‘You’re young … and perhaps your life here in Switzerland doesn’t satisfy you entirely? In Africa and Asia there is need for you.’1 These words were published in a brochure by the Swiss Confederation in the late 1960s and aimed to motivate young Swiss to work as volunteers in the field of development aid. They combined the notion of ‘developing countries’ being in desperate need of Western aid with the idea of young people’s zest for action. In this article we wish to further explore the connections between these two concepts. Utilizing two case studies, we scrutinize the experiences of young Swiss men and women who, between the 1940s and the 1970s, spent short or longer periods of time in (former) European colonies, working for transnational companies or in development aid. We focus on how these young people dealt with colonialism, decolonization and the idea of development, and examine how their practices corresponded with the discourses and institutions they were confronted with.