Responsible Travel Report Blog

Alexia Nestora

What Questions Should You Ask Before You Volunteer Abroad?

Ask Yourself:

Establishing your expectations is the likely the most important preparation you can undertake before volunteering abroad. Are you expecting to change yourself, or change the world? Can you accept that no matter how much time and effort you put in, the job may never get done? Taking that a step further, can you find solace in knowing that your time and effort are ALWAYS valuable no matter how small a change you think you are making?


Also ask yourself...

Why do you really want to volunteer in the first place? Truly.


What are you looking to get out of this? Experientially? Socially? Educationally?


Are you OK leaving your comfort zone (aka hot showers, flushing toilets, Starbucks)?


How well do you cope with language barriers?


Are you able to recognize that right or wrong, countries have different gender roles than you are used to?


What are your expectations of the culture and community you are working in?


What are the expectations you have of the people you will be working with?


What are the expectations you have of yourself to contribute to the community?


Ask the voluntourism operator you are planning to travel with:


Here are a few questions to ask operators to make sure you’ve found a genuinely sustainable project that’s right for you:


What is the average age of volunteers on this project?


Can I chat with volunteers that have done this project before?


What work will I be doing mainly? For how many hours a day? For how many days a week?


Do I need to speak another language to really enjoy this project? Is there a translator nearby if I need one?


What are the accommodations like? Will I have to share? Do I need to bring a sleeping bag?


What kind of food can I expect to eat?


What’s included in the project fee? Meals? Lodging? Will I need to pay anything else in country?


And of course the safety questions:


What is the emergency evacuation plan should a natural disaster, riot, etc happen?


Where is the nearest hospital or clinic?


Is travel insurance included?


Is there a number that my parents/friends/loved ones can call me at to make sure I’ve arrived safely?


Is there a number I can call 24/7 to get help?


Is there someone from your company in country to help/advise me?


Do I need to get any immunizations before I go?


Are there certain clothes I shouldn’t wear because of cultural norms?


About the author

Alexia Nestora
Alexia Nestora
Alexia Nestora runs the voluntourism blog VoluntourismGal where she encourages the sharing of best practices, provides research and monitors industry trends. Alexia previously ran the North American division of volunteer provider, has consulted for numerous volunteer organizations and has recently helped with articles on voluntourism for Smart Money, CNN, Wall Street Journal and The Observer.

In addition to her influence in the voluntourism industry, Alexia is the founder of Lasso Communications a marketing firm specializing in the adventure travel market and a principal consultant for Travel Marketing Worldwide. Alexia has volunteered in Ecuador, South Africa, Thailand, Nepal, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Switzerland but her favorite place these days is at home with her husband, baby and horses in Colorado.


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