The Underground Guide to International Volunteering

Although I think most of us backpackers work really hard to make our dreams happen, it’s no secret that we are still a privileged bunch. This is particularly true compared to the way most of the world lives day-to-day (feeling poor? Check out your position on the Global Rich List for some perspective.

Nothing opens your eyes to this global disparity more than travel, so it’s natural that many travelers feel called to give back to the many welcoming places we visit. Luckily there are numerous volunteer opportunities for travelers all over the world. The key is finding one that suits your needs and goals.

Kirsty the Nerd behind Nerdy Nomad has become a bit of a first-hand expert on budget volunteering. She has been traveling the globe for almost 10 years now, and has volunteered in China, Bangladesh, Haiti and Indonesia. She’s written an e-book about her volunteering experience and advice.

Kirsty was nice enough to send me her eBook (disclosure: for free), and as someone who is hoping to incorporate volunteering into my upcoming travels, I read it quickly.

This book is great for both beginner and seasoned travelers. It’s 61 pages, 9 chapters which explain the basics of volunteering, mental and psychological preparation, how to choose a program, and practical considerations. There are also in depth interviews with volunteers from all walks of life.

What is probably the most helpful part, on a practical level are the lists or resources and organizations that Kirsty provides. There is a section of pay-to-volunteer opportunities as well as one of free organizations, and lots of advice on how to decide what you’re looking for.

Even the e-book itself is a bit of a charitable act. $7 of the $14 price goes directly to Hands on Disaster, the author’s favorite volunteer organization. With its low price and wealth of information, it’s a sensible purchase for anyone who is seriously interested in volunteering abroad but doesn’t know how to get started.

8 thoughts on “The Underground Guide to International Volunteering”

  1. I always admire people who want to volunteer. Certainly it is a great way to get out into the world and participate in the building of developing countries. I do wonder though, whether more people volunteer abroad or at home in their own communities? Any ideas Steph?

  2. Lauren Fritsky

    That’s an interesting question, Melissa. I would venture to say that people tend to volunteer more while traveling because they’re already out of their element. At home, you’re more in a routine and may not be as proactive in finding time to volunteer. What do you think, Steph?

  3. Definitely a good question… I would tend to agree with Lauren that travelers are more proactive about finding volunteer oppurtunities. I’m sure this is even more true of travelers to third world countries- because how can you go and observe and NOT make an effort to help?

  4. And, as a further question, how does that expat volunteer experience translate into volunteering once someone comes home from abroad? Oh dear, I fear my little brain thinks too much!

    1. Hmm, I really can’t say. I’d like to think that if you are charitable abroad you will bring that back into your own life at home, but I’ve got no proof. Wonder if any studies have been done?

  5. I looked briefly in to volunteering for a day while I am in NYC but it didn’t seem to be the easiest option!

    I am vaguely contemplating a cheapo Asian holiday in a year or so (the benefit of being Australian is it is super cheap to go to Asia…sadly not the same for Europe!) and may look in to it in more detail over there.

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