Travelling with a view to volunteering for a cause or charitable scheme is very popular. Often associated with students, this type of travel is actually popular with people of all ages. Skills such a teaching and building are much sought after and using them in this way can be very rewarding.
There are a number of wonderful destinations to choose from, where the locals are in need of skilful workers and who are eager to learn new skills for themselves. One of the most popular destinations is Africa. This is an amazing continent, full of colour, vibrancy and excitement. Breathtaking coastlines, hot dry deserts and tropical forests all go to make this a continent of beauty and contrast.
Travelling with a view to making a difference to other people's lives is incredibly enriching. Africa has a great number of under privileged children and communities who could benefit so much from any number of skills. There is so much you can do and you may be surprised by what you could offer.
Providing financial aid is obviously very important and makes a difference to many lives, but this kind of hands-on help is truly invaluable. Experiencing this amazing country whilst at the same time doing some real good, is really rewarding.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (or TEFL) is immensely popular with gap year students. Qualified teachers or those who want to learn this skill are equally welcome. You will be greatly improving children's language skills, thereby improving their future prospects.
If language skills are not your strong point then how about teaching disadvantaged children to surf? If you don't already know, you could learn as part of your trip, before passing on your new skills to a bunch of new and enthusiastic students!
Organising your trip
It is a good idea to book your trip through a reputable company, which offers support and assistance to travellers. There will be a travel fee and you should be clear on what your trip provides and what it doesn't. In some cases accommodation and some meals may be provided, but you should obviously be clear on these sorts of arrangements before you travel.
In many cases, you will need to organise your own flights and some other travel. Some schemes will be able to send someone to meet you at the airport, but if this is not included in your trip, you should bear in mind that your destination may be some way from the airport and you will need to allow time and money to get to what can sometimes be quite remote locations. The travel company should be able to direct you and provide details of recommended transport services.
You will be responsible for organising your own visa. This can occasionally be quite a lengthy process so allow yourself plenty of time, to ensure you get this sorted in good time before your trip. If you don't have the correct authority to enter the country, you may be put on the next flight home!
Travel insurance will also be your responsibility and is not something that you should try and do without. It is worth bearing in mind that if you are taken ill or injured whilst in a remote area of Africa, having access to medical treatment could be worth its weight in gold.
The benefits to the communities and schemes on which you could work is obvious, but there are many benefits for you, the traveller or volunteer. Not only is it an amazing experience but it is incredibly personally enriching and rewarding. It is also something that will look rather impressive on your CV.
About the guest author: Jennifer Reepe writes on exotic travel for a range of travel websites and blogs and specialises in gap year travel. She lives with her partner in London, England.+