas. 

(Photo credit : Teach For Malaysia)

(Photo credit : Teach For Malaysia)

Explore a wide range of projects and locations such as introducing village children to the game of baseball or organising a jungle trek up the rural areas of Tampin, Negeri Sembilan. After all, education is one of the most precious gifts that one can give and engaging in Teach for Malaysia provides you this golden opportunity while you get to experience the simple life away from the hectic rat race of the corporate world.

If you think traveling should be eye-opening, travelling with Teach For Malaysia (www.teachformalaysia.org) will be a great experience where you engage yourself in leadership and affect positive, sustainable change within the community.  Most importantly, you will be assured that children in Malaysia – regardless of their socioeconomic welfare, is given a chance to attain the education they deserve. Now how does that compare to savouring a croissant in a café on Rue de Rivoli or drinking cocktails on the Maldive Islands?

Creature Comforts

Besides being an educator and marine life superhero, there are certainly other ways to leave a positive impact while travelling. How about relieving those childhood memories at animal sanctuaries and zoos? Participating behind the scenes, caring for our wildlife will only leave you appreciating nature even more. What’s more, the National Zoo of Malaysia provides animal lovers a chance to get up close and personal with our native furry friends namely the Orangutans, Chimpanzees and Gibbons, so it would be a unique, unmatchable experience indeed.

Choose to be either a zoo assistant or a zoo volunteer. As a zoo assistant, you’ll be committed to a 4-week stint while being a zoo volunteer can afford you more time to enjoy other activities during your vacation, if you prefer, as the commitment time is shorter at just two weeks. During this period, you will be working alongside other zookeepers to create a wholesome and enriching environment for animals, from maintaining a safe haven for every species to researching on proper food and habitat management. More importantly, you will learn how to bring a positive change to the standards of Malaysian zoos and gain awareness of the threats that our wildlife face on a daily basis. If this is just your cup of tea, do log on to www.apemalaysia.org to get started.  

(Photo credit : Ecoteer Responsible Travel)

(Photo credit : Ecoteer Responsible Travel)

As the saying goes, the world is your oyster, so broaden your horizons and spend some time embracing Malaysia’s culture and heritage while making the world a better place for all of us to live in.  Volunteer tourism is something that will whet the appetite of avid travellers who relish the thought of immersing in a valuable encounter beyond guided tours and shaded museum visits while making a real difference to less prosperous communities and there’s no reason to not give it a go as you’ll get the best of both worlds. 

This article is related to NATURE ISLANDS TRAVEL