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Which Volunteer Experience is Right for You?

Written by Jenny McWhirter on 02 / 03 / 2017

Gap Year Advice

In essence it all comes down to what you want to get out of your precious, precious travel time...

No gap year is complete without a whole lot of ME time and at least a little giving back. With 15 months to fill, travel is a must. Volunteering as you roam the world, backpack weighing you down and walking boots glued to your feet, is undeniably an added bonus.

Sometimes one type of volunteer program doesn’t fit all. Some want to indulge a passion. Some desire an adventure-filled escapade. Others are first-time travellers feeling a little lost, and just need a diverse and rewarding trip to ‘find themselves’.

What are my options?

gap year volunteering

Whichever type of traveller you are, I think we can help! Now you’ve got a choice… will it be a single project, focused internship offering a little more independence and a whole wealth of experience? Or a multi-project adventure program to fuel that gap year adrenaline and allow you to try it all?

Ask yourself these 4 simple yet fundamental travel questions and we can help you figure out which is best for you.

How and when do you want to depart?

In a team and I don’t mind a more fixed date

I think I hear our volunteering and adventure programs calling your name. Whether it’s Africa, Asia or South America you’ll have the comfort of flying out with a team of volunteers of a similar age and with a similar mind-set.

volunteering gap year

With 4 set departure dates spread throughout the year, and durations of up to 10 weeks, I promise there’s a perfect fit!

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Fly independently whenever I want

Great-then a totally flexible departure on one of our internships will suit you down to a tee! Maybe you’ve got a spare few weeks to fill between destinations or before the dreaded Uni begins? Across the continents, we have internships that you can join whenever you like, literally.

What’s more, you can stay as long as you like so if you’re loving it, just add on a few more weeks! There’s always a team out in-country and they are always keen for more help.

Flying alone can be daunting, but it really is the ultimate confidence gainer-no parents to control the documents and find your gate. It’s down to you!

Check out all our internships here...

Where and with whom would you like to be staying?

Stick with one team as we travel around

Well our team volunteer trips could be ideal for you. By sticking with the same team throughout, from the flight out to the arrivals gate back home, you’ll make some solid, life-long friendships.

gap year volunteer work

If you’re anything like me (in a constantly anxious state), then I think you will highly appreciate the ‘meeting everyone only once’ aspect of these trips! By the end of it, having spent every minute of every day together will mean you’re totally comfortable and open. Bowel issues and body odour will be mere chitchat.

These more adventurous programs will help you attain important life skills as you are required to constantly readjust to new surroundings and situations. You’ll soon become accustomed to unpacking and re-packing as you move from place to place, seeing and experiencing it all.

Changing team dynamics but one base to settle into

In this case, I think a more independent and focused internship is right up your street. Based in a single location, it will be easy for you to get comfortable, feel relaxed and settle in. Unpack just once. Learn the layout. Claim your bed. It will truly become a home away from home.

The challenge comes with the endlessly changing dynamics as volunteers come and go. Maybe you’ll see the ongoing need to introduce and make a good impression a burden. Or perhaps you can see the flip-side...

Volunteers will arrive from different places, be staying for different time-spans and often have totally different backgrounds. To me, this can only result in entertaining travel stories, exciting cultural insights and the development of a vital, yet often loathed, life skill: meet and greet.

Most importantly, though, you’ll have countless friends spread all across the world, think of the exotic free holidays!

Really not sure what you're looking for? Check out all our programs here: volunteering, adventure travel, internships...

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How do you envisage spending your time?

I’d like to try a bit of everything

Perfect. It sounds like a multi-project trip is what you need.

Just as an example, our Madagascar trip enables you to contribute to wildlife protection and preservation with forest and marine conservation, as well as bettering the futures of locals through English language lessons in a place where tourism is a major wage-earner.

Then there’s the glorious boat trip: hit the deck of a 50ft catamaran and set sail to remote island paradises, snorkelling amongst exotic marine life and lounging on pristine sandbars before crystal-clear waters. It’s all about work hard, play hard.

gap year sailing

Immersing yourself in a range of volunteering projects is the best way to discover your passion. Additionally, with sight-seeing, thrill-seeking and off-the-beaten-track adventure all included, you’ll have the full gap year experience.

Click here to see all our trips combining adventure with volunteer work.

I’ve got a passion!

Then what better than a whole program dedicated to just what you love? For the duration of your internship, you’ll be sticking to one aspect of volunteer work. Of course, they’ll be numerous tasks within, but ultimately you can focus your efforts on one overall purpose. Will it be teaching, care, medicine or conservation?

gap year conservation

Perhaps the only drawback is that the sight-seeing and extreme-sports have to happen on weekends: they aren’t in the ‘schedule’. However, this means it’s fully your choice how you explore the wonders of your chosen country.

What’s more, you’ll learn the ropes fast and enter into a proper routine with your volunteer work. Soon your efficiency will treble and in turn, your contribution to the project will rocket. And if you find yourself running the show with your eyes shut, loving every second, you have the option to extend.

Find out more about our hugely rewarding and meaningful projects here.

What do you want to get out of your time abroad?

All of our volunteer-based programs are enormously character building and I can guarantee that the best version of you will return home. However, if you’re thinking..

It’s more about finding myself, helping out and gaining confidence

Our multi-project adventure programs can offer all of that. By throwing yourself out of your comfort zone, leaving family behind and journeying halfway across the world, saying it’ll build your confidence is a huge understatement.

gay year jobs

You’ll be re-adapting daily to new situations, gaining experience in a range of career-related tasks and having your eyes opened to a whole new perspective of life. The team trips are the ultimate way to finding your feet abroad. You might even discover a particular project that really speaks to you, pointing you down a path you never even thought about.

It’s more about gaining experience and making a significant difference on one project

With our focused internships your contribution is truly indisputable. By concentrating all your time to one specific project, you can come away with a wealth of knowledge and experience that simply cannot be attained in a chair behind a desk. Lots of our internships could set you up for some great career options when you’re home: that CV will be reeling in the employers.

While assisting on programs facing worldwide issues, you’ll also start to become part of the local community, enjoying cultural celebrations and feasts with village friends.

get to know the local community on a gap year

All sorted?

I hope by now you’ve pinned down what type of volunteer travel is right for you.

The next step? This is where the fun comes in… Choose a destination. Book a flight. Make friends envious, and start day-dreaming of sun, sea and freedom.

Maybe the best option is to combine a bit of everything. Team adventure travel, a little-focused volunteer work and some totally independent travel too?

Let us know all about your travel plans below: make us all envious here in the office!

Still lost? Fill out our What Type of Traveller You Are Quiz and we can point you in the right direction. Simples.

Check out our gap year programs

We have award winning 'planet saving' programs across Africa, Asia, South and Central America.

Reducing plastic in our oceans, protecting turtles and saving the rhino is just the tip of the melting iceberg.

All experiences include a mix of projects and adventures, travelling with a team and, of course, are risk assessed.

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Need inspiration and direction?

Get in contact with the gap year travel specialists.

Here at The Leap we can help both team traveller through our programmes and/or the backpacker.

Jot a message below or call us on +44 1672 519 9222

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Yes please, let's keep life simple.