Monday, October 25, 2010
Safety is a concern for many people who travel abroad. There is always a risk that something could happen to the traveler while they are abroad. Male volunteers are not safe while they abroad but female volunteers are more at risk than them. Due to their small stature (smaller than the average male) they are more at risk while they are volunteering abroad. Female international volunteers are easier targets than their male counterparts. Being a female volunteer requires them to pay special attention to her and the surroundings. There is a lot to fear while volunteering abroad as a female volunteer but it shouldn’t deter you from leaving home. Here are some tips to help:
While you are abroad try and dress up according to the standards that are there. If you dress inappropriately it is seen as offensive. For example in Muslim and Arab nations, women should cover all parts of their bodies. The women are covered from head to toe. In other places, the cultures are conservative and the women there don’t wear tight fitting clothes and showing cleavage. Before going abroad find out how the local people dress up. To be safe, try wearing loose fitting clothes, long pants and long dresses. Avoid also wearing expensive jewelry and clothing as these attract attention, and you may be robbed of them. Try dressing up like the locals.
Put on a fake wedding ring that will detract many male suitors. As a female volunteer many men will try and get you. As they may assume that most western foreigners from Europe and the Americas are loose women with questionable morals. To avoid such advances put on wedding ring and if still approached tell them of your happy “marriage” it’s also advisable to carry with you photos of a man. The man could be your brother, friend or cousin to detract their advance.
On the occasions you are invited to a party, or you are in a bar or restaurant, avoid to drink too much. When you are drunk you will become more vulnerable and you will have less control of yourself and your situation. When in bars do not accept drinks that have been opened, ask the waiters or the bar tender to open the bottle when you are seeing. As a rule of thumb don’t accept drinks from stranger that are open. There have been cases where drugs are slipped onto the alcohol then you will black out not remembering what happened during the night. Go out in groups or with somebody with whom you trust and will take care of you when you over indulge. Also when you are having a good time know your alcohol limit and avoid taking drinks you are not used.
Stay in touch
While you are volunteering abroad always stay in touch with a friend or your family. Email, text, call your family to update them of your whereabouts. Always keep updating them on how you are doing and where you are going. Try to keep them informed with almost everything that is going on. When something happens they will try and help you. Also when you are leaving the volunteer program or volunteer home, always inform them where you are going and when they should expect you back. This way, they will always be somebody who is looking over you.
As a foreigner you will be an easy target for thieves and pickpockets. When you are in large crowds try to be mindful of your things and your surroundings. Get to know the emergency numbers: learn the police, hospital and fire emergency numbers. Try and learn some of the local words just in case you might need some help. In the foreign country mind your body language so as not to send the wrong signals. For example in some cultures women don’t look directly in to the eyes of men. When you do so you may encourage the man to assault your or be rude to you. In such cases try to be mindful and when talking to older men try and looking at the floor and being formal.
Menstruation can be an issue while you are abroad, because sometimes you might not be able to access pads and tampons during your girl’s day. Also with menstruation come cramps and body ache making you uncomfortable during that time. To reduce the effects of menstruation visit your General practitioner to give you advice on what to do. Generally many female volunteers carry contraception pills to avoid menstruation. Other solutions are a contraceptive implant, and the coil.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
“You are not in Kansas anymore.” Is a famous quote from the story the wizard of Oz. It’s the same feeling most international volunteers feel when they are volunteering abroad. However much a person has travelled and places a person has been to, there are always new experiences and new lessons to be learnt while you are abroad. At home we get used to the way things are and how they should be. When we go abroad everything changes, for example if you are used to eating using forks and knives, there are other places like in Africa where they mostly use their hands to eat. In Japan and china people use mostly chopsticks for their meals. As an international volunteer you will see how people do things differently and since you can’t change them you will have to change yourself and adjust to the new conditions. Here are a couple of lessons you will learn while you volunteer abroad
When you are volunteering abroad, you will get to have a new cultural experience and see how that part of the world is. You will see their traditions, customs and their beliefs. When you are exposed to their virtues, values and vices you get to appreciate your culture more. You will see how different your culture is from theirs. While you are abroad, you will learn new things about yourself that you didn’t know. You will find out how you don’t so many things. You will learn to be more flexible, and it will be easier for you to adjust to new conditions. You will learn how to get by with less and make the most of what you have. You will be able to come up with creative solutions and out of the box like thinking to solve problems. At the end of your volunteer work you will be more mature and more adept to understanding situations. Generally you will become a better human being and learn to be patient in order to get along with people
If you want to learn a language properly, going to a country that speaks the language will be the fastest way to do it. If you want to speak Spanish, going to Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries will help you grasp the language faster. Being there will give you a chance to learn and practice the language. When you are in third world countries you will be able to pick up other local languages that are spoken. For example in Kenya they official language is English but they also speak Kiswahili and when you volunteer in Kenya you will be able to pick up the Kiswahili language as well. Learning to speak various languages will put you in a better position and you will be able to work anywhere while at the same time travel to any part of the world.
