Dawid was looking for a new job when he found a volunteering trip to Nepal. While the data analyst was mixing cement for a new school on the top of a mountain during his holidays, he realised that this trip was about to change his life.
I met Dawid in a small town more than 140 km outside of Kathmandu. Dawid is a 29-years old Polish guy living in England. He was part of a project which aimed to rebuild a school that had been destroyed by the recent earthquake. My friend and I went to see their project and to give a hand for the day. Quickly I realised that for Dawid, this was not just an interesting way to spend his vacation, there was more to it.
Looking for a job and finding a trip
Travelling has always been part of Dawid’s life, up to four times a year he tries to go somewhere he’s never been before and be it just a different town in the UK for a long weekend. He loves to discover new places, especially in his own way: «I don’t like to visit a city by taxi or rickshaw, I usually run», he says. He doesn’t use a precise map but just runs through different streets. «I love getting lost because then I find myself.»
But actually, Dawid was not looking for vacation when he found this trip to Nepal: «My main drive is knowledge», says Dawid. «In my job, I haven’t learned anything new in one year, so I was browsing for a new job, without any specific idea in mind, more a bit like window shopping…»
While looking for different job offers, he happened to stumble upon a Canadian organisation that was looking for volunteers for a school-building project in Nepal. The earthquake of April 2015 had destroyed many schools, one of them in a small town on a mountain close to Gorkha where the epicentre of the earthquake was. The plan was to work on the school for two weeks, and to do some sightseeing on a few days, to see the Himalaya and Kathmandu.
No fear of challenges
Dawid got interested. He liked the idea of combining travel with volunteering. This trip was quite expensive, even the flight itself. «But I wanted it really bad, so I made it happen.» This is a Leitmotiv he follows in his life in general. «I hate standing still.»
When he was 19, he left his home country Poland to go to the UK in search of work. He was not afraid of arriving in an unknown country, no, he was hungry for the unknown. He found a job, an apartment, friends. He realised he had managed to build himself a new life in a completely different environment. When the company proposed to send him to the branch in Singapore, he happily accepted this challenge, too.
So Nepal was his next big adventure. Used to work on a computer as a data analyst for a behavioural marketing company, he found himself in a sleeveless shirt mixing cement with water under the burning sun. And surprisingly, he felt satisfaction. «Volunteering for an NGO is much more rewarding than working for a company where you are just a small fish in a pond», he says.
Doing something good while travelling
This experience made Dawid discover that there was something in his mind that had been sleeping for years: «I don’t want to make money, I want to do something that matters.» His first decision was: «No more two-weeks-on-the-beach vacations: I want to do something good when I travel.» There are many NGOs who are in need of volunteers, and at the same time, it would allow him to discover a new place, a new culture. «Anyway, it is not possible to say which projects deserve more attention, so I just pick the ones which are in a region I’d love to discover.»
Soon, he realised that this would not satisfy him. Why only doing good when travelling? «I decided to quit my job and look for work in an NGO», Dawid says.
Meanwhile, he found a job in an NGO in Honduras and left the UK for good. A new life is awaiting him.
And he’s sure to go back to Nepal, too. A freshly made tattoo on his leg keeps a permanent reference mark of this experience on his skin: a volunteering-travel trip which had literally changed his life. His advice to other travellers: «Don’t think too much, but have an open heart.» And: «Don’t take a cab. Just walk.»