First my apologies for the late reply but I have been sick with the flu thing going through Europe.
Travel books check
Volunteer sites check
So, now it’s time to decide how long do I want to travel?
For the timid – 2 to 6 months and close to home- may I suggest you begin in the US, Mexico or Canada. You could travel to a region you’ve never visited like Cajun Country, Popcorn, Indiana, Laredo, Texas, the Carolinas or Washington State.
Canada as well has many beautiful places to visit like Victoria, Toronto or the province of Saskatchewan. Or find a volunteer position during the Calgary Stampede. Want to practice your French try Quebec. Interested in a UNESCO City go to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
Just find a Workaway – Trusted Housesitters – HelpX or Workstay assignment that fits you and apply. You may happily find new friends, interesting places to explore or a new skill like harvesting honey or trying to balance on a unicycle.
For those who are interested in places farther away or a longer stay get ready to travel. Grab your passport, look at your map and your calendar. Find a volunteer position that you would enjoy – apply – actually apply for more than one. Be sure to check the reviews on your volunteer choice before you apply. You might want to check with people who have written reviews for additional information before you apply. Note: not everyone writes a review and not every review is perfect.
Check flight prices. Be smart and travel in low /off-season or shoulder season. Remember that you do not need a round trip ticket a one-way ticket is acceptable.
When you have found the perfect assignment and before you accept make sure you understand everything about the position – hours – tasks required and free time. You also want to know how to get to where you are going. Some countries are not 100% acceptable to having Volunteers in their midst. The Republic of Ireland and the UK are two of these countries. You need to have an understanding with your host as to what to say at Customs when they ask you why you are traveling in their country. More on this later when I talk about the Schengen Zone.
The majority of your volunteer assignments will be lovely, but people are people and once in awhile you will find a host who is less than 100% agreeable. My first host complained about every volunteer eating him out of house and home. And he complained that the Spanish couple needed a siesta everyday after lunch. My friend Megan was volunteering in Scotland at a restaurant and bakery and she found that the restaurant people volunteered 4 hours each day but the bakery people volunteered 7 hours each day. And I also had a host who was more than willing to allow me to work as many hours and as many days as he could get away with- you must be assertive with your host when necessary. These examples are not the norm they are exceptions to the rule – expect the best!
Life is not perfect as a volunteer but sometimes it can be pretty close. My three Italian hosts took me everywhere to see historic sites – to Verona and Juliet’s house – a tour of museums, palaces and art galleries and at Christmas to not one but two Christmas festivals. I was exhausted I needed a vacation – they were the most wonderful hosts to that point in my travel schedule.
Now. One of my favorite volunteer things to do is the English immersion program. It can be fabulous for some not so not so much for others. You can get a good sense of the program by looking at my previous blog on English immersion programs.
In my experience the best of the best is Vaughntown, right up there with it is Diverbo or Pueblo Ingles in Spain.
Next best is angloville with programs in Poland – Hungary – Romania -Czech Republic – Malta – Dublin and the UK. With angloville you can get a TEFL certification which will allow you to tutor English for a fee.
Another program called Just Speak is also located in Poland. It is casual and rustic. She uses word games + one-on-one situations like the other programs. If you decide to go to Just Speak give Gosha my warmest regards thanks.
Ok! Get busy!
And I will leave you with this thought. I’ve seen and experienced things I never would have had an opportunity to do – met kind interesting and curious people. I watched an old Mariner carve a ship from a block of wood. I met the Google guy mapping Ireland and tried on the revolving camera. I stood on the only remaining section of Hadrian’s Wall in England and gaped with open mouth in Trinity University and learned the odd and interesting history of King Zog of Albania. All of these stories and more are on my blog. Enjoy!
Chapter 3 coming soon.