While you volunteer abroad you will always be conscience of your safety. You would have known how to keep your important things safe from being stolen and how to keep yourself from harm. You will also know how to avoid problems that could comprise your safety. For example as a lady you will know it’s not advisable not to wear too much jewelry as they will attract negative attention. Also you would know which clothes that would offend the local people. Being abroad teaches you how to interact with local without leading to disputes and also helps you in problem solving.
There will always be good and bad days wherever you are. Good days are awesome especially in a new place. Bad days are much worse while you are abroad because you don’t know how to react in such situations. A bad day could be like when you lose important documents or have a bad encounter with one of the locals. In such occasions you will learn ways to solve your problems and moving on. One of my favorite ways is stepping back, laugh at the situation then you will be able to come up with a solution. Smiling with people also helps to solve problems that you could be having with people. As foreigners travelling in a country it is best to stay positive even though our situation could be dire.
Document your experience
Volunteers keep blogs, websites, journals, photos and videos to document their travel experience. Later on in life many past volunteer wish that they took more photos or wrote more to remind them of their experience. Doing all this will be great especially if you are telling your friend s about your trip abroad.
For more information and great deals on volunteering in Africa visit http://www.volunteercapitalcentre.org/kenya.aspx
Monday, October 18, 2010
Travelers who are abroad for lengthy periods of time think only of how much they are going to spend. International volunteers, gap year individuals, career breaks, and students who are abroad; all budget for the length of their stay. They plan to spend as little as possible so that to make sure they don’t run out of money. Most of them forget that while they are volunteering abroad, they can also make money. There are various creative ways to make the most of your holiday by making money while at the same time enjoying it. Although it can be more intimidating looking for a job while you are abroad there are many creative solutions that are available for you to use. These money making solutions won’t make you rich but they could help you extend your holiday and give you more opportunities. They are:
Starting a blog is free, and many websites offer you an opportunity to start a blog. There are Google blogs, yahoo blogs, MSN blog, Wordpress blogs and many others. Starting a blog is not hard, all you need is to blog about something you love, you can write about where you are volunteering, what you are doing and where you have been. The blogs can be just about anything and if they have good quality content and have a huge following you can make good money. You can popularize your blog by telling your friends and friends of friends to stop by and read it. You can make money on your blog through running Google adwords; infolinks, affiliate marketing and paid advertising. When you blog long enough and consistently (like 2 or 3 times a week), your blog will become more popular and you will have more readers. With the increase of readers it will lead you to get more money from the blog. There are people who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars because they have been doing it for years, but as an individual doing it as a hobby you could earn up to $ 2,000 to $ 3,000 per month. Start blogging now so by the time you are on your holiday you will be earning money while abroad. Note that blogging takes time and patience.
Writing articles is like blogging but a bit different. You could write articles about something you also love and know well about. When you have a topic to write about, go to Google or any other search engine and research about your topic. You article could be 500 to 700 words, well researched and presented. Writing a good article takes between 30 minutes to an hour. After writing an article you could sell your articles to publishers, and magazines. Publishers are constantly looking for new and fresh content on the net and they are willing to pay money for the articles. Most online publishers will pay $ 7 to $ 15 per article. If you are able to write an article per day or two per day during your free time and sell them in a month you will earn $ 500 to $ 1000. The tricky part is selling the articles to online publishers. Once you have a constant market you will make good money. Writing articles is like blogging you need patience and consistency to start making good money.
Pictures and videos
While you are abroad you experience and are exposed to new things. You can document your experiences through photos and videos. Many people would love to see your photos about a village in rural Kenya and videos of their homes. There are companies which will even pay you for your videos and photos like for example National Geographic. Apart from taking photos of common land marks and tourist sites, look for unique photos which could tell a story. Travel companies and other organization could pay you a large amount for what is in your camera.
