As the changing, challenging tide of Covid-19 starts to subside in many countries, the hopes and dreams of many of us turn to the travel and volunteering opportunities that have been closed for so many – too many – seasons.
For many people, this summer’s adventuring will be their first solo time abroad, and for a number in this group, it will be off-the-back of long conversations with their friends and families, especially parents. For these travel newbies, getting the green light to travel from these all-important people can boil down to how well these conversations are handled and how well prepared they are to assuage the niggling doubts and anxieties of their nearest and dearest.
So how do you go about getting that first parental stamp of approval, that validation visa and get out on the open road? There are many ways to have these important conversations, and as with everything in life it pays to have done your preparation and to be as ‘aware’ and ‘in control’ of the situation as possible. Your ideas may be blind-sided with unexpected questions but with solid knowledge and a lot of persistence, patience and practicality you are sure to set up and provide the winning argument.
The ‘why’ of going might seem self-evident to you, but parents like to hear that their offspring have given their decisions plenty of consideration and that they are ready to step out, alone, into the world and will be making their way based on their positively-chosen individual moral, social and political codes.
It might seem obvious – after all who would miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime, assisting with conservation in some of the most stunning places on this blue/green planet?!’ – but creating unassailable, concrete reasoning why it is the best idea possible is your new ally in getting your way, and getting gone.
So what are the drivers that parents will love to assist you in the all-important ‘when can I pack’ conversation? Follow this 3-point plan to help you get ahead.
1 – Parents love the future plans and training aspect.
All of the volunteering opportunities with WorkingAbroad provide incredible on the job training, enough to ensure you are equipped to fulfil the designated roles, and some projects actually offer more in-depth training suitable to the developing scientist. If you are thinking of pursuing a career in any field of ecology, land or water-based management, specific species support, or NGO development and management then attending a volunteering holiday is a really great way to start, and may even get you ahead in the competitive job and university markets. Volunteering in your field of choice is a great way to demonstrate to prospective higher education establishments that you are committed and come ‘research ready’, with a lot of acquired skills.
However, a volunteering holiday is not just for those wanting to follow a career path from it. This style of holiday is for everyone and provides a space for us all to develop new skills and hone current ones. The social and emotional opportunities that unfold as part of these working holidays help us all to develop greater knowledge of ourselves and our planet as well as academic research skills. The chance to work holistically for species and the environment naturally creates holistic opportunities for our own development.
2 – Parents love the personal development angle.
The development of personal management strategies, self-reliance and team-working skills are all extremely important for our social and emotional growth as well as being great transferable skills that are in high demand in the workplace, as well as in family and community life.
From the initial goal setting and the start of your research to the moment you return to your country, post-adventure, you will be developing a multitude of amazing skills – all of which can be applied across an incredible spectrum of situations. Showing that you can create itineraries, save and budget effectively, communicate effectively both verbally and non-verbally, problem-solve like a pro, and still have fun will strengthen you emotionally, socially and practically. Your parents know this and showing the initial stages (ie research and budgeting) will encourage them of your potential progress in all these areas.
3 – Parents love your enthusiasm, joie de vivre, personality and the fact that you have thrown yourself headlong into the research necessary to create a sustainable, actionable, practical plan.
Whether you are looking at conservation as a long-term career choice, considering a multi-stop volunteering trip of a lifetime, or a short break to support species and cultures you care about (alongside enjoying the various social and cultural benefits of the research life), people admire tenacity that is based on creating a plan and actioning it.
Before you have that all-important conversation with your parents it is important to have some of the preparation done, so you can answer their questions. It’s not about having everything locked down but having the metaphoric ‘roadmap’ sorted is a really great start.
If this is your first trip then you will need to look into getting a passport, find out about suitable projects to support, think about visas, consider learning the basics of the local language, create an itinerary, book flights, find accommodation, and ensure you have a means of contacting family left behind by considering getting an international sim card or knowing what your home sim card is capable of.
Considering all of these things show that you are thinking things through, are problem-solving like a pro, and are demonstrating positivity, tenacity and strength of character, which travel will continue to solidify. Conversations with friends and family who have been away before can help get these things done and WorkingAbroad can help you action different parts of this list. All of these things (and more) need doing but should not feel overwhelming, the planning part is also fun, and a time to enjoy the pre-trip excitement – so don’t forget to take time to do just that!
Post-Covid Travel for Volunteering
Following an incredibly difficult 2020, the eyes of all WorkingAbroad’s global volunteer projects turn with hope to the advent of the traditional travel season. Covid-19 has robbed them of months of volunteer assistance, in both funding and practical terms, and they wait with bated breath for the possibility of people returning to support their projects to become a reality. Packing your bags will not only provide an incredible experience for you but will ensure the continued ability of WorkingAbroad’s partner projects to conserve the natural world and keep humanity positively aware and aligned with it.
All the WorkingAbroad projects are making the necessary Covid-19 adjustments to ensure that their volunteers are safe and have the very best time possible. Getting on these projects and working as researchers is the ultimate win: win, and truly offers its participants the chance to shine in so many ways, whilst supporting incredibly worthwhile causes.
Allow your passion for conservation to shine and never let that diminish. Whenever and wherever you get to travel, the personal energy you put into your volunteering is something that will continue to multiply in both your project of choice and within you, as your memories remain and you look back on that time with fondness and a warm glow from knowing you that what you have done continues to make a difference.
So get planning, get talking to your nearest and dearest, and get going!
2021 is ripe for adventure, and for diving into the fun of planning, and then participating in, what is sure to be one of the most amazing experiences of your life.
* Current Covid travel restrictions vary in different countries and it is important to research the rules relating to ‘travel for volunteering’ in your country of departure, as well as in your desired destination.
If departing from the UK, for example, the Gov.Uk website provides a Declaration for International Travel form, which is necessary for volunteers to complete and also offers a Travel Abroad Step-By-Step visual guide with links to the UK guidance and requirements.
If departing from the USA, the CDC website provides information on safely managing travel during the Covid Pandemic and contains links to information on quarantine, destinations, and Covid-testing.
As discussed above the most important tool at your disposal is the ability to research and plan. Finding your dream volunteering opportunity might be a ‘little different’ this year but with the necessary knowledge and by following the requirements, both home and abroad, you can still make this year’s adventures one to remember – for all the right reasons.
Written by WorkingAbroad Blogger Rae Hadley