What to Watch Out For When Volunteering Abroad
WorkingAbroad blog writer Tristan Ledger, who is currently volunteering in France, writes about things to look out for during a volunteering trip overseas.
June 27th 2019
The sudden ignition of panic over climate change has got a lot of people re-evaluating how they live their lives. We can no longer deny the fact: our planet is changing.
We all have our ways of dealing with it. Veganism is on the rise, more of us are going plastic-free and some have even vowed to stop using aircraft.
However, whilst it is important to be mindful of our planet; it shouldn’t stop us from travelling. Eco-travel plays an important role in our ethos around ethical volunteering; this is why the recent surge in the Slow Travel Movement is perfect for volunteers working abroad.
What is Slow Travel?
The Slow Travel Movement grew from a branch of the Slow Food Movement in the 1980s. When McDonald’s planned to open up a franchise in Italy, near the Piazza di Spagna in Rome, Carlo Petrini took a stand. He believed food should be an experience; a thing to take pleasure in and connect with. His philosophy on Slow Food spread into other areas of life and thus the Slow Movement was born.
You can explore the different aspects of this movement on the Slow Movement website here.
At its simplest, Slow Travel encourages us to just… slow…down. Our lives are busy, often hectic and in order to ease the pressure of the everyday, it is in our best interests to take a step back and reflect. Its philosophy emphasises connection, exploration and encourages us to engage with our surroundings and the cultures we travel to.
Although flying is convenient in terms of geographical reach in relation to time; it is damaging to our planet, often stressful and we do not get to experience the pleasure that Slow Travel offers. It is not always possible to cut flying out completely, but most destinations offer eco-friendly travel once landed. So, in order to incorporate Slow Travel into your volunteering trip, it is important to plan your transport.
We suggest that projects in Mainland Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America are ideal options for keeping your transport in touch with the slow travel philosophy. In Latin America buses are plentiful and offer scenic routes around the continent. In Europe and Southeast Asia there are fantastic train options making movement between countries easy and affordable and our projects in Africa use jeep and bus tours for those travelling across the continent. Additionally, travellers in countries such as New Zealand can hire campervans in order to get away from domestic flights.
Pedal bikes also make for a healthy and cost-effective way to travel through cities, towns and countryside, bringing you closer to nature and allowing you to smell, see, hear and touch the places you are staying in.
Slow-Travel Projects to Consider
We currently have four projects based in Costa Rica, Central America in; Playa Tortuga, the Nicoya Peninsula, Playa Rincon and The Guanacaste Province. Each project provides volunteers immersive experiences in conservation and wildlife rescue and welfare. To incorporate the Slow Travel philosophy, we suggest working on each project one after the other, travelling by bus or boat between each one. Find out more here.
We have some wonderful projects in Peru which work with conservation efforts in the Amazon and give volunteers the opportunity to live with the local communities. We also offer community projects in Cusco, which is the gateway to the rest of Peru and a good place to explore the country from by bus in a slow travel context. Find out more here.
Projects in mainland Europe offer easy access to different countries via train, encouraging exploration and slow-sightseeing. These include: Spain, Italy and Portugal and offer experience in wildlife conservation. Find out more here.
Community and Living
For volunteers, trips are about working and giving something back to the community and wildlife. It is not about ticking off tourist spots in the shortest amount of time possible. One of the elements of Slow Travel highlights the idea of living in your chosen destination rather than simply ‘staying’ or ‘visiting’. Many of our community projects involve interaction with local people, wildlife and aid in conservation. These projects can run between 2-12 weeks giving volunteers time to absorb themselves into these cultures and really make a difference.
Of course, you don’t have to be travelling and working abroad in order to make the most of this philosophy and it is easy to become disconnected with our communities at home. Instead, make sure to talk to your neighbours or the barista at your favourite coffee shop; take the scenic way home or observe the wildlife in the park at lunchtime. Applying Slow Travel to our everyday lives can not only improve our relationships with our towns and cities, but can be hugely beneficial to our own welfare and mental health.
Find out more:
Globally, there has been a rise in efforts to implement slow-travel into tourism. Climate change activist, Greta Thunberg recently emphasised the growing ‘flygskam’ or ‘flight-shame’ movement in Sweden that has experienced a sudden spike in popularity. A new rail-only travel agency in the country has been flocked with customers and perhaps shows an encouraging rise in awareness surrounding air travel and the eco-benefits of Slow Travel. Read the full article here.
Over in the UK, a new Isle of Wight travel guide called ‘Slow Wight’, written and curated by journalist Mark Rowe provides a well-researched and unique source for those wanting to travel the island without the use of a car. Find out more here.
For more information on our eco-friendly travel tips and advice on finding flight and travel insurance, click here.
By WorkingAbroad Intern Amy Burchill