Making money online
There are websites like Squidoo and Hubpages who pay you when you write lens or hubs on the website. They each have different criteria on rewarding their users. On Squidoo they use tiers to pay their website users. The best part of these online ventures you can write about anything and you can start making good money after 6 – 12 months depending on the quality of your work. Once you have made a lens or a hub it will always make money for you until it stops being popular. Go to their websites for more information.
You can get paid voluntary work with some volunteer travel organizations, but they don’t pay you too well. They give you just enough to pay for basic needs. You can also apply for white collar jobs where you don’t need work experience or any qualifications or a work permit. Jobs like working at a book store, working at a mall, waitressing, and as an aupair. You can also work as a tour guide. Other good ideas are working on an organic farm (WOOF) whereby you are given a room and food to work on the farm. This kind of job is preferred to by gap years and it’s also physically intensive.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Traveling is a disease that is not easy to cure; some say it’s caused by being bitten by a travel bug. Travelers could be those who are going to: volunteer abroad; gap year; study abroad; intern abroad; tourist abroad; career break and boomers abroad. Many of the travelers especially those who are going to stay for a long period of time like for months or years fail to plan. Most volunteers who are abroad plan to: pay the air fare, get travel insurance and for accommodation. They forget about planning for small things that make a big difference like: carrying extra money; bathrooms could be different; having your passport all the time; travelling in the host country; manners and minding locals; and realizing you are the different one not them. Other than these there are more important things you should know that will help you enjoy your volunteer abroad vacation:
Reading the fine print when you are using a travel agent is important because you would want to know who will take care of you when things go wrong. As a volunteer going to work abroad you are most probably going to use a volunteer travel organization that organizes volunteer work. Most of these organizations plus other travel and tour operators have travel policies or terms and conditions. Knowing these will help you to plan how you will take care of yourself when things go south. Things like political coups, racist movements, natural disasters, being robbed, when you fall sick and riots are not common but they could happen. When these things happen you would want to know how the agency will take care of you. You should also find out about the refund policies, something might happen that could make you not to travel and you don’t want to lose your money.
This comes when you are planning where you are going to stay. The most common places to stay are hotels, hostels, and homestays and group homes. Many hotels have minimum set of standards and it’s easy to find out what you are paying for. Choosing a hostel, homestays and group homes are the ones travelers should pay particular attention to. Most people don’t take their time to look into what they are and not paying for. For example in group homes and homestays, they could offer you a bed or a bed mat, a table and electric outlet. In other occasions they could provide you with these things and more or not. Also hostels don’t give out much information on what they will offer you, or sometimes they provide you with false information.
Getting around is hard for the first weeks in a foreign country, especially if you are going to be using public transport to get around. In some countries when you use buses or trains they are normally overcrowded and crammed and this can come as a surprise to you. While you are abroad get maps and book guides of the country you are in. Reading and understanding maps can become useful especially when you are lost. If you plan to ride a bicycle or a car, try to find out the traffic rules. As a pedestrian look out for signs to help you navigate through the city. In some countries motorists don’t pay much attention to pedestrians and extra care should be taken.
Before you travel abroad contact your bank or Credit Card Company and inform them that you are travelling abroad. Inquire from them what their policies are abroad and what happens when you lose your cards either through robbery or bad luck. Ask them how you will be protected against fraud. Before you volunteer abroad ask if their cards can be used where you are going. Some credit card companies provide you with medical insurance; ask them if you also need additional travel insurance. Before you leave, contact a tax expert or accountant about taxation and find out if you will still be paying tax while you are abroad. This is mainly for volunteers who are planning to stay for a long period of time.
