Travelling abroad should be all about discovery: discovering new places, learning about new cultures and languages and above all else discovering something about yourself. To make the most of travelling and really get under the skin of a new country though, sitting by the pool on a package holiday simply doesn’t cut it. Here are some top tips to help you become a traveller, not a tourist.
Volunteering abroad can be a challenging yet deeply rewarding experience. Projects may need support with any number of tasks including tagging turtles, teaching children and renovating community buildings. Your choice of volunteer project should depend on the skills you have to offer, or where you feel your aptitudes lie if you have little in the way of work experience.
Volunteer opportunities can be arranged directly with a project, but there are benefits to going through a specialist placement provider. These include the in country support you will receive and the easier access to worthwhile projects. Although at first glance it may seem odd to pay a fee in order to volunteer, this goes towards the administrative costs incurred by the NGO, as well as providing a useful source of income for the project you work with.
Take the time to thoroughly research your chosen project, looking for testimonials from previous volunteers and evidence of how any fees are spent. Some countries may have registers of government-approved charities, which should be consulted to ensure your project is legitimate.
WWOOF stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms, and is a global movement dedicated to sharing expertise in agriculture. A cross between volunteering, a homestay and work experience, wwoofing could see you working on a kiwifruit farm in New Zealand or milking goats in Guatemala. In return for a few hours work per day, hosts provide accommodation, food and lessons in small-scale agriculture.
An overseas internship can broaden your mind, make you more employable and enable you to learn all about a new country from an insider’s perspective. It can also be challenging with a number of factors to consider, not least of which is finance. Internships are often unpaid and may also include fees for room and board, while the reality of working full time might restrict your ability to explore your new surroundings. If you find the right internship though, offering you an opportunity to develop the skills you need for your chosen career, this route can be a fantastic springboard into an exciting and successful life.
For younger travellers, usually aged under 30 or 35, working holiday visas are available for a number of countries around the world. A working holiday offers the opportunity to spend an extended period of time in the country without the need for huge reserves of money to keep you going. Living and working alongside the locals, you’ll soon get to grips with all that goes with a new culture: new food, drink, music, sports and language.
With so many avenues open to wannabe travellers, there really is no excuse not to take the plunge. Diving headlong into another culture provides unrivalled opportunities for improved cultural understanding, personal development and enhanced job opportunities back home. Get out there, learn something about the world and learn something about yourself!