Volunteer travel

It’s not always easy to travel on a teacher’s schedule or on a teacher’s budget. Time and budget are an ever-present problem of life, but this can be doubly ironic if you were expecting to travel in a particular region only to be limited by the same factors as you do at home.

All is not lost, however, because if becoming an English teacher in faraway parts of the world was your ticket to travel and adventure on a budget, it still can be.

There are many ways to travel as a backpacker. The stereotypical way is to be a student or on a gap year and then hop between hostels. You might even enjoy Couchsurfing. However, even the most sparing of student budgets and cheapest hostels add up eventually, and if long term travel is your idea of how to spend the next six months, year, or even years, then I have a solution for you.

There are many businesses or organisations which love to have motivated people to help them out: their building needs decorating, their children could use exposure to foreigners and their languages, extra hands are needed for recycling, their parties could use promoting and enthusiasm, or they could use a hand just working shifts at their hostel or bar. To get the most out of it for both host and volunteer, the timespan required is generally at least two weeks. This can be particularly beneficial if you’re not in a rush to see everything and want an opportunity to stay in one place for a while.

It’s opportunities like these which typically offer free accommodation, and possibly a meal or two per day, in exchange for your time, effort and passion. If you’re concerned about whether your time working is worth it for what you get, then this is probably not for you. Some do also offer opportunities for remuneration to add a bit more to your budget. In my case, I volunteered at two different hostels, and both offered the option to guide tours for their guests for tips.

Finding these opportunities can be challenging, and trust can also be difficult. Just like with Couchsurfing, you and your host may not operate on the same wavelength. It is indeed possible to contact hosts yourself, and this can allow you to find exactly the right kind of volunteer position for you. I’ve heard of this including being a deckhand on a sailing voyage, or an extra hand on wildlife expeditions.

For those who’d like to make it easy for themselves and allow a third party to verify their hosts, there are websites you can use. Both Workaway and Worldpackers operate as global databases for both hosts and volunteers to connect and communicate, though both charge an annual fee for access.

As I’ve written above, this is a plan for long term travel, anywhere from a few months to potentially years. While some work at home for a few months then travel long term like this, others make this their life since they’re able to work remotely as graphic designers or even as online teachers. So whether you’d like to hang out in a place on a budget for two weeks, backpacking for a year, or working remotely and living life on the move, this might be your ticket.

By: Daniel Nguyen-Phuoc

 

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Daniel is a Vietnamese-American who grew up in Indonesia and spent most of his adult years in Switzerland. He speaks six languages and feels like he floats in between local and expat cultures and hopes he gets the best of both worlds. Having returned to Jakarta, he hopes to bring that unique perspective to anyone reading, and you might find him performing at a local open mic comedy show.