If you follow my blog then you know a major part of my message is about responsible tourism, I think we owe it to the places we visit to be responsible, respectful and where possible give back. I would say that 99% of travellers want to have a positive impact on the places that they visit, the problem is that sometimes good intentions aren’t enough because people don’t know the best way to go about things.
I think it’s fantastic that people want to do good and be responsible but we need to make sure people go about it in the best possible way. One thing that people are doing a lot today is volunteering all around the globe, it’s a noble thing to do and if done correctly it will be a fantastic experience for everyone involved.
I’ve been lucky enough to volunteer all over the world, plus coordinate trips for several companies and universities. Along the way I learnt some great tips from my mentors and I’d love to share them with you guys.
With so many organisations out there offering volunteering trips you need to make sure you choose the right one. So this means doing your due diligence and researching as much as possible. Read reviews from fellow travellers, check out organisation websites and also ask your friends who have volunteered before. Once you’ve chosen your placement start reading up on the location and situation.
Don’t go in to your volunteer trip with preconceived ideas and thinking that you know it all – this is one of the biggest mistakes that volunteers make. Always remember that you’re going to a location which you haven’t lived in before and you are unfamiliar about the struggles that people face. So you need to take your time, learn and take in the situation. Just because something is done one way back home where you live doesn’t mean you should enforce it on people at your location – especially if you’ve only been there a few days!
What can you realistically deliver? This is super important. Be honest with yourself about your skills, what things you know that will have an impact and then match that with a placement. It might not be instantly clear so make a list of everything you’re good at, that could be anything from cooking, teaching to sport. There are plenty of skills that people are looking for, make sure you go to a place where your skill will be useful and that will ensure you feel like you had a real impact on the community you visited.