The Tao of Being A Wanderlust Volunteer
by George Mihaly
"For best results, be flexible" -Anonymous
Most people dismiss the idea of giving away their time and skills away for free. After volunteering at Wanderlust festivals, wellness retreats, and countless music festivals, I experience volunteering as a way of pushing my creative abilities and being given an opportunity to connect with incredible people. Here are a couple things about volunteering most people typically don't understand until after volunteering:
Photo by George Mihaly
Your job is assigned, your attitude is your choice
Volunteer jobs aren't always super exciting. Standing around in the center of a village with a giant question mark sign isn't what you'd call a dream job. However, there is more than one way to accomplish a job that seems so basic. A hypothetical scenario:
The expectations of your job: Stand in a central location and help direct people who are lost and need help with their schedule
Novice Volunteer-Can't find the spot where they are expected to be and shows up late. "Man, I just really didn't want to be doing this today. I can't wait until this shift is over and I can go get my happy hoursté on."
Experienced Volunteer-Shows up on time and takes on the role with no objection. "Alright, time to work on my standing meditation skills…."
Exceptional Volunteer-Shows up 15 minutes early and takes on the role feeling charged. "I'm stoked to be here today! Giving directions helps people enjoy themselves and I help accomplish this positive state. My karma is getting a serious boost today! …maybe someone will notice this awesome jewelry I have on that I made..."
Photo by Ali Kaukas
Expectations for your work are usually not super high
Definitely sounds like a loaded statement…until you scratch beneath the surface. When expectations of your work are satisfactory, a little bit of extra effort will make your contribution extraordinary. Wondering how you do this? Here's a another hypothetical scenario:
The expectations of your job - Be at your volunteer role at 8:00am and check in students for a yoga class.
Novice Volunteer - Shows up at 8:30am - "Dude, my shoulders are so tired from all those handstands yesterday. Are we going to be here during the whole class, because I so want to practice in this one. Oh, can I borrow your mat?…by the way, I only practice on Manduka."
Experienced Volunteer - Shows up at 8:00am - "Good morning. Is there any coffee?"
Exceptional Volunteer - Shows up at 7:45am - "Namasté! Is there any thing I can help out with before we start working?"
It's crystal clear who is grateful to have an opportunity to be working. The volunteer who shows a little extra effort is typically the one who gets a little bit of extra appreciation and maybe preferential choice for shift slots, schedule re-arranging, and choice swag. Being someone who is helpful, timely, and generally pleasant to be around has always yield positive results. It doesn't take too much extra effort to be known as a someone who cares and is grateful.
Photo by Ali Kaukas
Fulfilling your role is expected, being different makes you valuable
Blogging, being a hike guide, and photography are a few of the jobs that are the equivalent of hitting the volunteer jackpot. But how do one come across such a glamorous role? The answer:
Be different and make sure people know why you are different.
When applying to volunteer, you have to fill out an application that ask you about your strengths and unique skills. Want to blog at a yoga festival? Start a blog about yoga, wellness, festivals and then blog. When you fill out the volunteer application and mention your unique blogging abilities, you can share examples of your work and make yourself a memorable applicant. Want to be a volunteer hike leader? Start leading hikes in your local community and maybe blog about it. Now you're a volunteer who's application stands out as both someone who would be a great hike leader and/or an interesting blogger.
Photo by Andrew Ross
But what about being a volunteer photographer?
Funny that you ask, because that is exactly what my role has been at Wanderlust Festival. This is how I became a volunteer photographer:
Wanderlust held a Facebook contest for being a yoga teacher at this year's event. I created the video for my friend Bibi McGill. It just so happened that Bibi won the competition. When I filled out my volunteer application, I emphasized my video skills, the video I created with Bibi, and a video project I could undertake. Unfortunately, I was told there were no video roles available. However, I was offered a role to be a photographer. Although my role became photo, not video; I recognized the opportunity that being a photographer possessed. As a photographer, I would have access to any event with a camera, the same camera that I use for video. I jumped on the opportunity and just yesterday finished my second assignment as an event photographer at the world's biggest yoga festival. Pretty cool. But, there's more….
Photo by Maria Gotay
I had an amazing time taking photos at both Wanderlust Tahoe and Wanderlust Whistler, but I really really wanted to record a video…and so I did! After taking the photos that were my assignment, I went out with my camera and recorded the video that I had been wanting to do all along. I fulfilled my role as photographer, and then fulfilled my desire as videographer. Here's the video I recorded from this weekend at Wanderlust Whistler:
Opportunities that are available to volunteers extend beyond just a free ticket to a amazing festival. The connections that I've made at Wanderlust and as a result of my role's at Wanderlust continue to enforce the notion that being a volunteer is more than just giving your time to a cause bigger than yourself. For me, being a volunteer is helping create something bigger than my imagination. What is it that you imagine yourself creating through volunteering?
Share your thoughts below and let me know if there is any way I might be able to help. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Maria Gotay
About the Author
George Mihaly is a Portland, Oregon based videographer and yogi. He has made online videos for yoga teachers, wellness companies, and prAna clothing, George enjoys drinking tea, bouldering, and blender chefing. You can watch his videos at www.mihalymedia.com or connect with him on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/georgemihaly.