Volunteer your way around the world? Is it really possible?

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Volunteer your way around the world? Is it really possible?

These days travelling across the globe doesn’t have to come paired with a bulging bank account, luggage porters and five star service. Those who are happy to get down and dirty across the seven continents can swap their skills for free bed and board making globetrotting a much more reasonably priced experience.

With the advent of websites and schemes like Workaway and Woofing you really can pack your bags and hit the road without frantic phone calls from your bank manager or working yourself into an early grave for that two week holiday a year in the Costa del Sol.

 

Comparing Reality to Living the Dream

Volunteering around the world can be an idyllic choice; often this is the best way to get off the beaten track, to meet new people, learn new skills and to ensure that you always have a place to rest your head. Of course it isn’t always quite as simple and straightforward as it sounds and those interested in the world of volunteering need to get organised before they go, need to pitch in and need to be prepared to live off potato soup at times.

Some places can be great and you will be able to swap several hours of your day helping out for a few square meals and simple accommodation along with lots of chances to explore the surrounding areas. Other places you may break your back in the fields from dawn til dusk for the minimum pleasure of pitching a tent and eating raw vegetables. Knowing how to tackle the world of volunteering so you get a great experience is easy with an open mind and the following tips.

 

Do your Homework before Heading out the Door

First of all you need to do your homework like a good traveling student. Sure you can live as a fly by night kinda person but this can backfire and leave you struggling to find a space to volunteer at, forcing you into overpriced hostels and rummaging through the bins for dinner in the centre of Berlin. Before you pack those bags and head out the door you should browse some of the more popular volunteer sites to see what opportunities are out there.  Those on a budget should avoid those ads that claim to be volunteer experiences but really you need to pay two grand up front for the privilege of building an orphanage. Unless of course you have the cash to splash and orphanages are your thing. There are sites out there like workaway and woofing which keep costs on the down low and mean that you only pay for your travel.

Make yourself a profile and put a little effort in, no one wants to invite ‘Sam, Male, 25’ to their house without knowing a bit more information such as is Sam, Male 25 a competent person, an alien from outer space or someone who really loves the movie American Psycho…like REALLY loves it. Be friendly, be honest and be yourself, if you only know how to say oui then don’t sell yourself as an expert linguist, well versed in the French tongue or you could end up out of your depth.

Don’t forget when applying for volunteer placements you need to read the reviews of your host. You don’t want to turn up at someone’s farm, field, business, door and be stuck with creepy Steve for the next few weeks. If your hosts have been bad sports when it comes to volunteering then odds are someone else has left a warning on their page. Read it, think about it, and trust your gut.

 

Pitch in and Remember a Little Respect Goes a Long Way

Volunteering around the world for free requires an open mind and a willingness to pitch in. you have struck a deal with someone and you need to keep up your end of the bargain for the whole thing to work. Often volunteer programs mean that you will be in someone’s home and you need to treat it with respect. This is not the same as staying at a hotel, midnight phone calls to Kathmandu, asking for breakfast in bed and ditching work to go swimming in the waterfalls is not  good way to go unless your host is super cool with all these things.

Along with respecting the home you are staying in and the work you are asked to do, you need to respect the country and the culture. The beauty of traveling is embracing new things and yes sometimes that does mean forcing the local delicacy of sheep brains down your throat, learning how to squat over a hole in the ground after your morning coffee and not showering for days, weeks, months and in some cases years at a time.

Volunteering in new countries and seeing new cultures first hand, especially in impoverished countries is supposed to make you a more humble and well developed person. Unfortunately you aren’t going to achieve cultural enlightenment unless you know how to be nice, polite and to not take for granted how lucky you are. This means no throwing tantrums on the ground because you can’t charge your iPod.

 

A Final Thought

When it comes to volunteering around the world it is definitely possible and those people on the edge of the precipice need to feel the fear and do it anyway. The best thing about traveling is that the world is actually kind of small and home is only a plane ride away if it all goes to the dogs. If you set the right expectations, do your research and always ensure you have some back up cash to help you out if you get stuck then there really is nothing to lose and everything to gain when it comes to volunteering across the globe. From Africa to Athens, you will always find someone who needs a helping hand and is willing to give you a bed and something good to eat in exchange for your time and a little bit of effort.

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