This list is not it.
Conventional, I am not. I figured it was up to me to inform the public of the real reasons why you should volunteer in the third world.
1. New Skills
Such as embalming. Yes, as in, “preparing dead people for their journey into the afterlife.” They most certainly did not teach me this in nursing school. Considering today’s economy, having a skill like this can put you in demand when you return home. Last I knew, the death rate was still 100%.
2. Character Enhancement
Sleeping in bedding unwashed since Nixon’s presidency builds character. It takes fortitude to sleep night after night curled up in bed knowing a Chinese bedbug may land on one of the three square inches of skin you weren’t able to cover with your still slightly damp towel. Soon, you’ll be snuggled under the covers, arguing with the bedbugs about who gets to be the little spoon.
3. Career Direction
After four years as a nurse, some of that time spent volunteering overseas, I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. A last minute trip to Haiti opened my eyes to the need for anesthesia providers in the third world. I also learned that anesthesia involves more than the latest Harlequin or Sudoku puzzle. Fast forward three years, I’m six months away from finishing grad school.
4. Earn Money
Scholarships, my friend. Writing, “Built an orphanage in Madagascar,” on your applications makes you look altruistic. When you look good, people practically throw money at you. And you thought only strippers had money thrown at them. Since I’ve been in grad school, I’ve received over $11k…none of which resulted from my pole dancing abilities.
Take out options are usually limited, so you learn to cook with what you have. You’ll learn boiled eggs, rolls, and pineapple is a balanced meal. Also, animal crackers, melted chocolates, and peanut butter make great breakfasts.
6. Bragging Rights
After you’ve eaten animal crackers for breakfast enough days in a row, you won’t mind as much when jungle rodent, cow tongue, or guinea pig is set in front of you. This also helps at cocktail parties when the inevitable, “I once ate ____” topic comes up. You will always win. You may also never be invited back.
7. Meet the love of your life.
If I had never almost died in an avalanche on Cotopaxi while working in Ecuador, I never would have fallen in love with mountains, nor would I have moved to Colorado. Had I not moved there, I never would have met my husband. This makes so much sense to me.
8. Save Money
Sure, you drop a wad of cash for a plane ticket and use your vacation time, so you can work for free. But, I can almost guarantee, you will be someplace with a low cost of living. When I lived in Ecuador, I lived for less than $70 a month- much less than you’d be paying in the States. So really, you’re saving money. I use similar logic to justify the need for new shoes. Disclaimer: I do not possess any credentials appropriate for dispensing financial advice. This last point may not be entirely true.
You will now have at your fingertips a veritable gold mine of stories for every occasion. If you’re good enough at your story-telling, you may get a book deal. If Elizabeth Gilbert had been volunteering in Africa, her bestseller title would’ve read, Eat Bugs, Pray We Don’t Get Shot, Love the One You’re With Because You May Die Soon of Malaria. If that doesn’t scream NYT Bestseller list, I don’t know what does.
If none of the above nine reasons tempt you to consider volunteering your time and talents, then maybe you’ll be swayed by the chance to forever impact people’s lives for the better.
You may also find that you develop a warm and fuzzy feeling inside…but that could just be the parasites.
This post was originally appeared in A Pair of Panties and Boxers