First steps towards planning a Volunteer Vacation

Peru Animal Rainforest Conservation volunteers.

A group of volunteers donate time for the Peru Animal Rainforest Conservation.  Photo:  Emily Zinseimeier

Voluntourism, or volunteer travel, is growing in popularity and altruism seems to be the driving force.  But it is all that it promises?  What are the benefits and how can any pitfalls be avoided? 

Here are a few things you should consider if a volunteer holiday is something you want to investigate.

Orphanage in Mexico.  Photo:  Justin Knabb

First, think about your costs.  With most volunteer holidays you will have to pay for your travel, accommodations and food.  However, the latter two should be substantially subsidized.  If the travel costs don’t dissuade you then consider following these stesp:

  1. Think about what interests you and which organization(s) support your cause of choice. There are so many diverse voluntourism options available—caring for animals, building schools, planting rice, etc., so identifying the work that you would find interesting is a first step. It is important that you really think about this and what you have to offer the organization in return.
  2. Research the organizations that host volunteer travel trips you’re interested in.  Conduct due diligence and poll people who have worked for the organization and/or have done similar work to see what their experiences were.
  3. Find out what the minimum volunteer requirements are, such as the time of commitment.  Some organizations have a minimum of two weeks while others require an entire month.  Also, t check into all required immunizations, paperwork you will need such as a visa or other paperwork, depending on the country you are going to visit.
  4. Get a feel for the country you want to travel to.  Learn about the culture and begin a crash course on the local language. 
  5. Once you’ve applied, begin working on your budget.  Some volunteer travelers have set up crowd funding pages to help subsidize their travel and living abroad costs. 

Volunteering holidays can be very rewarding but it is imperative that you set realistic goals for your experience and exercise due diligence before finalizing your commitment.  There are a number of articles from past volunteer travelers and voluntourism organizations online so make the internet your first stop.

About the Author

Tonya Fitzpatrick is a “recovering attorney” who shares a life full of adventure, dark chocolate and champagne with her husband and business partner, Ian.   She has a deep love for animals and would be happy owning a zoo if she weren’t traveling. 

Categories

Global awareness: 
Travel tip: