If you’re anything like me, then being outside with the sun on your face, the wind in your hair, and an epic view is what makes life worth living. I didn’t think there was anything better. But it turns out I was wrong.
Last year I started volunteering with a conservation charity called Intrepid Landcare. My first event was through We are Explorers who teamed up with them to run an epic bushcare and packrafting trip in the Colo.
It was a turning point for me, where I realised that I can’t just ‘take’ from nature. I have to give something back too.
It’s Good To Give Back
Thanks to global warming, the impact of social media on wild places, increasing populations, and myriad other factors, our world is under more strain than ever before. And I think that we all have to take responsibility and do our part in protecting it, and educating others to respect it.
And you know what? It feels good. Like seriously good. It’s fun, rewarding, exciting, and by volunteering you get to meet passionate, like-minded and adventurous people – it’s even been proven that there’s a direct link between volunteering and happiness.
In fact, one stat says that 96 per cent of volunteers report feeling happier from their charitable work. Another report, published in the Harvard Business Review, shows that volunteers feel more capable, confident and useful. It’s even good for your health, with a US study showing volunteers have lower mortality rates and chances of suffering from depression.
What Opportunities Are There To Volunteer?
The good news is that there are volunteer opportunities throughout Australia. Whether you’re interested in environmental, cultural, or social change, there’s bound to be something that you can get involved in.
Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
Discover Intrepid Landcare
Intrepid Landcare is a conservation charity changing the face of landcare in Australia. Aimed at 18-35 year-olds, I’ve met some seriously awesome people on trips with these guys. I’ve packrafted the Colo River after smashing Lantana weeds, tracked Koalas through the Illawarra, and learned about the impact of tourism on the Royal National Park’s cabin community. Not to mention all those ‘get your hands dirty, man I feel good moments’.
Become A Volunteer Guide With Emu Trekkers
Emu Trekkers is an incredible charity that I’ve just started volunteering with as a guide. They run hikes in the Blue Mountains and Sydney, with all the profits going to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.
The idea came when the founders were hiking in Nicaragua and Guatemala and saw a not-for-profit hiking organisation, called Quetzal Trekkers, raising money to build schools and educate kids. Impressed with the model, they decided to start it up in Australia as well.
If you fancy joining an Emu Trekkers hike, they run every weekend, or better yet, get involved as a volunteer guide.
Hit Up The National Parks Website
NSW Parks & Wildlife website is a treasure trove of volunteer opportunities. From helping wombats in Bents Basin to Bushcare in Bouddi, the options are endless. You can even become a campsite host and live off-grid for a while – all in the name of giving back.
Hike It Out Baby
Not heard of the Hike It Out project? Where have you been hiding? Started by Heather of This Rambling Rover, this awesome project is ‘aimed at building a hiking culture that holds everyone responsible for their own rubbish’. But it’s become way more than that, with outdoor lovers across Australia grabbing mates and a roll of garbage bags and getting out there to help keep the places we love looking the way they should – and educating along the way.
Get Involved With The First Hike Project
I stalk these guys religiously on Facebook, waiting for the day they come to Sydney so I can get involved. Aiming to provide connection to their new country, The First Hike Project takes groups of young refugees on hiking and camping exploration trips.
We all know the power of nature, and I can’t help but think that this has to be one of the best ways to help people settle into a new country, manage anxiety and stress, and meet new people. Even if you can’t volunteer, why not donate?
Get Your Kayak On With Floating Landcare
Love kayaking? Love that feeling of freedom as you glide across oceans and down rivers? Well, say hello to floating landcare, cleaning up waterways and offering some serious adventure near you now. Pack some snacks and a thermos of tea (sorry, I’m English – it’s a necessity) and it’s the perfect way to while away a weekend.
Help At-Risk Teenagers
Human Nature Adventure Therapy’s (HNAT) Recre8 Program helps at-risk teens through immersive 10-day hiking and canoeing expeditions, proving once again the power of the outdoors in facilitating social change.
We Are Explorers’ Digital and Community Manager, Ellie, volunteered as a mentor on a recent Recre8 Program and had only complimentary things to say about the 10 days she spent in the bush with stinky teenage boys, and also praised the passion and professionalism of the HNAT leadership team.
Reach Out To A Charity Or Organisation You Love
None of these floating your boat? Reach out to a cause you love. Volunteers are always needed. Whether it’s hands-on volunteering or offering to help with training, marketing, photography, or any other skills you have, there’s always a way to give back.
Make Doing Good Part Of Your MO
I’ll show my age here, but it’s like Phoebe in Friends said: there is no selfless deed. Volunteering in whatever way will not only make a positive impact on the environment or society, but it will make you feel great too.
So, whether it’s picking up litter on your next hike, making your next adventure plastic free, offering to show a newbie the ropes, or obeying the Leave No Trace rules, just be good out there.
Be awesome outdoors…