Monday, October 11, 2010
A homestay is whereby a host family offers a guest, a private room or space at an affordable cost for a period of time. Most of the guests at homestays are international students, foreign exchange students, and internships relocations, international scholars, landed immigrants, international volunteers, gap year individuals, and cultural tourists. The main purpose of a homestay is to provide a home away from home to the guest. Homestay costs are a fraction of the cost as opposed to hotels and hostels. Homestays are a great way to experience the culture. As a volunteer you will get a new family to live with, in that you will have host parents, host brothers, host siblings and sometimes host nephews and nieces. In the home you will be living in you can choose the amount of work or responsibility that you want to be given in the home. You can do as much or as little as you want. The activities that are normally included are cooking, washing dishes, clothes, and cleaning. In most occasions you will have a private room to yourself, but sometimes you will share the room with another international volunteer. Most international volunteers remember their experience in the homestay other than their visits to tourist sites. To help you with your homestay, here are a couple of tips:
A homestay at first is somebody’s home, although you would be paying for accommodation and food, it is still a home. In the home you will find a family who are willing to give you a room and much more to what you are expecting to pay for. As a token of kindness and to help break the ice, carry a small gift to the family members. Before you leave for the homestay find out how many family members are there and who you will be living with. While you are at home, look for cheap and inexpensive gifts which can only be found in your home country. The gifts could be sweets for the kids, cheap jewelry for the girls and a bottle of alcohol or liquor for the men in the home. Try to find out what is appropriate for them. Giving gifts will make you look like a generous person and they will try and accommodate you longer. We are all glad to be given gifts.
As you will be living in a new home and culture there are things that are bound to be different. The meals that you will be sharing will be totally different from what you are used to. Try to be open and eat their meals without being rude. Although do not change your beliefs, if you are a vegetarian don’t eat meat or if you are Muslim don’t eat pork or anything that infringes on your conscience. Be kind and appreciative to whatever is served on your plate by eating. In some countries and cultures insects are regarded as part of delicacies; and in some cultures all parts of cows and pigs are eaten from the meat to their tongues. There also could be habits which could be new to you like how they take a shower or how they raise kids. Do not judge them by their habits, but try to understand their culture and you will find their ways are different but they also work.
In the mornings, don’t be waking up too late in the morning. Don’t be the first one to wake up or the last one to wake up in the morning. You don’t want to be seen as lazy, by being the last one out of bed. Most of the time you would be having something to do in the morning, and you won’t have to wake up too late. But on the days you have nothing to do or have some obligation in the afternoon do not wake up to late. Wake up in time for breakfast and if possible try to help with making breakfast. Some cultures find it offensive to still be in bed when everyone has woken up.
Be thankful for everything the family decides to give you or do for you. If the host mom wants to wash your clothes do not refuse, just accept and be very grateful. When they bring for you food and any other thing be kind, gracious and make sure to thank them.
When the time for your departure has come, be kind and leave for them a small gift. Get for them a small token of gratitude to appreciate the time you had spent with them. If possible go out for lunch or dinner with them to recount the good times you had with them. Most volunteers leave the homestay and they stop communicating with the host family. They send one email and make one call and they forget the host family from there. Try and keep up to date with the host family whenever you can. This way you would have formed lifelong friendships, and the next time you go to that country you can stay with them.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Foreigners make mistakes while abroad, but each country is different and mistakes are not regarded as the same. While we are all human and we make mistakes most of the time, there are some mistakes that we can avoid. There are some mistakes although done subconsciously should be avoided as it affects your relationship with the people you are with and your stay in the country. The most common mistakes made while abroad are: not having insurance; not being aware of the travel policies; behaving like an arrogant tourist; not being cautious on how you address others; not being respectful to the laws; showing off; and not apologizing when you have made a mistake. As a foreigner it is best to try and avoid problems as resolving them is not easy and will make you feel victimized. The mistakes to avoid are:
While you are volunteering abroad, for a long period of time like for one month to three months you should watch your budget. It is not a short vacation where you can spend as much as you want and go back home and recover from the damage. Avoid overspending by travelling to every tourist hotspots; visiting the neighboring countries; going out to every night to pubs and restaurant; buying too many curios and souvenirs. In some occasions there have been volunteers who buy property too soon and their available budget is significantly reduced. When you are overseas, you will be on a budget and being wise with money will lead to you enjoying your vacation better. You can save money by curtailing your expenses and by making money abroad through blogging, digital nomading and having a creative online store.
Trusting people is important for friendships, but it is harder while abroad. Not everyone is trust worthy but when you are abroad you are more likely to be taken advantage of you. The local people will look at you like an ATM machine and try to take money from you. Also the other foreigners who are with you will try to take advantage of you. When you ask for advice from these people some of them will not give you the best advice for one reason or the other. Do not accept any advice you are being given whole heartedly, ask for a second opinion to make a better decision. When dealing with money issues be very careful especially with boy or girlfriend romance. You may be given the wrong advice from the people you ask not because they are malicious but because they had a different experience from you. They will be giving you advice based on their experience.
