How you can volunteer to travel abroad

    Article by Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

    Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

    Posted: November 16, 2020

    When tourists begin to trickle across borders, you may be keen to join the queue. But will your trip be safe and meaningful? It can be, if you volunteer to travel, and here’s why. 

    Volunteer-travel programs take the guesswork out of travel safety. They also follow comprehensive and clear health and safety protocols that can settle the nerves of even the most high-strung traveller. 

    So, as you start preparing for international travel, it’s worth looking into how you can travel and volunteer abroad. 

    Find out what makes volunteer-travel opportunities the best choice for your next travel experience. And, let’s see how preparing for international travel is made easier when you volunteer to travel.


    Three reasons why volunteer-travel programs are tops

    1) Have a meaningful travel experience


    You can travel the world and make memories, or you can travel and volunteer and also make an impact where you go

    Volunteering abroad is a chance to contribute to wildlife conservation, marine conservation and community development efforts in a big way. 

    It’s also an opportunity for you to gain a deeper appreciation for the destinations you travel to.

    For example, you’ll find out what makes life challenging for local people, assist them in developing the best solutions to address these challenges, and be a part of working towards making these ideas a reality. 

    2) Get full support before, during and after your trip

    Taking a trip should be a fun experience. But that’s easier said than done when you’re travelling to somewhere new, and are unsure of what the journey will be like, or how to plan for it. 

    Luckily, there are reputable volunteer-to-travel organisations that offer opportunities to travel to destinations all around the world.



    With many years of experience, they know what they’re doing when it comes to planning the ideal travel-abroad trip.

    By taking care of the planning when it comes to in-country transport, accommodation, meals and project equipment, organisations like GVI leave travelling volunteers with a lot less to worry about – even before they board the plane! 

    But, what about the day-to-day stuff once you’re settled in? The little things that can make or break your time abroad?

    Well, there’s the promise of 360-degree support support before, during and after every GVI travel-volunteer program. 

    This support applies to everything, from helping travelling volunteers with travel preparations, to seeing that they’re taken care of for the entire time that they’re volunteering abroad. 

    Add to this that the best volunteer-to-travel programs follow strict health and safety policies. And, whether you’ve missed your flight, or can’t find your room key, volunteer-travel support staff won’t just point you in the right direction – like a travel agent might – they’ll be with you every step of the way and help you find the perfect solution. 

    3) Know what to do in an emergency situation

    But, what if something unexpected happens? Something that no-one could have planned for?

    Well, organisations with comprehensive health and safety policies will include risk mitigation procedures that are made up of:

    • clear communication channels
    • crisis management plans
    • emergency action plans
    • evacuation plans
    • local monitoring
    • risk audits

    These risk mitigation tasks are guided by international standards and ensure that you’ll be equipped with the most up-to-date and accurate information when you volunteer to travel abroad. 



    And, since all travelling volunteers and GVI staff are trained in health and safety procedures, you’ll be supervised in a way that upholds safety standards, and know exactly what to do in any emergency situation.

    With tons of travel-and-volunteer opportunities out there, you can find the experience you’re looking for, and make preparing for international travel a breeze. 

    And this leaves room for you to get excited about your trip by preparing for travel in other ways.

    How can you prepare for international travel as a travelling volunteer?

    Since a big chunk of your travel arrangements are taken care of when you volunteer to travel, you can focus on learning more about volunteering abroad. This way, you’ll get a headstart and prepare to make a positive contribution in your field of focus.

    Prepare for travel with short courses online


    You can start preparing for travel well in advance by getting involved in short courses online. These opportunities are a good way for any future travelling volunteer to orientate themselves to the type of work they’ll get involved in abroad.

    Take a look at short courses online that tell you more about what makes volunteer efforts effective, how to plan activities that make the biggest impact, and how to translate plans on paper into activities that build on global goals on the ground.

    And, since these short courses online are offered by experts in various fields, you’ll get to rub (virtual) shoulders with people who have tons of practical experience, and understand real-world contexts.

    What a way to get excited about travelling in the future!

    Understand new travel requirements


    And once you’re clued up on field- and country-specific information, you can also benefit from understanding the latest travel logistics.

    Luckily, preparing for travel when volunteering abroad doesn’t mean that you need to know where you can travel to and where you can’t – your travel-volunteer organisation can fill you in on this

    But, you should keep up to date with the latest international travel guidelines and recommendations that are specific to the country you live in. This way, you can organise your travel documents early and speed up your travel arrangements. 

    And, travel guidelines can also prepare you for the types of safety procedures you can expect when crossing international – or local – borders. 

    This means that you won’t be inconvenienced by avoidable situations – like having to remove restricted items from your baggage before you board the plane, or be taken off-guard by screening procedures that you weren’t expecting. 

    Volunteer to travel and keep the worries at bay

    While we may all be wary of the safety concerns linked to travelling right now, we can mitigate risk by travelling responsibly, and following health and travel advice.

    Now that you know how to prepare for international travel, you can fish out that travel list and pin it up where it belongs!

    Take a look at GVI’s short courses online, get clued up on what you need to know to travel and volunteer, so you’re prepared to volunteer to travel when the opportunity arises! 

    Tasneem Johnson-Dollie is a contributor for GVI, and an alum of the GVI Writing Academy. The Writing Academy is a skills-development program that pairs development editors with budding travel writers. Learn more about the program here.

    By Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

    Tasneem Johnson-Dollie is a travel writer living in South Africa. She has experience in public health nutrition and worked as a dietician before launching her writing career. She loves bringing her passion for public health and sustainable development to every article she writes. Her travels around South Africa as well as to India, Australia, and Saudi Arabia have fueled her passion for exploration.