Travel companions, and volunteer opportunities?
Are other women getting together as travel companions (for safety, cheap travel etc.)? My husband doesn't always have the time nor inclination to travel to foreign lands with me, and though I have a diverse heritage and have relations/family in other countries that I can visit, there are many other places I enjoy visiting or would like to visit where I have no family/friends. (I have a certificate in TESOL, but these jobs are had to come by, and the long periods away from home that are required are not appealing). All of the short term "volunteer" organizations have FEES that are just not within my current budget.
Answer: I completely understand! Many women travel solo not because they're single, but because their partner has other priorities. But lets answer your questions.
First, it seems as though you're asking about finding other women to travel with. That part is easy, as there are several organizations dedicated to finding female travel companions. If that doesn't suit you, you could always try one of the various hospitality clubs or exchanges. Some are specifically for women, and many others can put you in touch with women hosts. It's a nice way to have a 'friend' in a foreign place.
As for volunteering, you're right, many outfits have fees, especially those that offer volunteer vacations or similar options. If you're familiar with farm work (I can't guess since you don't say where you're from) you could try wwoofing- working on an organic farm. It's free, outdoors, and you can volunteer for short stints.
You'll also find a number of resources and ideas in volunteer work overseas - at the very least this page will help you fine-tune your thinking.
Finally, Transitions Abroad has a collection of articles by travelers who have looked for - and found - their perfect volunteering opportunities, so have a browse. This is often my first stop when I'm researching travel issues because the contributors are real people who have actually experienced what they write about.
If you do end up traveling, please do come back and share your stories with us!
Volunteering in Asia - approach a Not-For-Profit directly or use a volunteer agency?
Hi, Firstly I wanted to say that this site is fantastic and much needed! I wish this site existed when I travelled Europe and Asia alone previously!
I am a 28 year old who recently broke up with my partner and am currently in the process of quitting my job and moving back to my family's house for a while to plot my next move and potential new career directions.
I have nothing to hold me here and have been thinking about doing some volunteering in Asia for a few months in early 2011 - to help others and gain some life experience. Ultimately I would like to use my skills as a policy writer for the Australian Government (in health) in an NGO preferably in Laos or Vietnam (but will also consider Cambodia and Thailand). If I can't use these skills I would also be happy to volunteer my time teaching English or working in an orphanage or farm/conservation type project. Essentially I just want to challenge myself, do something different and see where it takes me. If I loved it I would consider doing a more long term position sponsored by the Australian governement (e.g. AusAID/AYAD programs).
I noticed that you worked for Unicef in Laos and was wondering if you could point me in the direction of any organisations that would take me on as a volunteer in Laos. I have done some research and have found very little in the way of longer term volunteering opportunities (i.e. more than 2 week work camps) in Laos or Vietnam that doesn't involve paying a middle company to arrange the experience for me. I am not opposed to paying the fees but want to ensure the money I contribute goes to the people who need it most.
Thanks so much for any help you can provide!
Answer: Estelle, what a coincidence that you're asking about volunteering - it's the topic of my next ezine, #37, which comes out on Tuesday.
First, thank you for your nice words about my site - the reason I started it was because I too found I lacked the right information when I started long-term travel. It's great to hear it's useful to you!
Now, about volunteering in Asia. I did work for Unicef - but I was paid for it, I didn't volunteer. Most international organizations would use local staff before international volunteers so I wouldn't necessarily look there first, although they would be great contacts since all UN organizations work with local NGOs. The neediest are local NGOs who might not have access to a large pool of skilled labor, and who might feel Christmas came early if you walked in the door.
If you do this independently, the best way is to have a contact to pursue. Since you already work in development, if I were in your shoes I'd canvas everyone I know to get the names of good NGO contacts in those countries and then I'd contact the organizations directly. Travel in that part of the world isn't difficult so you won't be facing the same issues with visas and work permits as you would in, say, Europe or Russia for example.
That said, there's no reason why you shouldn't contact UN organizations or international NGOs in either Viet Nam or Laos. Both countries have relatively compact development communities (especially Laos) and people know one another. I spent a few months in Laos some years ago and arrived knowing no one. I interviewed one person working in HIV, and within a couple of days I knew the entire HIV prevention community. By the time a week had passed I was an 'unofficial member' of the Vientiane international community and could have approached anyone. Again: go with a few contacts if you can.
These resources might help too: Internet Directory of Lao NGOs, UN Organizations in Laos, INGO Directory in Viet Nam and the UN in Viet Nam. Finally, I'd check out the resources at Volunteer Abroad or a similar group.
And Estelle, please come back and share your experiences with us after you're back!
How can I volunteer long-term in Ireland?
I just discovered your site and I am so excited that I did!! I am recently single (six months ago I broke off my engagement and called off my wedding - so, VERY single and in a strange transitional part of my life). I'm 23, from Ohio, and I have absolutely no money (though I'm now working full time as a barista, so I'm on my way to not being broke!), but what I really want to do is move to Ireland.
I'm not exactly sure why I'm writing or what I want to ask, but maybe you know something about visa extensions past the 90 day EU visitor's max for long-term volunteers or something? (Or maybe I just need someone to tell me that I'm not crazy...?) More than anything, I would love to live and work there as a live-in volunteer somewhere.
I don't know how long I'd want to live in Ireland - I feel like there's not much here for me in the US, and even though all my friends and family are here, it's not like they would disappear from my life once I live overseas. But I recently spent 12 days in Ireland, and I felt a peace there that I cannot explain - perhaps you know what I'm talking about, or maybe you experience that peace while you're traveling the world? It was a tranquility that I didn't know I could ever feel - like I was finally, finally home. (I'm tearing up just writing this down. How silly.)
Well, the long and short of it is, my life is an enormous blank page right now, which is simultaneously very exciting and very terrifying. I don't know how much money I'd need, or how long I would be able to stay and volunteer before the EU kicks me out. Help??
Answer: The EU is very strict with the 90 day visa but I understand there are a few possibilities with Ireland that there might not be elsewhere in the EU.
The first thing I would do is check the various official websites that deal with visas to Ireland. I would then supplement that by calling a couple of the Irish consulates in the United States. Why a couple? Because consulates are staffed by human beings and sometimes they get it wrong, so it's always good to double-check with another one. Perhaps there's a new program or visa status but the first person you talked to just returned from maternity leave and doesn't know about it yet. Best to double-check.
Another resource may be Volunteer Ireland. It is possible you CAN stay longer than three months in Ireland if you're a volunteer, do a bit of paperwork, and pay a couple of hundred dollars. However, the bad news may be that you can't work for pay while you're volunteering - so you'll have to come with money and not really expect to earn anything while you're there (although I suspect you can get the odd job here and there without too much trouble…)
As for being crazy - not at all. Sometimes in life we need a break - things are overwhelming or painful or unmanageable. Travel helps put everything back into perspective and while right now you feel you'd like to move to Ireland for a long time, you might be happy to come home after a few months. Either way just being in a different place will bring you a well-deserved burst of energy and some serenity. Enjoy your journey!
Do you know any Christian volunteering opportunities?
(New Zealand, Auckland)
Do you know if there are any Christian organizations with opportunities to volunteer overseas and maybe work for free accommodation, food or a small amount of money? Thank you for your help.
Answer: The best place to start would be by reading through Christian volunteer work, which has a list of potential Christian volunteering opportunities and links to organizations that take on volunteers. You'll find some information on international volunteer mission possibilities, mostly on what to expect.
I also suggest you look through the Christian volunteering directory to see if anything catches your eye.
That should start you on your way!