To volunteer overseas is a brilliant way to travel, learn about the world, discover new places and meet some amazing people. Volunteering overseas can also be very rewarding as you are giving help to communities, some of them impoverished, and making a difference everywhere you go. Even though you have decided where you want to go and are mentally prepared to volunteer overseas, it may not be that simple. Foreign countries and the red tape that goes with being able to volunteer overseas can easily become a headache. Before you throw your hands in the air, here are 10 Essentials to know if you want to volunteer Overseas.
1. Know the Details
Companies will always send their volunteers a brief with loads of important information that is pertinent to your journey and your stay. Be careful that you don’t miss anything vital in your excitement to get going thereby setting yourself up for disappointment. All those who volunteer overseas should have a clear understanding about where you are going, where you are sleeping, what you are sleeping in, who you are sharing your volunteering experience with and whether accommodation and sleeping quarters are shared with the opposite sex. Don’t take an assignment in a rain forest if you like your creature comforts.
This is a tricky one, but as long as there is a fair amount of research done before the time, you will be able to find out everything about the weather in the region you are traveling to and more or less what it will be like for the duration of your stay. Foreign Volunteers avre sometimes forced to abandon their posts because of their unrealistic understanding of the climate they were heading to. Extreme weather conditions and bad planning leave foreigners feeling completely overwhelmed as they didn’t realize they were not going to be able to handle the unbelievable heat or extreme cold.
3. Travelling There
Sometimes those who want to help out abroad forget to take into account the long travelling times, and arrive at their destination after a few long days of traveling, exhausted and jet lagged. The first few days of the project will hardly be constructive for your or anybody else, so it may be wise to stop off and connect with a few other people who are also on their way to the destination, and just take a breather for a day or two before arriving.
4. What to Wear
As a general rule of thumb, when you volunteer overseas, you are not going to be volunteering at a 5 star resort, so leave your fancy clothes at home. You are probably going to be right off the beaten track, without access to any dry cleaning facilities or anything else remotely like it. Take clothes you will be happy to just throw away afterwards. You are going get dirty, and more than likely, stay dirty for a while, never mind wet and muddy. If you are going to worry about your new shoes or jeans the entire time, you have missed the point.
As a volunteer overseas, you are about to embark on the trip of a lifetime, a chance to experience spiritual and emotional enlightenment, to adventure through foreign lands and meet incredible people. Chances are you are going to be in places you will never be visiting ever again or be able to pronounce. You are going to forget it all, don’t forget to take your camera and record every minute of your special journey.
6. Foreign Currency
If you are a foreign volunteer, you are probably not thinking that you will be able to zip in and out of countries with nothing but your master card in your back pocket, The places you will be helping out in generally don’t have much in the way of modern infrastructure, let alone tourist infrastructure. Things like credit cards and travelers checks are actually superfluous. Find out from the project beforehand about what currency you should take with you, and what denomination. Small notes and change often work best.
7. Shoes and Water
If you are volunteering overseas on a project that is based on the coast and you are going to be spending any amount of time in the water, chances are you are going to pack a pair of comfortable slip slops or sandals. A suggestion would be that you pack more than one pair of sandals, as if your shoes are full of sand and water all day long they are going to start hurting you and sandal straps will start to cut into you. Take a few pairs of shoes with straps in different places so you can alternate and give your feet a break in between.
Try and get as much information as possible on the region that you will be going to. Read as much as possible and research everything you can; the culture, the weather, the customs, the currency, the history, the people. Learn about local customs and dress. You may need to pack in a few sarongs if you are going to a country where you need to have your shoulders covered and things like that. You will have such a rich and warm experience if you arrive feeling like you are already a local when you get there.
9. Your Feet
Your first mistake would be to underestimate how much time you will be spending on your feet, especially if the place you are volunteering at involves lots and lots of walking. Being as you will be a volunteer abroad, you will not be able to nip down to the shops and buy creams and plasters for blistered and aching feet. Invest in a good pair of walking shoes, good, thick socks and take loads of plasters just in case.
10. Travel Lightly
As a rule of thumb, whenever you are traveling to a foreign country, don’t pack everything you own and certainly don’t drag a few pounds of cosmetics over the border. You won’t need them and you will regret having loads of luggage to trawl around behind you. This is why it is important to read your briefing from your project co-ordinator, to know exactly what to bring. It is possible that you may not have anywhere to unpack and store your clothing or any other gear, so you may be living out of your bag, so take only the bare essentials.
Where ever you decide to go and join others who volunteer overseas, you can be assured of one thing, you will never forget how amazing it made you feel. Be practical about volunteering abroad and you will have the time of your life, as long as you are not unrealistic.
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