Can You Use Your Wanderlust to Change the World?
There are plenty of reasons to take a vacation, and plenty of different kinds of getaways to choose from. There are do-nothing “umbrella drinks on the beach” vacations, trip of a lifetime “take in the sights” tours to destinations like the pyramids and Paris, and “get back to nature” trips into the woods.
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It’s also possible to do some good for others with your time abroad. If you know where and how to look, there are volunteer opportunities all over the world, affording you an opportunity to change your surroundings and shake off the dust of home while doing some genuine good for people who really need it, and possibly mitigate some (or all) of the cost of your travel.
The best way to ensure your volunteer experience is as rewarding and trouble-free as possible is to arrange your vacation well in advance, through one of the many reputable organizations that places volunteers in areas of need around the world.
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There are lots of ways to spend a “volunteer vacation.” Compared to a regular holiday, they’re far busier. You’re likely, however, to return refreshed from doing good, and having made some meaningful bonds with both the people you’re helping and your fellow volunteers.
Non-Profit organizations are a likely source of volunteer opportunities. Choose one you already support, and inquire as to whether or not they have programs overseas. If you belong to a church, they can likely help you find an organization or area in need of help. The Rotary Club’s purpose is to “bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian services,” and one of their 34,000+ clubs worldwide is sure to have an opportunity for you.
For decades, the leading Volunteer Abroad organization has been the Peace Corps — long a favorite of recent college graduates taking time to “find themselves” before signing on to a full-time job. There are many other agencies that can help you find a meaningful volunteer experience overseas, and almost any skill set can be put to use. Physical labor is always in demand, as are construction skills. If you have an academic background, you may find an opportunity as a teacher of some kind. Medical skills are always at a premium.
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Working with an agency or organization experienced in volunteer travel is a must. While it might be tempting to strike out on your own, and find a cause worthy of your support online, there are many advantages to working with people who have direct experience in the area of the world you are visiting. They can help with travel arrangements, accommodations, required vaccinations, etc. Best of all, they’re there to make sure that your experience is rewarding and as safe as it can be.