The Freedom of Movement

Volunteering and traveling fit together perfectly. During the time of volunteering abroad many new opportunities are to be found, and lots of closed doors open to travel the world.

Asking participants of the European Voluntary Service on a goal they have for their remaining time in Hungary, the most common answer you will receive is: “I want to travel as much as possible”. The voluntary service provides the special opportunity to explore Europe from a new side. Through contacts made during the volunteering, traveling becomes easier than you ever imagined.

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Photo: Inês Mendes

Choosing a place to travel most of the time correlates with thoughts about the budget, the transportation vehicle, the places to visit and the ones to stay in. Hotel or hostel, train or plane, museums or parks? To decide right on all those important issues can be time consuming and nerve-jacking, especially if you plan everything beforehand and in the end nothing works out the way you wanted it to be, ending up in tourist traps and doubting if all this preparation was even worth it.

As I learned from traveling through Europe doing an Interrail tour last summer, I can tell from experience that trips are not always about the places you visit, but about the friends you meet again or new friends you make on the road. It is more about moments than about sights, which mostly add something to the atmosphere of the city. On the one hand, it is always great to see an astonishing architecture displayed in the center of a city with such perfection that you can realize what mankind is able to build. But on the other hand what will you share with your friends when you sit together in a park, bar or at a couch? Will you tell them about the amazing sights of the city or more about the laughs you had, the people you met and the crazy nights you experienced?

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But why is the European Voluntary Service such an amazing opportunity to travel? This question can be answered from two different time perspectives: during the volunteering and afterwards.

The EVS is structured around two seminars, in which you get to know the other volunteers living in the country you volunteer in. The seminars are organized by the National Agencies of the recipient countries and provide often the best days of the EVS. Young, likeminded people from all over Europe gather at the same place, and competent trainers helping them out to get to know themselves better and to grow as an individual – all this is a special experience.

You naturally will find people who have the same heartbeat as you, and make contacts with a lot of  “foreigners”. The contacts you make will open up opportunities to travel within the country and the best thing is, that you will not have to worry about a place to stay because most of the volunteers are happy to provide you with a room, bed or couch. You will get to see the city as someone who lives there and not as a foreigner who has no clue where to go or what to do.

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Szeged (Photo: Felix Müller)

Basically all of my friends and contacts I made in Hungary are related to those seminars, that’s how everything started and later I got to know friends of friends and everything evolved into a big happy EVS community.

But what do other volunteers think about traveling in connection to the EVS experience?

“Traveling and volunteering go hand in hand and traveling is a huge part of the whole volunteering experience”, explains Inês who volunteers for Szatyor Egyesület, an organization, working with local food producers and the environmental sector.

“You meet a lot of people everywhere, so it’s easier to get contacts all around”, tells Inês. Furthermore, you “have (normally) more free time than when you work in a regular job” she adds. “I’ve been in 3 different places in Hungary to visit friends and I really enjoyed it. If it wasn’t for the people that I know there, I probably wouldn’t have gone to those places.”

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Vienna (Photo: Imke Langmann)

When planning a trip to another city, Imke, who volunteers for Menedékház Alapítvány (Shelter House Foundation), usually organizes her trips just a few days beforehand. First of all, she plans how to get there and where to sleep, what to visit is mostly decided spontaneously. Her favorite trip has been to Bratislava which appears as a city “with a nice old-town and a lot of cool young people”. She also told that she usually travels with a group of people, which sometimes makes the trip more interesting and fun.

The best thing during my time as a volunteer was to meet many people from different countries with different passions, philosophies and ideas. I met not only young travelers from Europe but also people from North-America, South-America, Asia and Africa. In not even a year I met people from all over the world, heard very interesting stories and had new opportunities to travel. After the EVS all the people you met and especially the ones you have made friends with are the keys to widen your horizon and travel the world further on.

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Photo: Felix Müller

That’s the beauty of traveling. When you travel, your opportunities to do so get multiplied, the experience you have only intensify your urge to continue. EVS can provide you with an important key to open many doors in many countries. Your life is a mandala, you are the pen and all the colors wait for you all over the world. Go out and bring color into your life!

Felix Müller
EVS volunteer at the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta