The Solo Traveler's Guide To Volunteering Abroad
Traveling solo can be lonely and daunting… But it can also be a rewarding experience of a lifetime if you do it right! The majority of IVHQ volunteers travel solo as volunteering with IVHQ is a safe and easy way to travel abroad, to give back to a community, and to make friends for life. As they say, you may travel alone, but you are never actually alone.
Find your perfect volunteering fit…
A good jumping point is to find the *perf* organization that offers meaningful volunteer projects that are aligned with your skills and passions, while ensuring that the organization is sustainable, safe and trustworthy. You’ll also want to make sure that you’ll be volunteering alongside passionate and like-minded volunteers. We can vouch that IVHQ ticks these boxes and beyond. Your volunteer experience will be A+ and will use your skills in the most resourceful way through projects within communities that value your support. IVHQ believes that you should be able to volunteer wherever in the world you choose to travel and with over 40 destinations to choose from - we have most of the globe covered. You can learn more about the IVHQ approach to volunteer travel here.
Just like anything, the more info you have, the easier things will be and the more time you will have to enjoy your host country. Google some hotspots before you depart, talk to others who have been there and be sure to learn a couple of common phrases in the local language. When traveling with IVHQ, you have access to a treasure trove of info in the form of your Program Information Booklet, as well as your IVHQ Program Manager, who can answer any and all of your questions! And when you’re in country, the knowledgeable local team will be sure to have the answers.
Image: @annasofiepeschardt - Solo IVHQer in Ecuador - via Instagram
Use the magic of social media to connect with other like-minded travelers who will be in the area at the same time as you to plan trips or excursions, a dinner at the best local restaurant, or a stroll through the bustling community. IVHQ has a community of over 80,000 volunteers in the global International Volunteer Facebook group, as well as having Facebook groups for all program destinations. These groups are ideal places to connect with others and ask questions about their experiences. There’s not just Facebook, use the hashtag #IVHQ on Twitter and Instagram to meet other IVHQers and learn more about their volunteering adventures.
Have your first night of accommodation booked…
For your own personal stress levels and those of your mothers, it’s best to have your first night of accommodation sorted before you arrive in country. There’s a good chance you will be jet-lagged, so to have a place to dump your luggage and hit-the-hay as soon as you arrive is borderline genius. Lucky for you, IVHQ asks that you arrive in country the day before your program start date and that night of accommodation is included in your program fee. Too easy! And to make it even easier, one of the local team members will collect you from the airport or a designated pick-up point. Mom can rest easy knowing you are safe and sound from the moment you land.
Volunteer safety is paramount to IVHQ and an aspect of our travelers’ experiences that we take seriously. We are systems in place to ensure that our IVHQers are aware of risks and how to manage them and all registered volunteers have access to online pre-departure training, and join an in-country orientation with our local team. During orientation, you will be briefed on safety measures to adhere by during your stay in your in country. Listen to the coordinators, they have the insider knowledge and your safety top-of-mind. They’re also available 24/7 to provide support so you can feel confident you will be well looked-after. All in all, listen to your instincts, look after yourself, your possessions, and your new found friends!
Plan your days…
Having a rough idea of where and what you want to see/do will ensure that you make the most of your days and aren’t wasting your weekends getting lost or trying to decide where to head first. On an IVHQ volunteer program, you will generally be volunteering from Monday to Friday for three to six hours per day. This gives your day some structure right off the bat and you can plan your day trips around these hours. Bonus! You will have all of your volunteer buddies to help you plan and to join you. Solo? Pfft, I think not. On the other side of the coin, heading out on a solo city adventure means you have no one else to think of, doing what you want, when you want.
Know your strengths… and weaknesses…
This is an important one, as you want to make sure that you have a good time while on your trip of a lifetime. Over-extending yourself or under-utilising your skills could end in disappointment, so make sure you are realistic with your own feelings and skill levels. Making sure you are accommodated in a situation that makes you comfortable is a good place to start. If you’re someone who is social and doesn’t mind your personal bubble being invaded, then a volunteer house would be perfect. If you prefer a more home-like feel, then an immersive home-stay will suit you great. Knowing yourself also comes into play when deciding on a project to participate on, take into account the skills you value at home. Handy on the tools? Try out Construction and Renovation. Passionate about Teaching English? We have destinations all over the globe where this is available. Even better, you can upskill by completing the CCELT Online TEFL Course at a discounted rate.
Pack light, essentials only!
As a solo traveler, you can tend to overpack. Trust us, you won’t need three hoodies in Thailand, it’s going to be stinking hot! Do some research into the climate and pack accordingly. Leave your hair straightners at home, you will be seriously having too much fun to worry about hair-frizz. If you’re super worried about it, buy a hat. Oh, this is essential… Be sure to check, double check and triple check that you have all of your necessary paperwork with you! Make photocopies of your passport, insurance information and travel itinerary and stash them everywhere. And have a copy on you at all times. This will make your life 100x easier if something happens to go wrong.
Image: @troyvlogsabroad - Solo IVHQer in South Africa - via Instagram
Keep in touch!
Mom and Dad need to hear your voice! You might be having more fun than you thought humanly possible but it pays ($$) to keep the parentals in the loop. With technology these days it is too easy. Wifi is readily available in most locations in the volunteer accommodation or at cafes, so jump on Skype or Facetime and impress your fam with your epic journey. Do some research on helpful apps that will make your life easier while traveling - WhatsApp for instant messaging through wifi, a language translator and an itinerary app are some standard must-haves on the trusty old iPhone. Keep a travel journal using a blog, this is an interesting way for your friends and family to keep up to date on your travels without being bombarded on Facebook!
But let’s face it, solo travel is a myth. Wherever your adventure takes you there will be a ready-made squad waiting for you (#SquadGoals)!!
Where will your solo travel take you? Check out our Destinations page for some inspiration.