Photo by Brian Yurasits
Volunteering overseas can be a great way to broaden your horizons and travel with a purpose. There are all kinds of volunteering opportunities that you may choose to pursue, from ocean wildlife conservation to community-building efforts.
Before you jet off, there are a few things you need to know first. Volunteering while traveling requires far more planning and preparation than just showing up on a safari with a can-do attitude. You need to ensure that you’re the right fit for the organization and that you’re going to do more good than harm by choosing to volunteer abroad.
Picking an Organization
There are thousands of charitable organizations around the world that rely on volunteers to run their operations. Choosing the right one for you can be tricky, as almost every charity needs the time and effort of volunteers.
You can create a shortlist of organizations based on your shared values. Head to sites like Oxfam and Go Eco to start your search. These sites host a bank of potential volunteer opportunities and can help you find the right organization based on location, shared values, and the kind of work you’re interested in doing.
If you’re still stumped, consider why you want to volunteer abroad. Most folks want to volunteer abroad to gain a greater sense of purpose or learn more about different cultures. If this is the case for you, you may benefit from volunteering with organizations that work directly with people in need. Alternatively, if you want to work more closely with wildlife and natural landscapes, then you may be more interested in volunteer opportunities that are rooted in eco-tourism.
Choosing a Location
While choosing your organization, you also need to consider the potential locations you’d like to visit. It’s fine to be a little selfish at this stage, as you’ll get far more from your volunteering experience if you choose a location that you enjoy.
Remember to choose a location that will work for your body, too. Many people underestimate the physical demands required of volunteers and end up becoming ill or exhausted. You should also consider your existing personal health needs. For instance, if you have a sun allergy or don’t do well in the heat, it’s probably best to avoid warm, sunny places. Or if you have a mental health condition and need to have regular telehealth appointments with your therapist, you’d likely want to avoid rural areas with limited or poor internet access.
When choosing a country to volunteer in, don’t get stuck in the mindset that you have to visit the Global South to maximize your impact. Sometimes, well-meaning volunteers get accidentally adopt a “savior” mindset and don’t realize that help is needed in countries like Norway, the U.S., and the U.K., too. You can even consider embarking on some sustainable volunteering in Nordic if ice and fjords are more appealing to you.
Before you travel abroad, you need to ensure that you’re vaccinated against the full range of potential illnesses you may encounter at your destination. A trip to the doctor’s office will tell you which vaccinations you need before you leave.
Remember, getting vaccinated isn’t just about protecting yourself — it’s about protecting your fellow volunteers and the locals you’ll encounter during your travels. People spread more diseases than mosquitoes through air travel. Failing to take disease prevention seriously before you leave to volunteer can have a dire impact on the community and wildlife you intend to serve.
Getting ready to volunteer should be fun! Once you’ve been vaccinated and secured your visas, you can fully throw yourself into the resources your organization sent.
Most volunteering organizations will send you the information you need to know before you go, including accommodation information and educational resources. Go a step further by diving into any educational resources they send so you feel fully immersed and informed when you reach your destination.
Depending on the type of volunteering you plan to do, you may want to do some physical preparation too. Volunteering can be hard work but you can save yourself blisters and exhaustion by undertaking an activity-specific workout plan. A workout plan that suits your volunteering will help your body get used to the hard physical strain that you may encounter and ensure you can volunteer without worrying about over-exerting yourself.
Volunteering abroad is a great way to learn more about yourself and the world around you. You can maximize your impact by finding an organization that shares your values and is in a location that you’ll love. Try to do a little preparation beforehand, as this will make the whole process that much easier and more enjoyable.
Sea Going Green is a sustainable tourism consultancy specialized in developing ecotourism activities and services to provide guests with opportunities to leave a positive impact on the places they visit.
Interested in creating a voluntourism experience for guests? Get in touch
Volunteering overseas can be a great way to broaden your horizons and
travel with a purpose. There are all kinds of volunteering opportunities
that you may choose to pursue, from ocean wildlife conservation to
Before you jet off, there are a few things you need to know first. Read on
for more.Read MoreSustainable Living, EducationBlog – Sea Going Green