A Return to International Volunteering – Can it Be Enjoyable

There’s something exciting about international volunteering. Could it be the spirit of actually going in and helping other people? Could it be the joy of seeing another country from a different perspective? Far too often, we see other countries depicted in the media and think that everyone from that country acts that way. This is rampant no matter what country of origin we’re talking about here. Yet when the subject turns to volunteering, the romantic images come out. We’re talking about images of happy, smiling residents combined with foreign volunteers that are equally happy and smiling. Is that really the way that vacation volunteerism has become?

People that have actually volunteered overseas and away from home will tell you that it’s definitely not a picnic. You’re going to need to make sure that you really know what you’re getting into. If you think that you’re going to have 10 hours of day of being inside while someone from the host country tells you all about how wonderful life at home is, you’re in for a shock. Your days are going to be long, and they’re going to be filled with hard work. When people need help in foreign lands, they’re usually not getting that help from the local government. This means that the infrastructure that you might be used to at home isn’t going to be around for you when you arrive in your new country. Knowing the local language is going to be helpful because it means that you don’t have to rely on translators for every little thing. In some countries, you might not even get a translator — that means that you’re on your own. If that’s something that you can’t handle, then you might want to rethink the idea of volunteering during your vacation time.

international volunteering

It’s also something that’s not going to be cheap — you will need to fork out your own expenses as well as pay for anything you need while you’re there. Airfare and transportation costs can climb, and it’s just not something for everyone. You will also need to make sure that you handle any visa requirements before they get out of control. You cannot wait till the last minute to do any of these things. As you might imagine, it’s something that you need to plan for in advance. It can take months to get accepted by a legitimate volunteering organization. There are chances to help people all around the world, but it needs to be done from the heart — not just as something “adventurous” you thought you would do for Spring Break.

We’re not trying to knock the thousands and thousands of people that are currently volunteering all over the world. We are pretty sure that they have their hearts and minds in the right place and they are working very hard. However, when we see on certain travel forums that people just want a photo op, or something that they can brag to their friends about…that’s when we have a problem. There seems to be an assumption that volunteering on your vacation means that you’re going to have a vacation. It’s not going to be in the way that you think, so you will need to focus more on appreciating the small things rather than just assuming that everything is going to be handed to you.

If you really want to get started, you will want to make sure that you really do a reality check. First and foremost — how is your health? If your health isn’t good, then chances are equally good that you’re not going to be able to pull this off. On the other hand, if you are in good health, you will still need to make sure that you have the proper vaccinations. Contrary to popular belief, not all contagious diseases are wiped out everywhere in the world. You might not have to deal with malaria in your home country, but there are still other deadly diseases that can claim your life!

Safe is better than sorry, and due diligence is required before you think about becoming a volunteer. You must weigh all of your options and study the pros and cons of every situation. Why not get started today? You’ll definitely be glad that you did!

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