Gap Year ‘Voluntourist’ Makes World a Better Place


For the first time, an upper-middle class English boy from the Home Counties was able to do some voluntary work while on his ‘Gap Yah’ that actually improved the community in which he was visiting. He carefully planned and researched his trip, avoiding the many exploitative practices which sadly do take place, and took part in an activity consistent with his skills, training and ability. This contributed in a small, yet meaningful way, to making the world marginally less shit.

Hugo Bufton-Warner, known as “Buffers” to his mates, took a Gap Year to prolong the progression towards responsible adulthood, having attended a minor public school and gained respectable grades. He told Pause; “You know, I really wanted to make a difference to the world rather than just posing for my many Instagram followers, so rather than trying to build a schoolhouse or well despite having never done a proper day’s manual work in my life or the slightest knowledge of construction, I had a good long think about what I could do when doing voluntary work overseas. I was able to select an activity that would both benefit the community I visited and be something I was able to do properly”. As a result, Hugo’s activities both had a positive impact on the area he stayed in and made his trip around the world that bit more fulfilling.

Sadly, not many are like Hugo. Recognising that you don’t gain Instagram followers by volunteering with the homeless or elderly down the road, social media fame and photogenic photos await those who go abroad in well-meaning but fundamentally misguided attempts to give something back to the world. A classmate of Hugo, Clarissa Loxby-Smythe, has allegedly written extensively about this conundrum in her extremely original online blog dedicated to travelling the world and rejecting borders and nationhood in favour of some globalised hippy commune ideal. In an impassioned essay, she points out the fundamental disconnect in the idea that one needs daddy to bankroll a trip to the other end of the world for voluntary work when so many at home who have lost out in our increasingly hedonistic and consumerist society, but presents the winning counterargument that nobody ever gained twitter followers or Instagram ‘likes’ by helping out at a homeless shelter or youth club in your hometown compared to photogenic smiling children in a far-off land and assorted sanitised travel photographs. Few, if any, of the photographs, depict the clueless aristocratic teens attempting to build something resembling a wall, as proper builders had to redo it the following night, which happily allowed for some better photographic opportunities. But you aren’t to know this from the social media feed it is all put onto.

After the interview, Hugo is preparing to start at university, and hopes that his new friends will be enlightened and inspired by the fascinating stories and experiences he will be sharing with them in Fresher’s week, and possibly for the following term.


Pause Editor 2015-7, History student on Erasmus, maker of low-quality satire. When not writing for Pause, I dabble in Travel and Politics.

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