Leisure is not the only reason people travel. Aside from vacationing, there are various reasons why people choose to book a ticket and travel to another part of the planet. In my case, aside from traveling for fun, I studied abroad and also went volunteering! Truth is, you need to know why you want to leave. Sometimes, I know that leaving just because is not enough of a reason. We need to have a purpose, a goal that we will work for during our journey. While this might seem easy while reading and in the abstract, defining the reason why you are leaving is not always easy. Applying for volunteering programs can also get you confused as you receive all of these offers! Knowing what you are looking for can be a hard task. Having experienced it myself, I want to help you set a list of questions you should ask yourself before even picking your destination. So…that being said, grab a pen, a piece of paper, a map and get ready to think!
What are your aspirations?
Ask yourself what makes your heart pump. What are the things that are important to you? It could a a cause that’s close to your heart like domestic violence, health, human rights, education, cooking, prisoners and more. The important thing is to put a name on this feeling you have on the inside. Sometimes, you can discover your passion during the trip but you need to start somewhere. If you don’t like kids, don’t choose to go volunteer in education just because it is the first volunteering program to reply. Relax, calm down and make a list of things you care about. I love kids. This is why I chose to volunteer in education in India last summer. I knew that at the orphanage, I would be around many children and this was a fun experience for me. What do YOU love? Also make a list of things you don’t like! This will help you focus and know exactly what not to accept.
What type of environment you want to be in?
Again, make a list. Do you want peace and serenity or something that moves a lot? Do you want to be in charge of your own project or do you want to be in an environment where people work collectively? These are all questions you need to ask yourself. This will help you make quicker decisions while reading the job descriptions. You won’t be guessing and trying to figure out what you want while reading but instead, you will already have a list of things you know you are looking for and you will only need to do a matching game!
What is your financial situation?
You can decide to save up for months and then leave and spend money until your wallet asks you to come home or you can leave with not so much money and pick something abroad that will help you earn money! If you know that you can’t spend 2 months abroad while not having any source of income, pick something like an internship instead volunteering somewhere or work part-time at a little coffee shop next to your temporary home. There are various ways you can choose to proceed but you need to plan ahead. Make a list of the money you already have now, the money you want to earn before your trip. Then make a list of the expenses you will have abroad. Do they balance? How will you cope the gap? Think about it! This summer, I got my diploma and decided to leave Montreal for good. So before going to India, I collected money I had received for my graduation (luckily, it made a lot of cash) then I sold my furnitures and some used clothes at a garage sale. I used the money from the sale to bring my credit card to zero, then I joined the difference to my saving account for the trip. If you didn’t get any money from relatives on your graduation, relax, there are many other options like working before leaving, selling things you don’t need, use your skills to propose your services to friends (babysitting, interior decoration, proofreading, trip planning, etc)
How long do you want to be away for?
Are you ready to book a one-way ticket and decide later on? Do you want to work abroad for a few months and come back or do you want to take some time to travel before coming back? These are things you need to think about. If you are very adventurous and open to booking a one-way ticket, go ahead but if you plan on booking a return ticket, you need to know how you will use your time. Last summer I wanted to volunteer for 1 month 1/2 then take 3 weeks to travel around! But I realized a few days before my departure that I booked the wrong dates and that I only booked for 1 month 1/2. I tried to correct this mistake but it was too late! Changing it would be way too expensive. So what I did, I decided to only volunteer for 1 month and then take 10 days to go to Thailand! Yes I wanted to go to Cambodia, Laos and maybe Vietnam but hey! It will be for another time!
How do you feel about language barriers?
It is fun to go somewhere where not many people speak your language but are you ready for it? Working with kids who barely understood english was sometimes very hard. It required patience, kindness and more. Are you ready to smile even tough you don’t understand what your boss or team mates are saying? If not, you should make sure you pick a destination where you will always be understood right away.
What kind of package are you looking for?
There are many different types of packages. Some organizations pay for your room, meals and transportation while others only give you a shelter. You need to carefully analyze the options you have in front of you. If you pick a package where food is included, are you sure you will enjoy the food in this particular country? How much are they asking? Is it really worth it or would it be smarter to pay for your own things? Think about it!
If you are traveling with a purpose, failing to plan will be planning to fail. If you want to set a goal and reach it, make a list. Remember…wherever you go, go with all your heart. Take the time to plan and make the best out of this adventure.
A travel lover
P.S : My 2nd book THE TRAVEL BUG is coming out in summer 2016!