Every year, as many as 230,000 youngsters in the UK work out a plan for their gap year. Planning your gap year can be a challenging task, especially if you have not traveled to a foreign country for a very long period of time. Here are some tips based on our experience in overseeing the wellbeing of volunteers which can be of great help to you in planning your gap year.
Check the Organization’s Credentials
Do a lot of research and choose a company that is ethically responsible so that you can confidently volunteer with them. It would be very helpful if you can find answers to the following questions before making the final decision:
What is the job description in brief?
Does the company work directly or through partner organizations?
Does their local partner receive any financial benefits?
How does the organization utilize your fees?
What are their ethical/eco tourism policies?
How will the organization support you?
You can also talk to the volunteers who have worked with them earlier. If the organization fails to provide satisfactory answers, then you can look for another organization.
Peace of Mind for Parents
You must ensure that your parents/guardian meet and speak with the representatives of the sending organization. Further, you must leave an itinerary with your parents/guardian so that they can be in touch with you.
It is not difficult these days to keep in touch even if you are on the road. You can also use Skype and social networking sites to provide updates in real time, if required. Another option is to use a TravelPod.
Gather Information about Your Place of Visit
It is a good idea to gather information about the place where you are planning to do volunteer work. Having the required information about the culture of the place can add a new dimension to the experiences that you are likely to go through. You can get hold of a good guidebook in order to have an understanding of the language, laws and customs of the place so that you don’t offend people or break local laws.
Have Adequate Insurance Coverage
Protect yourself by taking comprehensive travel as well as medical insurance. Take some time to shop around and get the right coverage for you based on the activities that you are likely to involve in. Your policy should also cover the medical costs.
Verify Your Travel Plans
It is always a good idea to discuss your travel plans with your partners. This is because you may hit up on discounted rates on car hire, overland travel, etc. To give you an example, Khaya volunteers are eligible for discounts on car hire as well as overland tours.
Never Be In a Hurry
Plan your visits to countries in such a way that you get to spend more time in each one of them instead of cramming in too much. This will help you to move with the flow when you reach there and find more opportunities.
Keep Your Itinerary Flexible
This will help you to combine adventure, travel, backpacking and volunteering and make it a really rewarding experience for you. You may make a lot of friends during volunteering and they will help you to determine the route you must take.
Carry Only Half the Luggage, but Take Twice the Money
It is important to have a clear plan as to where you want to go, when and what you want to do there in order to decide as to what you should carry. There is no need to carry too much. You can buy things locally, if needed.
If you have plans of donating something, avoid carrying bulky things with you. It is a better idea to carry cash and buy things locally. Orphanages need good mattresses for children to sleep well and study well at school. On the other hand, medical centers require medication with information in local language.
Enjoy the Freedom, but Value the Friendships You Make
The friendships that you make along the way are more important than the checklist of places to visit and things to do. You will be away from your daily routine, face situations and meet strangers. These create long lasting memories for you.