Volunteering Vs Backpacking

Published 10/05/2018

When planning a gap year, you’re bound to stumble into the age old question – should I volunteer or should I simply backpack around on my own?Β πŸ€”

There’s no right or wrong answer, and it’s ultimately up to you to decide what you want out of a gap year.

The team here at Think Pacific have spent time volunteering as well as backpacking, so we’re perfectly positioned to help you get to the bottom of what to do on your gap year.

We’ve put this mini guide together to help you think about if volunteering or backpacking is best for you!

Things to Consider…


One of the first things to consider is the cost.

Surprisingly, volunteering can be considerably cheaper than backpacking on your own. Paying for accommodation and buying food every day can soon add up.

Without even scheduling in any activities, your budget may be stretched.

Backpacking around parts of Asia, Africa and other countries can be cheap in comparison to UK/Europe, but you may be surprised at how quickly your money runs out. Although these countries can be cheap, top rated accommodation and food outlets usually end up increasing their prices and backpackers may start to feel this on their budgets.

Backpacking involves being very disciplined with your money as you may need to budget for several months. This means spending too much in just one part of your gap year can have a big knock on effect for the rest. So, if you like your treats and don’t want to be stuck with a tight budget towards the end of your travels, think carefully about what type of backpacking you’re planning on doing.

In comparison, volunteering can be quite simple for gap year planning. Here at Think Pacific, you pay one cost and that covers everything apart from flights. Accommodation, food, activities, you name it, you can relax and know its covered.

But what about the cost of volunteering?

Well, let’s take Fiji (because let’s face it, regardless of whether you backpack or volunteer, Fiji is the best place to go!) and see how costs compare between volunteering and backpacking.

If you join us on our 2 month project, it works out at about Β£36 per day. Accommodation, food, activities and donations to charity are all included in this.

You’ll find it very difficult to backpack around Fiji for less than Β£36 a day. In fact, most popular tourist hostels in Fiji in the Yasawas will charge around $150 (Fijian Dollars) a night – which is about Β£50. That’s not even including all your food or any activities, let alone charitable donations!

If budgets are tight, then it’s always worth doing a detailed breakdown of costs and what you’re getting for it – particularly in the case of Fiji, you’d be surprised at how much more you get for your money on an expedition like Think Pacific.


‘Hi I’m Danny and going on an expedition with Think Pacific was the best decision of my life so far. Working with the charity gives you the opportunity to experience a beautiful part of the world not many people are lucky enough to see, whilst also completing such positive work for the country. Think Pacific were incredibly helpful from the moment I showed interest in volunteering, and had everything covered on both the UK and Fiji sides of the charity. Working with the kids was incredibly rewarding and by the end of my month-long expedition I could see real progress in their education. The changes in lifestyle and diet can be challenging, but it’s all part of embracing a new culture. The Fijian people are so friendly, and every host family will treat you as one of their own. I can’t wait to head back to my second home of Raiwaqa village in the future!’ #thinkpacific #Fiji #volunteering #volunteerabroad #impact #culture #picoftheday #travel #traveller #charity #southpacific #wanderlust #education #experience #earlyyearseducation #teach #teaching #impact #inspire #ngo #instagood #instadaily #paradise #photooftheday #school #sunshine #gapyear #villagelife

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If you’re planning a gap year because you want to experience new cultures and countries, then volunteering is always going to trump backpacking.

Backpacking can be amazing, and gives you great independence, but it’s often much harder to see the real culture and character of a country.

Popular backpacking routes mean you’re much more likely to stumble into another tourist than you are a local. I’m not sure about you, but that’s not really my idea of the perfect gap year.

We’re proud of the opportunities our expeditions offer volunteers to witness and experience traditional Fijian culture and customs. The communities we visit can’t even be accessed by other tourists –Β  you need to be invited by the chief! We don’t sugarcoat anything and simply offer volunteers the chance to experience a real Fijian community – no fake shows for tourists, no western pampering – instead, the true culture of the country.

Backpacking may give you freedom, but it won’t give you opportunities like that.


Volunteering opens the door to a wealth of experiences and activities that money can’t buy. These type of experiences are often the moments that define a gap year and are the first things you talk about when you get home.

Talk to any past Think Pacific volunteer and they’ll all have unique stories from their Fijian mums, dads, brothers and sisters. They’ll all have unique memories and unforgettable experiences that last a life time.

Although activities like sky diving and bungee jumping are great things to tick off a gap year bucket list, they won’t provide the experiences that’ll have a lasting impact on you. In contrast,Β teaching in a Fijian school and knowing you’re having an impact on a child is something that you’ll always cherish. This is the kind of experience that shapes gap years and shapes both your future and the future of a child.

Something we believe in,Β is the benefit of volunteering as a part of a team.

This means you’ll not only build long-lasting relationships with Fijians but also with fellow volunteers. You’ve live and share all these incredible experiences with these other volunteers, creating bonds that can’t be broken.

All our volunteers go out to Fiji as part of a team and these fellow volunteers will become life long friends.


If you want to make an impact on your gap year then firstly, we applaud youΒ πŸ‘ (we need more people like you in this world!) Secondly, volunteering is probably the best way to do it.

You can use your own time, knowledge, skills, efforts and enthusiasm to make the impact you want to.

You can find volunteering opportunities based on your interests – from marine and wildlife, to schools and sports. The important thing to remember is that you can make an impact, you just need to find a project that allows you to.

Interested in Volunteering to Fiji?

If volunteering in Fiji sounds like something that you’d be interested in, download our brochure today or please don’t hesitate to get in touch to learn more – our friendly team are always happy to help.

Check out the video below to see what volunteering in Fiji with Think Pacific is all about!Β πŸ‡«πŸ‡―

Does Fiji sound like your ideal gap year destination?
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