Characters in Meet Yourself show the charms of volunteering while traveling in Yunnan province. HUACE FILM & TV
Did you watch the popular TV series Meet Yourself during your winter vacation? In the TV series, the heroine Xu Hongdou travels to a village in Yunnan province and volunteers at a local cafe. She gets free meals in return. As the show finds a growing audience, volunteer travel ‑an old-yet-modern form of travel similar to Xu’s type of work ‑has attracted more attention.
Volunteer travel refers to taking a trip where all or part of the purpose of the trip is to participate in an arranged service opportunity to help others, according to Wise Tour, an online provider of tourist information.
During the trip, volunteer travelers often provide services like teaching, cooking, animal caring, and cultural activities. In exchange for their help, the volunteers may get free or discounted accommodation, meals and laundry, activities, or classes.
It seems as if these long journeys could only be made possible in recent years by modern transportation. Nevertheless, volunteer travel dates back to the 1960s, when Alec Dickson and his wife Mora from the UK founded Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), an international volunteer organization.
Traditionally, the volunteer activities take place in a foreign country. However, just as what Meet Yourself depicts, more volunteer trips have taken place within the same countries or regions the volunteers originate from in recent years. Sanlian Lifeweek magazine commented that volunteer projects in rural areas are now attracting more urban visitors as a break from the fast and stressful pace of urban living. Yang Yan, a founder of a volunteer platform, told the magazine that it has indeed been a growing trend for urban residents to volunteer in rural areas.
People try volunteer travel for several reasons. By working voluntarily while traveling, travelers may make a real, positive impact on the world. The services volunteers provide can be through charities with lower costs for the communities they serve. Another benefit of volunteer travel is that it helps urban dwellers to get a taste of rural life. For those who are sick of urban pressure but can’t make up their minds whether to move permanently to the countryside, volunteer travel can be a solution. In this way, as Yang comments, travelers can catch some relief from their busy lives, while rural communities also benefit by receiving more customers for local tourism industries and temporary high-quality labor.