Volunteering abroad is no more a “new way of traveling”!
Many gap year travelers and backpackers take up volunteer abroad project as a part of their expedition. The simple reason behind it is the unique experience one gets while traveling to new places. After all, how else would one get an opportunity to stay amongst the natives and understand the concepts of their culture? And, not to forget the academic benefits attached for the students.
You give out your time, money, and strength to attend a volunteer project abroad, which is a strong enough reason to make sure you make the best of your time. Volunteering Solutions, which has been placing volunteers in various projects in different locations from more than 11 years now, has a few handy tips for those who are planning to volunteer abroad in near future.
Whether you are a first-timer or a regular participant, these tips can be really helpful for your upcoming volunteering expedition.
1. Choose the program that fits your skills and not just interest
Joining a wildlife preservation project is not a bad idea if you have an inclination towards wildlife, but if you come from a strong teaching background, it’s better you join one of the Teaching Programs available abroad.
2. Choose the destination that fits your budget and… yes! Not just interest
As a child, you must have always dreamt of visiting a specific destination because of something that fascinated you about that country. Each country has its own hidden charm, which you would not know unless you are there. Don’t strikeout a destination just because you think it is poverty-stricken and would not have all those fancy hangouts. Don’t judge a book from its cover!
3. Do a thorough research about the destination you have selected
It is a very good and strongly advised practice for all those who are planning for a volunteer trip abroad. Know the facts and situations about the destination that you are visiting, beforehand. A quick Google search can always help you dearly.
4. And about the program you are joining in
Volunteering Solutions takes its operations very professionally and guides all the registered volunteers by providing necessary details about their projects in the form of pre-departure booklets. However, understanding a thing or two with a self-research does not do any harm, does it?
5. Take complete guidance from your registered placement agency
From the time of your registration, till you complete your volunteer project abroad, the placement agency you have registered with provides you all sorts of guidance, both offline and online. VolSol follows this practice religiously, where the online support is their program advisor from whom you can clarify all your pre-departure queries and, offline support is through the local coordinators placed at the program location that helps and guides you throughout your program.
6. Prepare yourself, not just physically, but mentally too for the expedition
A month-long travel (or maybe more), in a country that is thousands of miles away from your hometown, including a lot of physical work on a daily basis; this calls for a lot of physical and mental preparation. Some days may be good, some may be bad, and some may even turned out to be mentally tiring. While all this is an experience to remember for a lifetime, it does ask you to expect for the best and prepare for the worst.
7. Make sure all your documents are ready (visa, etc.)
Remember your school examination days, when you used to make sure that you have all necessary items required; like admit card, pen, etc.? Volunteering abroad may not be an examination as such, but it does require international traveling, and thus, carrying all proper immigration documents.
8. Don’t worry if your friend couldn’t accompany you, you’ll be making a lot of new ones
If you are planning to cancel your trip to volunteer abroad just because your friend backed out, wait right there! You might just commit one of the biggest blunders of your life by dropping your travel plans. Go solo, if need be, and see how many friends you end up making before your project ends.
9. Involve yourself as much possible in your projects
The only way you would be able to justify your project will be through serious involvement in it. Try to know even the smallest of the things about the project that might help you to strategize your approach. Things would become much simpler.
10. Go out of your way to make things happen
Be a proactive team member and lead the way if need be. Try to take a new approach towards your project. Don’t give up before giving it a try, and give suggestions to make things happen.
11. Be dedicated and sincere towards your program
A volunteer is generally required to dedicate 4 to 5 hours of their time to the project. But never shy away from contributing more of your time if asked for or you think it is required. Just remember that the qualities of an ardent volunteer are dedication, sincerity, enthusiasm, and patience.
12. Keep your priorities right
There will be a lot for you to do as a traveler at your project destination. But never forget your main motive of traveling. Set your priorities accordingly.
13. Explore the city you are volunteering in
You may not know what all the interesting facts are wrapped around the destination you are volunteering at unless you explore it by yourself. Know about the culture, traditions, history, ethics, cuisines; everything you can.
14. And the neighboring tourist locations
So just because you are volunteering at an elephant village in Surin, don’t assume there won’t be a place to take a short excursion in the neighborhood. An exquisite trekking trail, an ancient historical site, or a tranquil beach might be waiting for your arrival.
15. Eat local, wear local, speak local, be glocal
It is said that when traveling to a foreign land, do things the way the natives do. Try your hands on some local cuisines, see how you would look in local attire, and learning a few commonly used local words might also come just as handy.
16. Experience the sunrise in a foreign land
The sun would rise in the same way and from the same cardinal direction, as it does in your home country. But something will be definitely different about experiencing that first ray of light flashing on your face. You would not want to miss that.
17. Learn about the home country of your fellow volunteer
The best part about traveling solo is that you come across a lot of doppelgangers on your journey. Each of them from different backgrounds, different countries, different cultures, and different languages, but the same motive; volunteering abroad! This makes way for a unique opportunity to learn about several countries by visiting just one.
18. Try and do something new or the same thing in a new way every day
“Innovation is the key to success”, we all have heard this adage somewhere, sometime. Bring out the creative bug in you and utilize it to do new things or the same things, but in a different/unique way.
19. Make every day of your travel a memorable experience
Each day of our lives comes with a fresh opportunity to do something we would relish for the days to come. Make sure that every moment of yours, spend traveling abroad, counts.
20. Take short excursions to explore more
There is a lot to see and explore in this world. The same applies to a volunteer abroad trip. Considering a basic schedule of a volunteer project, weekends are off for the volunteers that can be used to take those short excursions to a nearby tourist hotspot or someplace that has been less explored.
21. Get pictures as much as you can
A travel isn’t complete unless you have 100s of pictures in the memory card of your camera. The only way to take back a piece of your sojourn is by taking all those pictures. A lot to post on Instagram as well! (And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, and also tag us on your photos!)
22. But don’t thwart your eyes to capture the beauty around you
However, don’t just keep your eyes behind those high-resolution lenses. See the beauty around you with your own eyes and let your brain save the images for you. This memory has lesser chances to crash or get stolen.
23. Try and divide your time for multi-destination volunteering
A lot of volunteer destinations are closely located from each other, making way for a brilliant opportunity to travel and volunteer at different destinations within the time you had decided to dedicate to your trip. A few countries in Asia provide this opportunity for multi-destination volunteering.
Need help with volunteering abroad? Experts are online right now. Mail us at [email protected]
Riyanka is a traveler who is keen on exploring different parts of the world. She’s a travel blogger who’s equally passionate about photography. Her quest is to turn all her journeys into beautiful stories. Being a die-hard ‘mountain-aholic‘, her favorite destinations are all around the Himalayas! She can spend days gazing at the snow-capped mountains, binge on Maggi and lemon-honey-ginger tea, and reading Ruskin Bond books.
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