How to get started with Volunteer Travel

Hello Wanderlusters! Jennii Lyn here, and I’m so excited to announce that my hubs and I will be traveling to Tijuna, Mexico late December. We’ll be volunteering at an orphanage and rebuilding a few houses within the community. I went to an information session for a charity called Charity Anywhere WAY back when I was a freshman in College. At the time, I was saving up for a trip to Ukraine to teach English, so I’ve kept the organization in the back of my mind. Some of my favorite travel memories have been on volunteer trips, so in this post, I’ve included the perks of volunteer travel, and created a list of how to get started.

Perk #1 - Make Your Travel MEAN Something

There’s something about travelling that feels so …. luxurious - even budget travel. With so many people in the world struggling to get a roof over their head and food on their plate, I always feel a bit privileged when I’m traveling. Volunteer traveling is a chance to give back and a great reminder to stay humble and thankful for what I have.

Perk #2 - REALLY Get to Know the Culture

Travelling as a tourist is great, but the tourism side of a culture can often be drastically different than real life. If you really want to understand the world and how people live, there’s nothing quite the same as volunteer travel. I always suggest people start small and do a lot of local traveling and local volunteering, but it’s always humbling to see the plight in those in other countries.

Perk #3 - Cheap-er Travel

My stay in Ukraine for almost five months cost me less than what we’re expecting a two week vacation to Israel is going to be nexy year. While many people can’t take off five months with jobs, week long volunteer trips are even more budget friendly. We paid about $350 plus travel to Tijuana, and the life experience that comes a long with it is priceless.

How To Get Started

There are a lot of charities out there, but you want to be careful about what organizations you travel with. Some are less organized, and less “charitable” than others. It’s sad to say, but some charities are in the business to make a profit. You want to be sure your money is going to real causes.

Word of Mouth

My trip to Ukraine with the International Language Programs (ILP), started because of word of mouth. I heard about this company because a few of my friends had been on trips with them. Word of mouth is always the best referral system, because you know people who have had a good experience.

Information Sessions

Most charities and organizations hold regular information sessions for interested volunteers. It’s wise to visit those sessions to check out their organization and professionalism. If you get the chance  to learn more about or talk with the CEO, you’ll get to see the bigger picture of the company’s values and goals.

Online Search/Social Media

There is a lot of information on the web. Here is a good list to get started with. For any organization I’ve considered volunteering with, I always check out their social media, and try to see what other participant’s experiences have been.

Finally, for an easy way to get involved in doing good - check out Wanderlust Watches’ partnership with Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors, and the Tigers 511 project.

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