Volunteering tips for travellers
Over the last few months we have had many travellers ask us about our experiences volunteering on the road and if we could give them some tips. Before we set off on our 18 month adventure neither Karen nor myself had volunteered. As we were planning our trip we discussed our desire to volunteer somewhere along the way. We had no idea what type of volunteering we wanted to partake in or where we were going to do it.
Travel has a funny way of sorting things out for you though. Along the way we tried to volunteer in Mongolia, The Philippines & Bali. Unfortunately, those plans fell through for one reason or another. We found it very hard to find free or low-cost volunteering opportunities in our searches (that’s why we started this website!) It seemed like every volunteering agency wanted thousands of dollars to volunteer with them. We did not have that kind of money, we were backpackers after all and we felt it very odd that they wanted to charge us to work for them. All we had in mind was to find a small charity and give them any help they needed.
As you can imagine it was very frustrating. All the big volunteering agencies dominate google as they have the budget to get on page 1. The small charities and organisations don’t have that kind of income so they never get a look in. Eventually we did find some opportunities on our travels, mainly by non-stop internet searching and perseverance but as I mentioned earlier we had no idea what was expected of us at any of these places.
Not all of our experiences were great. Mainly because we did not ask enough questions about the opportunity. So with that in mind we have created this checklist for all you travellers out there who are thinking about volunteering. The last point I will make is that volunteering was the highlight of our trip. Our experiences with the school children in Thailand are priceless. Seeing their beaming smiles and eager faces every morning was a joy to see. Bumping into their parents on the bus and receiving their gratitude was also very humbling and living like a true local for a month was our kind of travel. So next time you travel why not volunteer?
- In most cases charities, NGO’s and hosts will provide accommodation and food in exchange for a set amount of hours of volunteering a week. It is different for each opportunity so the volunteer and host will have to communicate beforehand so both parties know what to expect.
- It is important for the volunteer to get as much information from the host as possible. We learnt the hard way that if you don’t, the expectations from host to volunteer can differ enormously!
- Remember to contact the hosts at least 1 month in advance before you arrive as a lot of the opportunities will be in remote places where electricity and internet connections are infrequent.
- It is best for the volunteer to enter this adventure with an open mind. In most cases you will be sleeping in very basic accommodation and eating simple food. In return you will be helping people who really need it and you will be living like a local which is an incredibly enriching experience.
- If the experience is not what you expected communicate your feelings with the organisation. Don’t be shy if you want to leave earlier but make sure it’s for a valid reason as charities would be depending on you during the agreed timeframe.
- Volunteers should never turn up without prior arrangement.
If you have any more advice for our readers please do not hesitate to include it by commenting below.
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Have a great day everyone!
Peace & Love
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