Volunteer trips are an ideal career break options if you want to be a responsible tourist and ‘give something back' to the countries you visit on your gap year. Volunteer trips enable you to help those less fortunate than yourself and, at the same time, experience another side to life away from all of the usual tourist hot-spots.
Volunteer trips are also a great opportunity to meet fellow like-minded travellers and local people. You get to know local people on volunteer trips on a far more meaningful and intimate level than anyone who is simply passing through the country as a tourist - providing you a unique insight in to daily life and the local culture. Volunteer trips are also extremely rewarding - volunteers return home from volunteer trips with a real sense of achievement and a feeling of having made a positive contribution on their gap year. If you are taking a career break volunteer trips also look excellent on a CV (you are almost certain to acquire useful new skills and experiences whilst you are away).
Although they are often a great deal of fun volunteer trips are also a challenge. Volunteer trips generally require you to step outside of your normal everyday comfort zone and immerse yourself in a new culture and daily routine - often in a remote corner of the world as well. With this in mind, it's important that you consider all of the options for potential volunteer trips carefully and pick the one that's right for you. It's worth spend a decent amount of time exploring the GYFGU's website and reading up on all of the volunteer trips that are available. Alternatively, if you would prefer to discuss volunteer trips with someone in person, you can also speak to one of Real Gap's team of experienced travel advisers.
Broadly speaking there are two main types of volunteer trips. The first category of volunteering trips are those which enable you to get involved with wildlife or environmental conservation work. The other main category of volunteer trips are those which are dedicated to caring for disadvantaged people or communities. Most volunteer trips don't require you to have any special skills or knowledge - simply energy, enthusiasm and a willingness to ‘get your hands dirty.'
An excellent way to fund volunteer trips is to try and get hold of some sponsorship before start on your career break travel. It's amazing how much sponsorship you can raise for volunteer trips if you really focus your efforts - and the fund-raising process can be a lot of fun too! Training for a sporting event such as a marathon is always a winner when it comes to raising sponsorship for volunteer trips or you could organise activities such as ‘bring and buy' sales at work. If you're taking a sabbatical, and plan to return to the same job, employers are often generous when it comes to sponsoring volunteer trips so it's well worth approaching them - the worse thing they can do is say no!
In order to give you an idea of the diverse range of volunteer trips that are out there here are just three examples you could consider for your gap year…
Volunteer trips - Save the rhino in Zimbabwe
One of GYFGU's newest and most exciting volunteer trips is the ‘Black Rhino Conservation Project' in Zimbabwe. Volunteers on this project get involved with vital conservation work to save the gravely endangered black rhino.
Volunteer trips - People projects in India
GYFGU's has several volunteer trips in India, each of which gives you the opportunity to volunteer in a number of ways - from teaching English in schools to helping care for people suffering from HIV or AIDS.
Volunteer trips - Save river turtles in the Peruvian rainforest
One of GYFGU's most ‘off the beaten track' wildlife conservation volunteer trips is a project based in a remote region of the Peruvian Amazon on which volunteers work alongside local communities to help protect endangered river turtles on their volunteer trips.