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Travel companions, and volunteer opportunities?

by DebH-D

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!

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Apr 03, 2011
Travel Solo alternatives

Several years ago I decided to begin offering retreats & culinary programs with a primary focus on women's needs because so many of my coaching clients were indicating that they wanted a travel experience that allowed them to travel solo, yet at the same time have other people to interact with.

So that might be an approach to solo travel for you to explore. Yes, there is a premium fee added because you are getting an experience, plus travel. But it is also a great way to meet other women with similar interests.

You might also find that organizations like Elderhostel can offer you something. I heard recently that they'd changed their name, but I bet a quick web search would help. They typically offer 'learning vacations'.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

Apr 13, 2011
It depends if you want a tax deduction
by: Jane Stanfield

Hello DebH,

Yes, volunteer travel normally involves a fee. That is because if the foreign non-profit had the money, they would hire locals who already know the scope of work. When volunteers arrive for only a short time, there are still expenses - housing, food, training, and transportation. The agencies that place volunteer cover all that and much more with the fees that you pay. That being said, not all short-term volunteer work is expensive.

One question to ask yourself is are you hoping to get a tax deduction? If yes, then you will need for find your volunteer work through a US not-for-profit and pay your fees to them. Global Volunteers, Cross Cultural Solutions, Global Citizens Network, and Volunteers for Peace are all US agencies that place volunteers for 1-12 weeks in both the US and abroad. By keeping track of all your expenses (shots, airfare, fees paid to volunteer, etc.) depending on your tax profile, you may be able to write off most, if not all of your expenses when you travel as a volunteer.

For programs coordinated through foreign not -for- profits, realize that they will most likely be less expensive on a weekly basis, but you won't be able to write off your expenses.

You mentioned that you have TESOL certification. Check out the Peace Boat -where you are housed on a ship and sail around Japan teaching English. I am not sure how long these agencies assign volunteers, but also look at Teach Abroad, Teach Away and Reach to Teach.

Other low cost options that are similar to WWOOF are Green Volunteers, Pueblo Ingles in Spain, and La Sabranenque in France.

Lastly, if you the entirety of your trip will be focused on volunteering, check out FLY FOR GOOD, a travel agency that gives discounts to volunteers when they fly.

Yes, volunteer travel can cost money. But once you have done it, I suspect you will find it as addicting as a potato chip!

Travel in Safety.

Jane Stanfield, Where Is She Heading

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Volunteering in Asia - approach a Not-For-Profit directly or use a volunteer agency?

by Estelle

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!

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Dec 08, 2010
Volunteering in a Kathmandu orphanage
by: Mary Passmore

Above are two links: first to a home in Kathmandu where people from all over the world stay. The guest room has an attached bathroom.

Everything is clean and the Buddhist host family is warm, loving and willing to help with every need. Meals are offered, beautifully prepared.

Second, is an orphanage which is jointly managed by Nepali, American and British people. There are 21 children in residence, walking distance from the Tamang home. Volunteers help with homework and often volunteer at the school attended by the children.

The Homestay family also is part owner of a trekking company.

I have stayed in this home, trekked with the company and volunteered at the orphanage.

The love and friendship are deep and lasting, an unforgettable experience. I have stayed with this family twice, once by myself and once with my daughter. We love them.

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How can I volunteer long-term in Ireland?

by Laura
(Oxford, Ohio)

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 troubleā€¦)

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!

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Oct 17, 2011
I understand about Ireland
by: Mary

Change a few details around and what this poster wrote about Ireland fits me exactly.. I spent six monthes in Ireland and now all I do is dream about returning. Ireland is not perfect and it has its problems. But I want to go through my ups and downs in Ireland more then anywhere else. I understand the draw as I feel it to. I felt it before I ever went the first time and now I feel it stronger then ever.

Nov 08, 2011
How Strange...
by: Kestrel

I've been thinking for the past several months about this exact issue! I've never set foot in Ireland yet I feel compelled to go. Maybe It's my Celtic heritage - not sure. All I know is that I already LOVE Ireland even though I've never been. Is that crazy or what???

Anyway, I decided this year that I would love to volunteer in Ireland for awhile,but was concerned about the visa issue. Thanks so much for asking this question!!

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Do you know any Christian volunteering opportunities?

by Lizzy
(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!

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Dec 31, 2011
Christian volunteering
by: Leslie - also from NZ

Hi Lizzy
I spent 3 years as a volunteer in a Christian orphanage in Chiang Mai Thailand. The problem, in my experience, is that most Christian organisations are funded through donations and often can't afford to provide accommodation and food. Some even require you to make a donation to their ministry as well. It might be an idea to contact some of the larger churches in your area and find out what missions they support and see if you can make contact with any you are interested in. Good luck - the experience will change your life.

Nov 17, 2012
conference centres
by: Anonymous

I worked in a Christian conference centre. There are many in England and a few in Europe. Board, food and a little pocket money included. Love it. Just Google christian conference centres.

Nov 17, 2012
conference centres
by: Anonymous

I worked in a christian conference centre. There are many in england and a few in europe. Board, food and a little pocket money included. Love it. Just google christian conference centres.

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