I feel like international volunteering is something on every traveller’s radar. It’s often an affordable way to see new places, comes with a pre-made itinerary and you get a group of friends to share the experience with! In September I’m embarking on my 3rd trip volunteering abroad and have decided to share some of my top tips for having an amazing time…
Before you go:
Research, research, research…
There are more companies offering volunteering packages around the world than ever before. This means there is loads of variety on offer, but also means that there is a wide range of quality on offer as well. My biggest advice would be to double check what you’re getting for your money, and to do a quick google of the company to see how people find them away from their ‘testimonials’ page.
For money, remember you will be doing work for them so it shouldn’t be costing you a fortune. Make sure you have a good idea of where your money is going; do they offer loads of included social activities, transport etc? Is it just a contribution to keep the projects running?
To double check the company, I recommend individual blogs (check they aren’t sponsored though!) and other pages like The Student Room where people can post their experiences with popular companies.
You can do pretty much anything through volunteering these days, and pretty much anywhere in the world. Make sure you are choosing a project you are interested in, in a place you will be happy in! When I went to Iceland I wasn’t that bothered about the work but it didn’t matter, as it was a means to an end to visit this beautiful country. If you don’t care about the work or the country, you will be bored at best and downright miserable at worst!
When you’re there:
Bring a bit of home
At both of the work camps I’ve been to so far, participants have brought food, drink or souvenirs from their home country to share at the camp. This could be a cultural delicacy, a postcard or something unique to you (in France a girl brought elderflower wine she made herself at home!) This gives you a friendship starting point, lets you experience other cultures for yourself and can even aid homesickness (there’s nothing some Cadbury’s can’t fix).
Give yourself downtime
Volunteering abroad can be draining, especially if it’s something you haven’t done before. It’s super important you give yourself some time and space to just chill and re-energise. This could be taking a walk, having a nap, reading a book or watching some Netflix. One of my biggest tips would be to download some films to watch offline when you have some free time, or just for watching on the journey out there!
Make the most of the experience
Take photos, write a diary, make new friends, take every opportunity presented to you! Volunteering abroad is such a brilliant experience and something not everyone gets to do so make the most of it. My favourite memories from Iceland were definitely about the people and the moments with them, not about the hours pulling weeds. Say yes to everything whilst you’re there, remember you only regret the chances you didn’t take 🙂
When you’re home
Review the organisation
If you had a great time, let people know! Often small companies get a lot of their business through reviews so make sure you give good feedback if you enjoyed it. If there were things that could have been better, let them know that as well to improve the experience for future volunteers. Also, let your friends know what you’ve been doing! It may inspire them to have a volunteering adventure of their own…
Start booking your next trip… 😉
Let me know if you have any questions about volunteering or about my own experiences with it!