Do you have a fear of travelling alone? What are some of the reasons that are holding you back? The main concerns I often hear from people mostly deal with the following:
- Fear of Loneliness
Does this sound like you? So why not combine travelling alone with volunteer work abroad to help you ease these concerns?!
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Here’s how I got over my initial fear of travelling alone by volunteering abroad with IVHQ:
Most volunteer organizations have certain security measures and policy requirements they use to vet volunteers as well as their in-country volunteer partners around the world. For example, IVHQ, requires all volunteers to submit a criminal record and background check before accepting their applicants. IVHQ partners with volunteer organizations that are registered within that country and provides training and framework to local staff on best practice volunteer management.
- Airport Pick-Up (the only time you’ll really be alone)
Most volunteer organizations have a system in place for a representative to pick you up upon arrival at the airport. If not, you can always request one in advance. You’ll be provided the name/s and contact information of the reps in advance prior to departing from your home country as a safety precaution. The only time you’ll really be travelling alone is on the plane ride to your destination but once you land, you’ll no longer be alone as someone will be waiting to pick you up (p.s. they usually pick up more than one volunteer at the same time, so you may not be the only one!).
- Volunteer Accommodation – (you’ll live with other solo volunteers)
Depending on your program and living arrangements, you’ll most likely to be roomed together with other volunteers in one house (who all have been cleared of security background checks). Expect to share a room with 4 to 8 other volunteers (of the same sex) and share amenities (unless you request a private room that will be of additional cost and likely at a nearby hostel). Usually, one of the local volunteer co-ordinators will stay in the same house and be accessible 24 hours in case of any emergencies.
- First Day of Work – (you’ll be assigned with a travel buddy!)
During orientation day, you’ll be assigned to a partner who is enrolled in the same volunteer program as you, so you can travel to work together. A local volunteer co-ordinator will be also be assigned to take you to placement on your first day, so there’s no need to worry about travelling alone and getting lost using local transportation! (for a general outline of your schedule as a volunteer, read: “A Typical Day in the Life of a Volunteer Abroad with IVHQ”).
Volunteering abroad can help save you money immensely as you will be splitting your living expenses with other volunteers. The cost of the volunteer programs are often subsidized to make it more affordable for volunteers (although I’ve heard of some ridiculous fees attached to some volunteer organizations, which I strongly recommend completely avoiding!).
There are also many volunteer organizations that are willing to cover your food, accommodations, and/or local sightseeing expenses in exchange for your skilled-based volunteer work (which I will be exploring further on my blog).
3. Fear of Loneliness
The only time you’ll really be travelling alone is on your flight to your destination. Someone will be there to greet you at the airport to help you with your luggage and drive you to the volunteer house.
- Living Arrangements
Living under one roof with other volunteers who are all travelling alone from different parts of the world brings together a special group of people. There will be plenty of people to interact with! Everyone is very friendly and open as they’re in the same position as you, so there’s no need to be afraid of being alone or not making any friends. You’ll share the unique experience of living together with complete strangers (at first!), but will end up leaving as lifelong friends.
- Volunteer Orientation Day
On orientation day, you’ll meet all the local co-ordinators who will brief you on your program, go through cultural etiquettes, teach basic language skills, provide emergency contacts, and go through the rules and regulations.
This will be an opportunity for you to meet all of the other volunteers. You’ll participate in ice breaking activities to help you get to know one another. After the briefing, a quick group tour of the city will be provided by the volunteer co-ordinators with your new friends.
- Facebook Chat Groups
At this point, if you’re still feeling anxious and scared about travelling alone, I suggest you join some Facebook chat groups to help you get connected with other volunteers that have previously participated in the programs you’ve signed up for (or looking to register with). All you have to do is log onto your Facebook account and search for the organization. These chats help to connect you directly with current and past volunteers, so you can get some honest feedback about the programs. If there is no chat group to be found, I suggest emailing the volunteer organization and asking for a list of contacts of past volunteers that you could reach out to.
- Weekend Travel Friends
The option to travel solo or with a group of other volunteers is very liberating. If you prefer to travel with a group of volunteers on the weekend or just rather explore on your own, the choice is completely up to you! Personally, there are times I love travelling with people and other times where I just want to wander off on my own. You don’t have to feel obligated to always stay in a group or feel selfish for going off on your own.
For example, I booked a weekend trip to the Amalfi Coast with one of my volunteer roommates and we split the costs of the accommodation, transportation, and food. We mapped out areas we wanted to sightsee together and other places where we just had our own personal itineraries. Everyone has different preferences in the way they travel, so we made sure to incorporate what we both wanted to do on the trip. We also made sure to schedule some time to meet up for dinner and share stories of the places we discovered! It’s the best of both worlds if you ask me – you have some company when you feel like being more social, some alone time to yourself when you want and at the same time, we both saved on costs!