From experience, the main problem that occurs from, and throughout the whole process from the application through the duration of the volunteers trip is fear. Fear to go to a foreign country, fear to travel by yourself, fear of being away of home, and fear about safety. A lot of these are very overwhelming concepts and are hard to deal with but there are numerous ways to realize that though it is okay to be afraid, this is not a situation that you should fear. There are a lot of obstacles to overcome in this situation but I want to list a few that helped me get over spouts of fear during my travels.
I would like to start with the possible issue of fearing traveling by yourself. I get it, I don’t even like eating in a restaurant alone let alone hopping on a 20-hour flight to a foreign country full of strangers for a month. But there is no reason to fear this. If you are very worried, the option is always open to travel with a friend or family member. Almost every country I have been to, to volunteer, there has been people traveling with childhood friends, or roommates, or even family members. My house mates in Ecuador was a 13-year-old girl and her grandfather. There were two other mothers who took the journey with their sons, and a family of five that made it an annual occurrence to volunteer abroad with the whole family. It is not weird or awkward, everyone is there for the reason of volunteering and everyone will like you just as much whether you came by yourself or with your mom. Another way to cope with this, or even homesickness, is to make sure you have a working phone or device when you are away so you can still contact your loved ones. This can be done by either signing up for an international plan before you depart, or purchasing a sim card once you arrive. This is little, but whenever I was feeling a little anxious, a call home to my mom would really make my day.
The next point I would like to touch on is the fear of safety. The world is an ever changing place and we currently don’t really pin it as the safest time to travel. Although this is a plausible fear, there are a lot of options to make your travels as safe as possible. An important thing to do while traveling is to not walk around carrying too much money or valuables. My golden rule for this aspect of traveling is that if its important enough to me that I do not want it lost or taken I don’t take it on the trip to begin with. This does not include a phone or camera, but more so targets nice jewelry or bags. If you do choose to bring valuable jewelry or clothing, it is important to know the best opportunities to wear them. Your great grandmothers necklace could be good for a family dinner but maybe not while wandering the streets and exploring the city.
Another option is to get a passport wallet. These can be bought online or at any travel store and are very useful. They usually hang from a string that you put around your neck to carry it like a necklace, or have a strap to go around your waist like a fanny pack. Passport wallets are useful because they are compact and flat. You can easily wear them under your clothes, and you can fit all of your essentials in them, including but not limited to your passport, phone, money, and other small items. While carrying money, I have also found it the most reassuring to keep my bills separate. I will not keep all of my money in one place, and I will not bring all of it out with me at once. If you are just stopping quickly for some street food, the last thing you want to do is draw attention to yourself by pulling out a wad of cash from your pocket. Keep smaller bills if possible to avoid situations like this. If you brought valuables but do not want to carry them around in a purse or passport wallet, I would recommend locking them up back at your accommodation. I always travel with a little TSA approved lock and it has come in handy in numerous situations. If you are staying at a five star resort you may not find it as useful, but hostels, or any shared accommodation is has been a great form of extra protection. My last point for safety is to try and avoid traveling by yourself. I know this is a cliché thing to say but it is a method that has been proven safer. Travel in groups, the more the merrier and if you have men in your group it comes off as a stronger front.
Overall it is very important to be safe while you are traveling, extra precautions never hurt. Try not to wear flashy things, don’t carry too much money around, and don’t walk around with money and valuables out. Keep your things locked up when you are not around and try to travel in groups.
When traveling abroad, let alone volunteering abroad you should always feel like you are in a safe environment. The people you meet are there for you and will help you through everything during your trip. It is important to understand that you are there for a great reason and for a great cause, the people you meet there will become your closest friends and will feel like family. When you travel by yourself you learn things about yourself that you never knew, you grow up in ways that you didn’t know possible. Your family and friends are always just a phone call way so don’t let them hold you back from living out your dreams. Don’t let little things like fear stop you from participating in such an amazing experience. I have found that the things I am most fearful of, and the most uncomfortable with doing at times, are the highlights of my trip.