Stop Being a Travel Leech! The Benefits of Volunteering Abroad

Guest poster Charlotte Jones shares why volunteering abroad can be the most memorable part of your travel experience!

[This article is brought to you with support from GVI]

To put it simply, travelling abroad is fantastic. We all know how great and freeing it can be to head off on your travels, full of anticipation for the adventures and new experiences that the world has in store. Travelling for the sake of travelling itself can be personally rewarding, but these days, young travelers are often looking for meaningful travel experiences. Every year for the last decade, we’ve seen an increase in people signing up for volunteer gap year programs.

Want to find out more about becoming an international volunteer involves and what you could get up to abroad? You’re in the right place!

Why Should I Volunteer Abroad While Travelling?

Volunteering abroad gives a whole new dimension to travelling. It offers quite a few advantages, as outlined below. By volunteering, you can:

  • Help communities across the world.
  • Improve the places you’re travelling through.
  • Do important, worthwhile work that some communities can’t do without help.
  • Learn new skills and meet new people.

What Kinds of Volunteering Can I be Involved in?

The real beauty of volunteer abroad programs is that they are so varied. Think of just about any type of charity work and chances are there is a gap year program for you. Each country will offer specific programs, for example, in Brazil there are a lot of conservation projects working in the Amazon Rainforest, but in South Africa, for example, the projects are geared towards education or wildlife conservation. Here are just a few different areas that international volunteers get involved in each year:

  • Teaching English
  • Healthcare projects
  • Conservation (wildlife, rainforests, beaches)
  • Community development
  • Sports or music programs with children

A Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Build Site (Photo via Wikimedia Commons, by Infrogmation)

Where Can I Travel as an International Volunteer?

The answer to where you can go is just about anywhere! The best idea is to work out what kind of work you’d like to get involved in and then choose a particular country or city from there. You could even travel to different parts of your home country and do volunteer work!  Of course, if you want to volunteer but not for a whole year, there are still plenty of opportunities. Most people plan their travels, then try to work out how they can fit a volunteer placement into the mix. The duration of placements can be very flexible and if you just want to volunteer your time for a couple of weeks when you’re on the road, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding a program to fit.

Won’t it Ruin My Extended Holiday?

Some people are under a misconception that volunteering abroad will take over all of your time and eat away at your gap year. Not so! Volunteering placements vary widely in duration, intensity and the amount of work expected of you. It’s very easy to get involved in a volunteer scheme that will allow you plenty of time to explore the local area in your time off. Often, you’ll even have time to explore the whole country! Volunteering can be hard work and does require the right character, but if you find the right placement for you, it’s likely to become the most memorable part of your gap year travels!

By Charlotte Jones

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