Some volunteers who are abroad spend a majority of their time communicating with their friends and family who are at home. They spend so much time communicating with them so that they don’t experience the life abroad. Due to the advent of technology keeping in touch with people is not hard. You can talk to your friends and family through facebook, twitter, Skype, Emails and many other resources. But spending too much time with your home friends will lead to you missing out on your new friends and your experience. This is especially common to volunteers who get homesick. Keep in touch with your family and friends but don’t get carried away and do it too much.
Some volunteers leave home with a predefined perception of what they are getting into. Some think the luxuries they have left behind will be found where they are going. When they arrive in the host country and they find the conditions are basic they are normally disappointed. Also when they go work in their volunteer programs they have expectations to how the work will be and the working environment. While abroad you should have an open mind and you should be flexible to the new environment and conditions. To prevent to have high and or too low of an expectation, you should ask around and talk to people who have gone where you are going. You should research the place you are going to on the internet and find out as much as you can.
As a female volunteer you are at more risk than male volunteers. When you are abroad avoid wearing flashy and attractive jewelry that would make you stand out. You should also dress appropriately to avoid offending the people with whom you are living and working with. Avoid travelling to high risk areas and try to always travel in group. You should let your embassy know you have arrived in that country and the things you will be doing.
Monday, October 4, 2010
It is important to consider means of transportation and commuting when planning your volunteer abroad trip. There are various means of transport available depending on the country in which you are going. You could travel by road, rail, ship or plane, depending on the location of your program project and country you are going to. If you are going to stay in a foreign country as a volunteer, back packer, study abroad student, gap year traveler or just a traveler, for a month or longer you should find out what are the best means to travel while you are there. The most common means of transport is public transport which is sometimes run by the national government, or sometimes could be run by the city and in some case the tourist centres. Choosing the best way to travel depends on your budget and the resources that are available to you. While you are abroad you could travel by:
Travelling by plane is the most popular especially if you are going to travel over long distances. Unfortunately it is also the most expensive way to travel. Younger adults (26 years and younger) can use International Student Identity Card (ICIS), International Youth Travel Card (IYTC) and Youth Hostel Association (YHA) to get discounts on flights. Booking in advance can allow you to take advantage of flight deals and discounts. During the long flight hours try to make yourself comfortable by wearing loose fitting clothes and carry anything that would entertain you during the flight. If you suffer from airsickness, get motion sickness tablets, they will help you during your flight. Follow the airlines’ regulations and rules for everyone’s’ safety.
Travelling by boat is common in areas that have islands, or in places that don’t have access to bridges. In places like Italy there are many waterways and the preferred way to travel is by boat. For safety, you should check whether the vessel has been registered for voyages; the marine conditions of the area; and travel advisories at the dock. To overcome seasickness you can get medication from a doctor, wear a special wrist band that controls your pulse rate and try to stay on the deck to a catch of the breeze. In some remote villages on islands, you will have to travel by boat. In these places, there will be dhows available and you have to be very careful when travelling by them.
Train and buses
Public transportation is different in every country and is through trains and busses. Trains are sometimes the best means of transport because they are cheaper than planes and more comfortable than busses. When backpacking across Europe travelling by train is the most effective means of transportation. You can save money on trains by using ICIS, IYTC and YTH cards if you are a young adult. Trains are relatively safe, with very few accidents occurring but you should keep your travel documents and personal documents very safe in your hand luggage. In trains you are more prone to be robbed or pick-pocketed especially on the train stations. Traveling by bus is more comfortable especially if you are travelling for shorter periods. Although the new rules and routes could be intimidating, take a local friend with you to help you navigate. You can get a public transportation map, to help you and learn how to stop the bus.
Car and motor bikes
Travelling by car is very comfortable especially for short distances. Get an International Driving Permit (IDP) from AAR so as to drive any part of the world. You could either buy or rent a car for the period of you volunteer abroad. Traffic rules and regulations vary with the country for example in some countries they drive on the left while in others they drive on right side. When renting or buying a car, insure it and don’t rent something too exotic that will attract attention. For safety, follow the traffic rules, don’t leave valuables in the car, and don’t drive at night. Motor bikes are great for avoiding traffic jams and parking fees.
Bicycles and walking
This is the most inexpensive mode of transport. It’s the best way of keeping fit and works best if you live close to your school or volunteer project. For safety don’t walk at night and follow the pedestrian traffic rules. Also don’t wear clothes that will attract too much attention; wear expensive jewelry and carry your handbag close to you.