It happened three and a half years ago whilst I was working as a managing director of a company in my hometown of Seville in Spain. It was a good job and offered everything one aspired to, a beautiful flat, weekend trips within Spain and Europe, a nice lifestyle indeed. So why did I quit this kind of life? I didn´t quite know why at that time, I just felt I needed to do it.
I packed my belongings, giving away some of my things to friends and left my comfortable flat in the city centre and off I flew to New Zealand!! Yes, New Zealand! I barely had enough time to think about what I was doing, but it was too late now as I was already there, on the other side of the world without a plan.
My first thought was to enrol in a language school to improve my English. I would find a ‘normal’ job and build a life similar to the one I had left behind. So I followed my plan, and right when everything was starting to pay off, something felt wrong. My gut feeling was telling me not to continue doing what I had been doing. I hadn’t travelled to the other side of the planet to just do the same thing I’d been doing before. Seize the opportunity. So I listened to my heart and followed my intuition.
I heard about a website where you could create a profile as a volunteer and help people who needed you in remote areas. I owed it to myself to at least try it out, so I packed some of my things into a small rucksack and travelled to my first destination, a cow and sheep farm.
It was hard to begin with, but a great experience. I become a farmer and helped a family with their daily farming duties from herding sheep, to feeding cows, and building fences. After a few weeks I felt like part of the family. We cooked and ate together, sharing stories after a long hard days work. I even taught the younger children some Spanish. It felt fantastic contributing some of my time to make their time easier.
After my first volunteering assignment I moved to Paradise Trust, one of the most beautiful locations I have ever seen. This small trust in South Island, New Zealand, is working hard to preserve what remains of a small community of settlers from Europe who emigrated in the late 1800s. There are still some small cottages dating back to that time, with no electricity and limited facilities where visitors can go to enjoy a simpler more contemplative life.
This assignment was very inspiring for me. I felt extremely fortunate, to be able to live in a similar fashion as people did in the late 1800s. Assisting with conservation of the environment and caring for the local animals and plants gave me a sense of fulfillment. I felt as though I’d been given great natural gifts just by expending my time HELPING.
Through my volunteering I was able to understand why things felt wrong in the beginning. I learnt the value and importance in doing things without expecting something in return, just for the pleasure of helping somebody, and I was also fortunate enough to receive a few of life’s unexpected gifts in return. This experience changed my life, and now I can’t imagine a life spent without dedicating some of my time to others.