Traveling alone is something that unnerves a lot of people. And it’s not surprising. The thought of leaving home behind for a foreign country is understandably daunting, particularly for first-time solo travelers.
Being so far out of your comfort zone in an alien environment, surrounded by strange sights, smells, and sounds can seem like a altogether scary experience rather than a fun one.
However, if you’re considering a big trip abroad, and you might be facing the prospect of doing it alone, you shouldn’t be worried.
Traveling solo can actually be one of the most rewarding ways to explore the world. You have absolute freedom, not having to compromise on what you want to do and when you want to do it. Any fears you may have, such as feeling isolated, fade away in no time once you’re on the road, and it is easier than you can imagine to meet new people everywhere you go.
However, if you’re still having doubts, or if you’re looking for a way to do something different and give back to the places you travel, then volunteering abroad is an excellent option.
Volunteering will always primarily about helping a good cause, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that joining a project can bring huge benefits to you, enriching your experience of a country or area, all while allowing you to make a real positive impact on your chosen cause.
So, here a few of the things that make volunteering abroad for first-time solo travelers such a great choice.
Meet New Friends
If you’re worried about being away from your friends and family when traveling, then don’t be. Few things force you to come of your shell and interact with other people like being on your own and having no other choice.
Combine this with being on a volunteer project, and you can guarantee you will never be short of company.
Firstly, you will be surrounded by other volunteers, all of whom are there for the same reasons as you. They want to help others and are proactive about doing it. They also have a taste for adventure and a desire to meet other people, so making friends couldn’t be easier.
Secondly, you will have the chance to connect with local people, whom you will be working alongside, and in some cases even living with.
Live like a Local
Something that isn’t generally possible for regular travelers, but that is a bit easier for first-time solo travelers, is the ability to gain a genuine insight into local life. As a volunteer, this doesn’t just become a possibility, it becomes pretty much unavoidable.
I don’t think there is a better way to truly understand a country than to get to know its people. And I’m not just talking about the people who live in tourist areas. I mean the people at the beating heart of a country, away from the tourist hotspots.
As a volunteer, you will be living alongside local people in the community that you base yourself in. You will be able to interact with them everyday, get to know them, and learn from them in a mutual exchange of culture and friendship.
You are there with the specific intention of helping their community. Your presence will be appreciated, and as a result locals will be far more open with you.
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Traveling of any kind is going to get you out of your comfort zone. This is even more true of solo travel, which is one of the main things that can make it so scary for many people who are considering traveling alone.
Volunteering is the ideal way to harness the raw adventure of traveling to exotic and alien places, whilst ensuring you have a safety net.
You will be staying way off the tourist trail, living in places that most people have never even heard of. You will be experiencing new exciting things every day, meeting new people, and providing genuine help to a good cause, all safe in the knowledge that there is a network in place to support you.
This helps to alleviate any worries you might have, and allows you to focus solely on working towards a goal and enjoying yourself.
Volunteer Abroad for the Solo Trip of a Lifetime
Traveling alone needn’t scare you. Whether you want to use volunteering as way of acclimatising to solo travel, or you want to spend your entire trip doing it, it is the perfect way to experience true independence in a safe environment – all while contributing in a tangible way to an amazing cause of your choosing.
So, if you’re looking for a way to travel alone – choose to volunteer.
Nicoleta Radoi is the resident content blogger for uVolunteer. Nicoleta is an avid linguist, speaks fluent English, Chinese, French, Spanish and native Romanian. She spent a decade working in China in the education sector and working with major international development institutions and currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. She is passionate about volunteering, sustainable travel and has a soft spot for ethnic food.