Reflecting on my time abroad volunteering across the globe there are some things I wish I knew before I went.
If you are considering volunteering abroad, here are a few things I wish I knew before setting off on an adventure of a life time…
There are free options
We tend to get a few remarks from travellers who are eager to volunteer but can’t get over the fact that you have to pay to volunteer. Yes, you do – in part your fee is a donation to cover your board and food, but also to purchase goods to assist the project – however, this is not always the case as there are many organisations searching for volunteers without a fee.
Even though we have been thankful enough to team up with some incredible volunteering organisations (such as GoEco and Volunteer Southern Africa) we understand that this is not the only way to volunteer abroad.
There is a small possibility to stay on and work
At every single project we attended (of our 5 so far) there was always a veteran or soon to be veteran that had been there for 3 months and plans to stay for 3 more. Their work ethic and passion to further assist the project allowed them to stay on and work beyond their initial volunteer term.
I will miss waking up early and working hard during the day
On paper this sounds ridiculous… who will miss waking up at the crack of dawn to start hard labour? Well when you get into a routine of working in an environment that you can see is making an impact on a community instead of making a coffee to fulfil a customers caffeine addition – you start to miss it.
To bring gifts
This never occurred to me until a volunteer brought along toys and enrichment things for the animals we would be looking after. The smile on his face when a giant lion played soccer with his $2 ball was unforgettable.
We would even suggest bringing along and donating some old DVD’s. When you are in a remote part of the country with no wireless access a good comedy movie goes a long way during your breaks.
Comfort foods go along way
During our two week volunteer program in Costa Rica we learnt to love rice and beans. This was our main staple for breakfast, lunch and dinner with the odd fruit and veg thrown in to mix up the meals. Trust us when we say that after a long days work in the sun a cold can of Coke or Kit Kat bar goes a long way.
I will only make a small difference
This is the honest truth, you will make a difference just not to the extent that you are thinking of. Digging a watering hole for wild African animals takes weeks, not a morning shift during your week abroad.
Once you come to an understanding that you will make an impact on the community in small doses you will receive a greater pleasure from your time volunteering.
I wont want to leave
Volunteering is different to your standard travel. Wether it is the daily routine, or making friends from across the globe. You can grow tired of seeing the same sites in Paris and will want to move on to see the Big Ben in London, but you won’t tire of volunteering.
If only your boss understood that I need an extension on my vacation pronto so you can continue having the trip of a lifetime.
Bonus – one thing we did and hope you do too
Document everything! From your arrival, to the tasks, friends you meet and memories you make. We did this and so grateful for it. If you weren’t already aware we have been creating daily travel vlogs on YouTube documenting our life abroad, which meant our entire volunteer experience was recorded and edited waiting there for us to one day reminisce on.
Bring a journal, jot down your thoughts. Take a photograph, remember the moment. We highly suggest of course to film it to really capture your emotions and feeling during your volunteer trip abroad.
If you have any questions about volunteering leave them below.