I was hesitant to spend my one free week of the spring semester volunteering instead of relaxing on a tropical beach. Still, I took a leap of faith and traveled down to the Houston, Texas area to do hurricane relief work. Here’s why I recommend everyone to volunteer next spring break:
1. You still have plenty of free time.
I was concerned that I wouldn’t have any time to relax. I mean, it was supposed to be a break after all. While I would spend most of each day working, I still had several hours of free time after getting back to the beach house to head down to the ocean – yes, I got my tan after all! I realized that I liked the structure of a workday — even on break. I wouldn’t have known what to do with a ton of extra time. Plus, the mere fact that it was a change-up from school work was enough to make the relief work enjoyable.
2. You don’t have to rough it.
A stereotype I often hear about mission trips is that groups sleep on hard floors in churches or in some other low-budget lodging option. That may be true for some trips, but mine wasn’t one of them! I had the luxury of staying in a big, beautiful beach house that was a boardwalk away from the salty waves. Also, all the food I could ever want was readily accessible. Since there was a large group of people on the trip, the cost was manageable. See, it’s not so different; we still had the comfort of a nice vacation to the beach!
3. You can visit somewhere warm and see new sights.
If you do your research, you will find that there are a ton of service trips all the time. If you have a particular vacation destination in mind, chances are you’re find a service trip that’s heading there. Since spring break is usually a great chance to get away from the lingering winter weather, I looked for a trip that allowed me to be in the southern part of the country – 70s and sunny every day was fine by me! Plus, with the free time you have, you can usually slip away to see some of the hallmarks of the area. I not only got to enjoy the beach, I also got to explore downtown Houston and visit NASA.
4. You have the chance to create meaningful connections.
The group I traveled down to Texas with totaled nearly 100 people, many of whom I’d never met before in my life. That may seem intimidating; but because we’re all passionate about helping others, we bonded very easily. By the end of the week, I found myself a whole community of new friends I can take into life beyond the trip — all because we shared a common experience. Some projects you do can also provide opportunities to form relationships with the people you’re actually helping; it makes it a lot more meaningful.
5. You leave feeling rewarded.
This is probably the biggest reason I’m thankful I went on this spring break mission trip: I left feeling like I really did make a difference. Every story I heard — whether it was about a person I was helping or about someone’s workday — was inspiring. Every smile I saw on someone’s face — because I’d made their life a little easier — put goosebumps on my skin. By spending time volunteering to help others, we can show some of the love this world desperately needs to see.
Even though this spring break is over, you do not need to wait until next year to make service a part of your life. Take a week out of your summer to do work in a part of the country you haven’t been to before. Don’t have a week? Going on a weekend trip closer to home or volunteering at a local organization is just as fruitful. No matter which route you choose to go, dedicate your next step to giving your time to help others. I promise you won’t regret it.