India from the heart of a 'Voluntourist' – Christopher Blake Edelmann

voluntourist - streettrotter
voluntourist - streettrotter
photo courtesy –

“Be the change you want to see in the world” – a famous quote by Gandhi, is not just another inspiring text anymore, but an emerging reality… 

Following my previous post on the ‘voluntourist’ and the world of volunteering while travelling around the globe – this post is an ode to ‘Voluntourism in India’. Igniting the growing interest of a lot of foreigners travelling to India, it is the mesmerizing combination of the increasing Tibetans in exile and the compassionate practices of Buddhism together, that is rooting the concept of voluntourism in a big way in the country, spread over regions like Nepal, Leh, Ladakh, Spiti and Dharamshala. The subsequent experiences of volunteers who have literally crossed oceans to help and bring about a change in the lives of the unfortunate few in and around the Indian subcontinent, in my opinion calls for an applause to the uprise of awareness, education, well being and the feeling of making a better world to live in, amongst the new youth of the twenty first century.

Fitting into this burgeoning category of inspiring individuals perfectly, here comes, from the heart of another young traveler and a close friend – Christopher Blake Edelmann, from Louisiana, (whom I met while my one month stay with LHA, Mcloedganj) –  his experience of playing his part as a volunteer in India, of what he learned and lived, while he stayed…

Christopher Blake Edelmann, narrates…

“In my somewhat small amount of travel experience, I can say for sure that I much rather travel and volunteer than the typical tourist experience. Leisure travelling has the perks of being able to relax and do whatever you want during your trip but volunteering while travelling gives you something meaningful to do in service. You can almost enjoy your down time even more. I personally felt that I wasn’t part of the masses of tourists who were only travelling to exploit the culture and take photos. It was nice to feel separated from that lot.

streettrotter - dalai lama temple

I travelled to Mcleod Ganj where I volunteered for about three months teaching English to Tibetan refugees. Though I was there playing the role as teacher, I feel that I learned a lot more from the Tibetan people than I could have ever taught them. I admire their way of life so much. The Tibetan people live with such compassion and generosity. They have so much gratitude for what they have, despite being a people without a country. They really look out for eachother and show the same kindness to anyone else around. They are polite, courteous, and very willing to learn whatever it is you are teaching them. Most of the Tibetan people that I met were a little bit shy at first, but before long they were smiling, joking, and making conversation.

streettrotter - travel voluntourist

Most of my experiencing volunteering was tutoring a few students 1 on 1. My most memorable student is a young monk about my age name Jampa. He was really a pleasure to work with. He was always good natured and the buddhist teachings of kindness and compassion were alive within him. He was there in Mcleod Ganj for the sole purpose of improving his English. He was born in Tibet and on his first timte coming to India, he was arrested in Nepal and sent to a Chinese prison for 3 months before being sent back to Tibet. His home in India was at Gadden Monastary in Hubli. We met for about an hour a day about 5 days a week for around 2 months. Most of the teaching was just working on conversational English. But we would also study from an English workbook that Jampa had. He left to go back to his monastary not long before I left for a trip south to Varanasi.

streettrotter - dalai lama temple

Overall, my volunteering experience in Mcleod Ganj was amazing. It was so easy to meet great people who were also volunteering and had similar interests. If you are looking for a place to volunteer and enjoy, I highly recommend Mcleod Ganj. There are plenty of great cafes’, restaurants, shops to visit while you are there. Not to mention the stunning scenery everywhere. Make sure to walk the kora, the circumambulation of the Dalai Lama’s main temple.  And if your are looking for a delightful Tibetan treat, try momos.”

streettrotter - dalai lama temple

While this was Blake’s memory of his trip to India, to conclude this post on a nostalgic but happy note , this one is my memory of Blake and his trekking passion… 

“I came back, because I didn’t want you two to turn around, and also I kinda wanted to watch out for you girls”…

“So the trek goes steep for a while, then it goes a little higher up, then it becomes a little easier with walking into the forests in the shade, and then we go all down to the waterfall to swim…” – Blake