11/01/2016 10:40 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

6 'Volunteer Abroad' Destinations That I found Almost Impossible To Leave


Many young people take a gap year abroad, often as backpackers, to gain work experience internationally and to explore different places. Most such journeys come with a clear-cut itinerary and, usually, a return ticket home. However, some destinations have the power to completely derail your plans. You may have planned to spend three days, but you end up lingering for a week.

I have been including volunteer work in most of my expeditions for a while now, and have encountered certain places that were so enchanting that I completely lost track of time. Week-long visits extended to a month, and leaving was a wrenching experience.

Here are some volunteer destinations that you'll want to stay in forever.

1. Costa Rica

This South American country has always been known for its superlative eco-system and diverse bio-sphere. Dotted with lush green rainforests, turquoise water bodies, rocky mountains, and other stellar landscapes, Costa Rica has enough ammo in its arsenal to make you lose yourself while volunteering under a project and exploring the region.

2. Uganda

When a grand personality such as Sir Winston Churchill calls a place the "Pearl of Africa", you better believe it. Or if you don't, go there and see for yourself. I found Uganda to be a bag of huge surprises and in my three-week stay to do volunteer work there, I realised that my visit was far too short and went by far faster than I would have liked - this country made me lose track of time.

With more than 50 ethnic tribal communities and a mix of cultural nuances, Uganda is one volunteer destination you certainly can't just visit once and forget.

3. Vietnam

When you look back at the pages of history, it becomes utterly difficult to digest that a country so exotic and stellar once faced the wrath of war and destruction. Vietnam has come a long way from its darker days and is making significant progress, but it still has a lot of repair work to do. There are several volunteer abroad opportunities for gap year travellers to choose from in Vietnam. But what makes it much more attractive is the laidback lifestyle of the people and the outstanding landscapes almost everywhere you go.

4. Morocco

Morocco is not your average African tourism destination, most of which are associated with the thrill of wildlife safaris. Here you will find a melange of three different cultures (Arabic, Berber, and European) that sets this country apart from its counterparts. There is a sense of tranquillity even in the hot and endless Sahara, the bustling markets of Marrakech are quite captivating, and describing the hospitality of the people in Rabat is difficult -- it can only be experienced. For more on volunteer programs, start here.

5. Nepal

For many years now, Nepal's most magnetic attraction, and that makes gap year travellers procrastinate their departure, is Mt. Everest! But then, of course, this is how the rest of the world knows Nepal. Those who have been to this beautiful hill country, know very well that Nepal is a lot more than just the highest mountain peak in the world.

Volunteer work in Nepal is to experience the serenity of its surroundings, the hospitality of its people, the gentle flow of its lifestyle. Through it all runs a deep spirituality -- you can't just have enough of it.

6. Thailand

One of the top visited destinations in the world, Thailand provides some really exciting volunteer programs in different parts of the country.

I mean, how and where else can you get an opportunity to work for the welfare of elephants while living in a charming village? The country is rightly said to have something for everyone, and there's nothing better than to do volunteer work here and give something back.

So, there you go, that's my list of gap year destinations that I found particularly awesome and which made me lose track of time. What's your pick? Share it in the comments section and let's make gap year travel more beautiful and meaningful.