If there’s one idea that has permeated the travel industry over recent years, it’s working for free whilst experiencing another country and its culture. Needless to say, though, such an excursion requires some significant planning and preparation.
For starters, it’s important to understand that volunteer travel is definitely not a holiday, or at least not in the typical sense. There will, of course, be a break involved for you – by their nature such trips are bound for the developing world, nations that are vastly different from the same old business-as-usual here in Britain. But realistically, by choosing to give something back whilst abroad you’re committing yourself to busy days spent doing anything from building schools and digging wells to teaching children, rather than sightseeing and sunbathing.
There’s a common misconception that volunteer travel is the sole preserve of students, recent graduates and overpaid urban professionals afforded time off for a sabbatical. This simply isn’t true, with more and more over-50s opting to embark on this type of philanthropic expedition. After all, this age group makes up the majority of overall travellers, so why wouldn’t they be looking to do something worthwhile at the same time?
It should go without saying that it’s important to take some time to consider the ramifications of your trip, and your own limitations, before looking at where to go. Although some of us would like to act like Medecins Sans Frontieres workers, and get involved on a global frontline so our efforts directly help those most in need, this is probably not practical, and neither are many other less-volatile destinations. Health conditions can be severely affected by different climates, and in some instances relatively sedentary-sounding tasks may actually require more physical effort than they first suggest. As such, the best advice is to consult both your doctor and volunteer travel experts in order to ascertain where you would be most useful and best suited to.
Nevertheless, don’t let that put you off. By visiting less well-travelled parts of the world with the intention of giving back to the global society, you’re bound to return home with some truly unique memories and a clearer conscience. Meanwhile, this type of trip will also provide a fantastic opportunity to do some wider exploration before heading off on the inbound flight to the UK, so don’t feel limited by the time frame of the volunteer project. You’ve come all this way already, so it would be rude not to do some independent travelling and add to those experiences before departing.