We’re all victims of the travel bug, especially when our daily Instagram feeds show post-after-post of amazing new destinations. While jumping on a first-class flight to a 5-star resort sounds like a brilliant idea, sometimes you want more than you can get from a hotel room; you want to immerse yourself in the lifestyle, the culture, and the surroundings, all while giving back to the local community themselves.
So, could a volunteering trip be the holiday that gives you the best of both worlds? We certainly think so! Here are our tips on making your volunteering trip the experience of a lifetime:
BEFORE YOU GO
1. Choose your country
There are volunteering opportunities in all corners of the world, making it a great way to see and experience a country that has been sitting in your bucket-list for years. In order to not be overwhelmed with your options, hone down a specific continent or country that you’d love to immerse yourself in, then begin searching through what opportunities are on offer.
2. Research organisations
An unfortunate reality is that some volunteering organisations are fraudulent and scam the unaware for money. This is especially common in poverty-struck regions, where the local communities will even take children away from their homes for the day to build up the image of an orphaned community. In order to make sure the work you’re doing is legitimate and worthwhile, choose organisations that are well-known and are transparent about where the money and work is truly going!
3. Choose a program that encourages self-sufficiency and sustainability
An important aim of volunteering is to make sure the work you undertake can be continued long-after you’ve left. Sustainable volunteering aims to make a difference in a community, while also teaching the local community how to continue the uptake themselves – after all, the aim isn’t to rely on volunteers forever. An easy way to see whether a program supports this mindset is to read reviews of past volunteers and contact them to ask about their experiences with the program!
WHEN YOU’RE THERE
4. Utilise your skills
Volunteering is a great opportunity no matter what you do, but you’ll get far more out of the experience if you utilise your pre-developed skills. Whether it’s teaching children, building farming infrastructure or helping in the medical centre, there are opportunities for all types of skill-sets. Plus, if you’re daily tasks are something you’re already equipped with, it’ll be easier to teach the locals who can continue the sustainability of your work!
5. Leave your expectations at home
This goes for any adventure, and life itself. While Great Expectations was a wonderful novel, it’s time to leave the expectations at the door once you embark on your volunteering journey. To ensure you get the most out of your experience, don’t continually compare your time to what you’ve heard from others! Every day will bring a new story and taking all of the good with the bad will guarantee you feel fulfilled by the end of your adventure.
6. Adapt to the local environment
A sure-fire way to get the most out of your experience while volunteering is to completely and entirely immerse yourself in the culture. If it’s possible during your time at your chosen destination, try and experience a homestay with a local family. Spending time living exactly how the locals live, eat, and sleep will further encourage the sustainability of your work, and will provide you with a newfound appreciation of the destination. Remember that you’re a visitor in their home and community, so make sure you respect their cultural customs and traditions.
7. Reward yourself!
You’ve worked hard! You’ve completed some sustainable work, you’ve encouraged growth within the community, and you’ve experienced the culture as best you can. A volunteering trip can be an equally exhilarating and exhausting experience, so don’t be afraid to give yourself a few days off to relax at the end before heading home to tell everyone about your adventure!
What are you waiting for? It’s time to pack those bags and embark on the experience of a lifetime.
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