Let’s be honest, going traveling abroad for the first time for an extended period of time, particularly if you’re going alone, is going to be a daunting prospect for anybody. The idea of putting on your backpack, getting on a plane to a foreign country, and leaving your comfort zone entirely, is something that is bound to give even the most adventurous people a pang of nerves.
Just don’t let those nerves stop from having one of the best and most enjoyable learning experiences of your life.
A great way to take the edge off your first serious trip abroad is to take a volunteer vacation by joining a volunteer program. The benefits of doing this can be huge. Having a few basics taken care off, and being around other people in the same position can alleviate a lot of the pressure, allowing you to relax and enjoy your time.
It’s also one of the most rewarding ways to travel, due to the fact you’re helping a worthy cause of your choosing. Once you’ve found your feet, you will no doubt have a lot more confidence in yourself, and be excited to take on the world.
Here are just some of the reasons why a volunteer vacation gives you the perfect introduction to international travel.
It gives you a soft landing
The most difficult part of undertaking international travel is, for most people, the necessity to adapt to a great deal of change very quickly. You wake up one day in your own bed, then a few hours later you find yourself alone in a foreign place, surrounded by strangers who you often can’t communicate with.
Add into the mix a different culture, different climate, fatigue, nerves, and it can prove very hard to adapt. It’s not uncommon for people to just want to hide away in a hotel room or regret their choices entirely at first.
Taking volunteer vacation with a program is a very effective way to mitigate this adjustment period and make the learning curve a lot less steep.
An organization like uVolunteer will offer somebody to pick you up at the airport, provide informative orientation, and introduce you to your new environment at a manageable pace.
The beginning of your trip and the first impressions you have are likely to have a large effect on the rest of your time traveling, so by having a support system immediately available to you, you can focus on enjoying yourself, building your confidence, and getting excited for what lies ahead.
It can be your home away from home
Traditional traveling generally entails, by definition, a lot of moving around from place to place and hotel room to hotel room. This can make it very hard to have any grounding or anything like the familiarity you enjoy at home.
A volunteer vacation provides you with a base that you can call home. You can use this as a platform from which to explore the area you’re in. Traveling can be exhausting, both physically and mentally. So it’s always comforting to know that after a long day of seeing and doing new things, you have somewhere familiar to return to and recharge your batteries for the next day.
With a volunteer program, you will generally have your own room in a typical local house, or a comfortable dormitory bed, surrounded by fellow travelers. You will also have food provided, giving you one less thing to worry about.
You will have built-in travel buddies
Another huge factor contributing to your enjoyment of your first trip abroad is having other people to share it with. If you’ve chosen to travel completely alone, good for you, but you have to remember that we all need some human interaction to keep us sane and enhance all the new experiences.
This is another field in which a volunteer vacation excels. You will be set up with a group of like-minded individuals who have probably chosen this form of travel for the exact same reason for you. They will be just as keen as you to try out fresh things and make new friends.
You won’t just encounter these people in passing, as can so often be the case when traveling alone. You will be living, working, exploring, and relaxing with these people, making it all but inevitable that you will form strong relationships with them.
It’s very common for people who meet volunteering to remain friends long after the program has finished. They may travel on together, or even meet up at home.
Explore your new surroundings
When it comes down to it, this is why we choose to travel. So don’t worry, volunteering is not all about work.
You will obviously be working some of the time. For example, if you join an organization like the Peace Corps, you will definitely be expected to put in some graft. This kind work is enjoyable, truly appreciated, and contributes something meaningful to communities that need it.
With many volunteer programs, when outside of work there will be plenty of time to be adventurous, explore the area, see the sights, and meet new people. uVolunteer programs have specific days set aside for volunteers to venture outside and try everything that the country they’ve chosen has to offer.
You may even find yourself better positioned to have a fuller traveling experience. By living with local people and talking to the knowledgeable staff, you can gain insight into the areas unknown by most tourists and seek out the hidden gems.
Choose a volunteer vacation for the perfect introduction to travel
Travel is genuinely one the most enriching and fulfilling things that anybody can do in life. So to make sure that nothing gets in the way of you enjoying your first experience, volunteer.
About the Author
Nicoleta is the resident content blogger for uVolunteer. Nicoleta is an avid linguist, speaks fluent English, Chinese, French, Spanish and native Romanian. She spent a decade working in China in the education sector and working with major international development institutions and currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. She is passionate about volunteering, sustainable travel and has a soft spot for ethnic food.