Lessons from Volunteering in the Perhentian Islands

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18 Responses

  1. you.theworld.wandering says:

    Sounds like you had such an amazing experience in Perhentians! One of my good friends is there this week and said it’s the nicest place she’s ever been – you lucky thing volunteering there!! Great to see you made some new friendships and had an overall great experience.
    Kristie – you.theworld.wandering

    • Teja says:

      And I went back too, the following year! Like three times, for long 2-3 week stretches! :D

  2. neha says:

    It was really nice going through your honest thoughts. I very much want to volunteer while I travel. But haven’t really tried it yet. Neither been in this kind of situation before. But your post will come helpful for me in future

    • Teja says:

      Definitely try it at least once! It takes you out of yourself, and maybe also out of your comfort zone. But pick a good place that really does try to make a sincere difference.

  3. Penny says:

    Safety has always been a major concern of mine. Being an introvert usually means that I am scared to interact. I’m glad that you found that you had a lot of female company. I’m sure that must have bolstered your confidence a lot. Me… I’m just lucky that I travel with Shawn. The problem does not arise as much as it does with single travelers.

    • Teja says:

      I think it’s actually very common among Asians, this feeling. Which is why I’m trying to see if I can push a bit against that fear, and look behind the curtain, so to speak. I think introverts, we overthink and overprepare for social situations because it’s so draining when you are in a dilemma in real time and have no exit strategy :p

  4. I was actually considering this and I am glad I stumbled upon your post, Teja! Thanks for the info and the tips!

  5. Cherene Saradar says:

    What an experience! Happy you overcame so much trepidation and had this incredible journey. Love your blue sigb! Nature is cruel…those poor hatchlings. I also want to do more volunteerism. Great post as usual!

    • Teja says:

      Hi again Cher! I know right? I watched a couple hatchlings snatched up. My consolation was that those were already flagging anyway, they were really weak from being swarmed by the fire ants. So maybe they couldn’t have made it all the way to open sea anyway. And I like reef sharks too, so their babies also need fed. Sigh.

      You know… when I asked for absolutely clear signs along my renewal path because I am obtuse and oblivious, I hadn’t reaally expected the universe to respond. I can’t describe the feeling of that. It’s the kind of feeling that makes you not care about anything else in the world anymore, none of the pettiness and narrowness and noise.

  6. Kelly says:

    What an inspiring article. I actually am super selfish and would not want to give up my vacation time to travel but you inspire to do this. It sounds like such a valuable and soul searching experience. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Teja says:

      Haha that’s why I did it this way… it’s sort of kind of a vacation but also contributing something! You could argue I was being devious, but you know, two birds with one stone and all that (is that metaphor frowned upon among conservationists? hmm.. )

  7. Christina says:

    Sounds like it was a really incredible experience, despite the challenges! I can relate to much of what you said because I’m also quite introverted and need my own space… I can be quite awkward as well haha but travelling has really helped bring me out of my shell. It’s so great that you made friends and got an offer to return. That ending made me really happy for you! <3

    • Teja says:

      I’m discovering that, a bit. I dunno maybe this year more of that will happen. :)

  8. Ellie Cleary says:

    Sounds like you had a wonderful experience on the Perhentian Islands – and this sounds like a great project! I visited the Perhentians in 2006, I bet they’ve changed a bit since then ;-) – still the same beautiful blue ocean though. I would also be hesitant about mixed dorms for a long period of time. Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

    • Teja says:

      Unfortunately, we don’t have quite the land use planning we ought to… I mean there is a pretty good plan, but the adherence to it is… not as supportive of being a marine park as it ought to be, shall we say. I learned a great deal in the following year about the things that *really* impede making a marine park an effective designation.

      But, it still has the same laidback vibe with an undercurrent of local competitiveness!

  9. Ellis says:

    I loved reading your article as i am quite introvert myself. I find that with travelling making friends is easier in general, but i also volunteered and i find people who do this to be so much more open minded and friendly. I am glad you found your place where you belong.

    • Teja says:

      Wellll… the year after that, when I came back, got me adjusted insights which I will write about later. :) It’s not so much the place that I belong to… I discovered it’s more the type of people – who could be anyplace. But yeah, so far all three times I went on volunteer trips I got much better social outcomes than other trips. I’m still reluctant to call it, but it does seem like an unusually favourable strike rate!