Sometimes we are presented the chance to do some good for others while on vacation. Erin Holmes of Explore With Erin highlights how one single mother continues to find these moments — seeking out every opportunity she can to pass on random acts of kindness by volunteering solo.
Volunteering with a partner has many benefits; however, sometimes you may find yourself on a solo vacation wanting to reach out to those around you. An opportunity comes and you want to perform an act of kindness. What does volunteering solo look like?
There is a beautiful woman I have known for many years. We first met in the snowy mountains of Romania. I had known about her blog online and invited her and her son to celebrate Christmas with us. Her warmth and genuine compassion for people was an inspiration for my little family and I knew she would be a friend forever.
Fast forward 5 years later and I recalled the amazing stories Exploramum shared with me. And now I want to share them with you. Here’s a glimpse into her experience, in her words.
1. Please share with us a little about yourself.
We go by the names Exploramum and Explorason. We have traveled the world to over 70 countries.
I’m a single older Mum from Australia, and I have been traveling with my son around the world, and more recently the last few years, more of our home country of Australia. When we are not traveling, we are talking travel and helping others to plan the best travel experience possible.
We love to focus on Random Acts of Kindness when we travel.
2. What does volunteering mean to you?
Right from the start, our focus was to make a difference whenever we saw a need by volunteering our time and resources when and where we could.
Our first country was Fiji, where with the aid of our readers, we raised funds to help provide essential clothing to a remote village on the island of Savusavu. We hired a 4WD and after identifying the needs, purchased shoes, underwear, and clothes for the children. We also provided a walking stick for the chief of the village who was lame.
During the many years we have traveled, we independently meet individuals and provide as we find that need.
When we based ourselves in Kenya for a while we were able to help many. As a Mum, I was trusted, so people let me into their homes. One day I remember meeting a single Mum with 9 children. I was so touched by her sweet nature and poverty that my son and I immediately went out to buy her bags of fruit and vegetables providing her with nutritious food.
During our travels there have been so many opportunities that knocked on our door, hundreds we have independently helped from the streets of Bolivia to remote towns of Romania.
3. Which countries do you find yourself volunteering in and why?
Volunteering for us has occurred in every country we visited. It was our mission focus.
From Vietnam and Cambodia to even homeless in Australia, we believe it is important that when we see a need we do not turn our back to it. If we can show one person even the smallest amount of love and care, that means something.
I know the real pain of rejection, but I find that the greatest way to heal the pains of the past is to give the love we have to others. Focusing on others gives us a great sense of well-being. I have always instilled this in my son. Right from when he was a toddler where he first shared his toys and candy with children in the Pacific Islands. My son and I have volunteered in a children’s hospital for amputees, providing drinks and playing with the children. We even spent time in remote villages throughout Africa, helping with a school and one-on-one needs, too.
4. Is your volunteering spontaneous or planned out?
Our volunteering comes in many forms. We’ve volunteered with small independent organizations, but mostly we volunteer as the need presents itself independently. We often go out seeking who we can help. We might then go back and cook a warm meal for that person and return with it and a coat.
In Hollywood, we hired a car and drove the streets seeking people to pass food out to. I remember my son asking a man what flavor food he wanted. He said that no one had ever given him a choice before.
In remote Uganda, we bought mattresses, mosquito nets, and bedding and delivered it to families. I cried with a lady as she sobbed with pure joy at having a bed.
Everything we do during our solo volunteering I have done for love. To touch lives that I know will never repay me.
5. How does volunteering solo make you feel? Do you feel it makes a difference?
It is addictive. After we give I want to go back to wherever we are staying and find more to give. It makes me want to give more.
Sometimes it also makes me grieve. I am deeply moved with compassion over their pain and their joy and will often shed tears.
Volunteering is caring and that definitely makes a difference. You are making someone’s life better.
6. How does your son feel about the work you do?
My son has a tender heart and has taken to volunteering solo just like his mum. Sharing these experiences with him, caring for others, means I am raising him to be a fine young man who will accept others for who they are, without judgment.
He often finds needs and comes back wanting to help that person. One occasion he raised money to help buy a man a phone. The man was a night guard who sat in the dark never knowing the time. What compassion! I’ve seen my son go without his own lunch to feed a starving dog that’s ribcage was bulging through its skin from hunger. He often says, “I feel for him” and then goes to buy something to give a stranger.
I’d say he feels as deeply as me about helping our fellow man.
7. Where do you see your volunteer work headed?
I’d love to open a rescue home in Kenya or Uganda for children that have no parents, I’ve seen extreme cases of child suffering there that tear my heart. To be able to show these children that someone loves them; to provide a bed, food, and safety. That is my deepest desire.
I’ve often found living in the western world you can become fixated with possessions. But I know the greatest thing we possess is something we can give and it returns in greater proportion. That is love. I don’t need worldly riches to give me fulfillment, but give me the opportunity to love the unloved and my heart is full.
Travelocity’s Travel for Good™ program aims to inspire travelers to give back in ways big and small throughout their journeys. To learn more about the program, get involved in a local community or start planning your next Travel for Good trip, please visit Travelocity.com/TravelForGood.
Erin Holmes of Explore with Erin is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity.
Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.