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How To Volunteer Abroad With A Friend

Volunteering and traveling with a friend in a different country can be an amazingly rewarding experience and cement a friendship for life, but it can also be a tricky minefield of diplomacy and compromise.

Here, two besties (IVHQ employees and members of the IVHQ Asia Team) talk about their own experiences traveling with friends, while answering some frequently asked queries and filling you in on their plans to travel together in the near future. So let's find out how to volunteer abroad with a friend...

Two IVHQ volunteers in EcuadorImage: @ubeci-ecuador via Instagram

How do I know my travel partner won’t drive me nuts?

Kate: From experience they probably will (sorry Kirsty). When you are traveling and volunteering abroad together, you are around the same person for a very long time. While we all love socializing with our friends, and having once-in-a-life-experiences that you can share, sometimes you just need a little variety.

Kirsty: That’s right, I anticipate being sick of Kate’s face by Day 2! I've had amazing experiences traveling with my friends in the past, but sometimes you really feel like seeing new people and making new friends. Luckily for you IVHQers, there are heaps of other volunteers on all our programs so you aren’t confined to being only with the friend you came with. 

Kate: Oh haha Miss Kirsty. Yep, on an IVHQ program you will still be accommodated with other volunteers so you will have the chance to get to know other volunteers while still staying with your dear old buddy. IVHQ places more international volunteers abroad than any other volunteer organization, so you know that you will meet some pretty inspiring people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Volunteer abroad in Sri Lanka with IVHQImage: @cassandralizzan via Instagram

My travel partner snores in her sleep, how will I ever get a good night’s rest?!

Kirsty: Not just limited to snoring, your friend and loved one can have some pretty annoying habits. Take Kate for example, when we head off overseas together later this year, I’m kind of dreading her habit of singing when she is in the bathroom, toilet and/or shower (apparently the acoustics are ideal for showcasing her vocal talents, who knew?).

Kate: Not an issue for my IVHQers! Many of IVHQ’s program have an accommodation upgrade option that allows for more private sleeping (and in some cases, bathroom) arrangements, for example the private room upgrade in Bali. Or the Costa Rica accommodation upgrade option, which means that you can still be in the same accommodation as your mate, but you do not have to put up with their weird (or awesome) idiosyncrasies. Such as when your friend talks...a lot. 

Kirsty: Some people just like to share their experiences... all the time.

Looking over Costa Rica with IVHQImage: @sarahski16 via Instagram

We both have different interests but want to go to the same destination, what can we do?

Kirsty: Sometimes when travelling, you want to be together but you don't want to do the same thing. When my friends and I were traveling together in Thailand, all I wanted to do was go exploring, but despite my best efforts I couldn’t drag them away from the shops. 

Kate: I know how you feel! When I was in Argentina all I could think about was the vineyards, but all my friends felt like doing was going skiing.

Kirsty: This is not something that you have to worry about when you volunteer with IVHQ. You and your friend/s can be on separate projects yet still be accommodated together. For example, in Kenya, my travel buddy Kate, could be on the Music project, and I could be on the HIV/AIDS Work project! It is really up to you and what you are interested in. 

Kate: Volunteering abroad gives you the opportunity to try your hand at projects you may not otherwise have the opportunity to take part in at home, and for this reason sometimes choosing the project you wish to participate on can be the hardest part!

Teaching Construction IVHQImage: @cassandralizzan and @ceecee23 via Instagram

Am I restricted to how much luggage I can bring on the program?

Kate: Ok, so this one is not just a ‘traveling together’ problem, but there is a ‘traveling together’ solution! You are limited to bringing one bag each, but traveling together means that you can pool resources! Practicing those sharing skills your mother always harped on about.

Kirsty: Conveniently for me, Kate has way nicer clothes than me, so when we head off next year I can just use and abuse (kidding Kate, I will be very responsible and make sure to only hand wash your precious clothes!). IVHQ provides you with a great packing list after you are registered on your program (this way I could ensure Kate had all the right clothes for us). You can use this list together to make sure you have all the right stuff. Team work makes the dream work, right?!

Kate: Uurgh. That is corny and embarrassing. 

Kirsty: Yet I like to think so true! 

What Should I Pack?Image: @solo_abroad via Instagram

But my “friend” is my boyfriend/girlfriend and I honestly cannot stand sleeping in a different room from them even for 1 night!

Kate: Calm it down people! IVHQ have it sorted. 

Kirsty: Yep, don't even be concerned. I know how this one goes; you want to be in a room with your flame (partner) but the dorms/home-stays are separated by gender (story of my life).

Kate: On a number of our programs you can get what I like to call the ‘matrimonial room’. While it is not available on all of our programs, on some such as the Zambia program, you can upgrade to a private room, and be accommodated with your honey. 

I’m extremely popular and ALL my friends want to join me on my program, what’s a girl (or boy) to do?

Kate: When I have traveled with bigger groups in the past it has been quite a pain organizing accommodation and activities for us all. It is a logistical nightmare! But, not a problem, my social butterfly. IVHQ can organize for groups of friends volunteering together to be accommodated in the same volunteer house or homestay and also be placed in the same work placement. It doesn’t matter how big your group is we can find a suitable solution for you.

Kirsty: Yep! There is even a Group’s Manager whose job it is to help you potential IVHQers in large groups (bigger than 10) organize your dream volunteering trip.

Kate: Traveling with friends can be both fantastic and frustrating, but IVHQ can help make it the most rewarding experience you have ever had. You are helping a community and cementing your friendships, whilst making new ones with the local people and your fellow volunteers! You're going to make more Facebook, Twitter and Instagram friends than you know what to do with!

Group Medical Campaigns TanzaniaImages: @misscaroliine via Instagram

Volunteering with your special someone? Check out our How To Volunteer Abroad As a Couple post for helpful tips from one of our IVHQ team members! Or if you'd like to learn more about volunteering as a group, see our IVHQ Groups page for more information.

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