Those who view themselves as more altruistic might place volunteering on their bucket list. You can volunteer in your local community, or find somewhere overseas. That's how I found myself living in Cambodia.
Volunteering in Cambodia is an amazing experience. It allows you to explore the country in a completely different way, while allowing you to give back to the community.
On this trip I’ve been able to visit communities in a completely different way than if I were merely a tourist. I’ve been invited to have lunch in people’s homes that sit on stilts high above the ground. I’ve been able to attend meetings see how the communities come together to work hard to improve their lives, and I've helped the communities to achieve this.
I’ve been able to (attempt to) learn Khmer. I’ve helped the people in my organisation improve their English. Chances are that you’re not going to have a whole lot to do and you’re probably not going to contribute significantly to your organisation but it my experience that does not mean the people don’t appreciate the work that you do.
There are a lot of organizations that offer volunteer experiences. I went through a company called International Volunteers HQ who offer volunteer experiences at a much cheaper price than most other volunteer companies. They have partner organisations in each country that go to the placements and find the right one for you and your skills.
Volunteering is not something that should be taken lightly. It’s tempting to come into Cambodia, or any developing country, with the hopes of spending a couple of weeks playing with some cute kids in an orphanage. If this is what you want to get out of volunteering, please, PLEASE, don’t do it. You may mean well but you may be doing more harm than good. Orphanage tourism is a huge problem in Cambodia, and you can find out more information at Orphanages: Not the Solution. If you really want to help children in Cambodia you’re better off donating the money that you would have spent on the trip to a local NGO.
Don’t expect to come to Cambodia and live in luxury. You may not have hot water. You may lose power on a fairly regular basis (I’m yet to go a whole week without losing power for at least a little while). You will get sick. But that’s all part of the amazing experience you’ll have (except maybe the getting sick part, that’s not so amazing). You’ll also get to see amazing things.
You’ll get to eat all these delicious foods (and this is coming from one of the fussiest eaters in the world). You’ll get to meet the local people who have such fascinating stories that they’re eager to share. You’ll have some of the cutest kids in the world yelling hello at you and waving as you go past. You'll get to visit places like Angkor Wat. You’ll get to experience the amazing country that is Cambodia.
Basically volunteering is amazing, but it usually takes a bit of planning. Do a lot of research and go along with open expectations; you'll have a very rewarding experience.