Can traveling and volunteering be combined together?

It was a summer afternoon when my friend and I were studying for our exam later that year. During one of our well-deserved breaks, she told me about her volunteering experience in Paris the year before. She spent a month in Paris working in a park with volunteers from all over the globe. They were working for a couple of hours each day. After work, they had a free time to do whatever they liked. She spent her time in exploring Paris with her new friends. The best part of the story is that she only paid transportation costs, accommodation and food were covered by the organizers of that volunteer camp. That moment she planted a seed in my mind.

For a while, I was looking a way to travel to Spain, but everything cost so much that I nearly gave up. After hearing my friend’s story the hope reemerged again. I started immediately to gather information and after a while went to the same volunteer organization in my country as my friend did. I applied for tree summer camps. Two of them were in Spain, one was in France. I thought that my knowledge of the language would be an advantage, because of my Spanish language studies.Two moths after my application came a letter of acceptance. I was invited to the camp in as small Spanish village called Monleras. The volunteer work consisted of reconstruction of  a fountain and a bridge. We are supposed to work for coulpe of hours every day after that we were free to spend our time however we see fit. Without to0 much dwelling I accepted the invitation. I collected all the papers and went to the embassy to get my visa. At that time Serbian citizens were required to apply  for visa for almost every country,even Europian ones. Two days passed and I got a visa in my passport. I was ready to grow my tree from the planted seed.

When I told my friend and family that I am going to volunteer, I got mixed reactions. My parents were scared because I was for the  first time traveling alone, some friends did not understand the concept of “working for free”. My closest friends were as excited as I was. So the day came for my big adventure.

I remember the first time I landed in Madrid. I had a feeling that I came home. After few days in Madrid with my new friends from a hostel and one day in Salamanca, I was on my way to Monleras. The trip to Monleras for an adventure itself. When I asked the driver where I get off for Monleras he told me not to worry, that he will tell me.Well, he told me alright. I got off on some small intersection in a middle of nowhere. It was only one way so I went and quickly I was in a small village.

There I met with my future camp buddies and after that first day, we started our work. The interesting thing was that we did not work on a fountain or bridge. Our job was to build two pedestrian walks and paint a fence and door on a village kindergarten. For me that was not important, I just wanted to spend my time here, help as much I can and speak  in Spanish language.

Our daily schedule was like this. We got up at 8 a.m. had breakfast and went to work. Aroun 1p.m. two voluneers went to buy groceries and prepare lunch. Around 2 p.m. the rest of the volunteers went tp get some lunch.  After that we had some free time. We were accommodated in a Youth Cultural Centre so we had small library, internet center and big kitchen. So we either chilled or read some book or walked around the village.

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Working site
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Work in progress

The Monleras was a typical Spanish village. We got to know some of the villagers who were farmers, beekeepers and so on. I remember once that one lady brought some food for us while we were working.

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Monleras village
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Typical house in Monleras
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Working site 2

Some days we went to explore around the village. The nature there was amazing. We ever went for a swiming to a near by lake.

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On the way to the lake

Thatnks to our wonderful organizers in Monleras we also took some trips to a near by village festival, Salamanca, Yekla and even some small Portugese village. We had a woman who was an architect in our group which only helped when we went on these excurisons. She provided some backround information about buildings, style and history. This was amazing.

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Me and Yekla together

After these fenomenal days in a camp and finished work, all of us went for some travel in Madrid. We went out there together and after that some of us went to Toledo and Segovia.

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Toledo

I managed to do my volunteering and also travel around the Spain. So the ansewr to my question is Yes. It is posible to do these things together. I met on my journey so many wonderfull people, saw so manu interesing sites and experienced it all with my new friends. It was amazing and fullfiling at the same time. Whenever I remember them I feel warmth inside my soul. With most of them I am still in contact and with some of them I met after our Monleras adventure.

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Wonderful people I met there

And one last thing. If it wasn’t of my friend to tell me her volunteering experience I would never embark to a such a journey. My advice is keep close your friends who show you new ways to discover yourself.

I would recommend it to everyone to try volunteer work. I am so proud that one day I can show my child what we did in Monleras. Wouldn’t you like to do the same thing? Then go, apply and enjoy giving your best for somebody in need. I promise you that it would be the best experience ever.

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