Have you been wanting to travel more?
Is lack of funds and purpose keeping you from packing your bags? Maybe you're struggling with student loans or you're having trouble paying off your credit card bill, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to travel.
If you want to travel more and are craving a new experience to learn some skills and do a little good, these volunteer programs may be just what you need:
1. The Elephant Nature Park: Chiang Mai, Thailand
If you're an animal lover or just want to be surrounded by adorable, friendly giants, then listen up.
Just about an hour's ride from the northern city of Chiang Mai is The Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary for formerly abused elephants.
The backgrounds of the animals vary from use in tourism to agricultural labor, but all of them at the park have been rescued to live out their lives in peace.
A visit to the park involves observing the elephants, hearing their stories, walking with them, petting them, feeding and also bathing them in the river.
However, if you choose to volunteer, your experience will run even deeper.
During the seven-day volunteer program, volunteers will:
- Get daily elephant interactions - Learn about agriculture and community - Live in a cultural exchange in a local village - Work to feed and take care of the elephants and their habitats
Included in the program fee is a simple and traditional style accommodation as well as meals and transport from Chiang Mai.
2. All Hands: Various Destinations
This US-based and international program focuses mainly on disaster relief. It works with local communities in affected areas like Nepal and the American South after hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
Programs range from Louisiana flood response and Ecuador earthquake response to South Carolina flood response, Nepal Earthquake recovery and more.
Volunteers do a wide variety of work from building homes, schools and community centers to mucking, clearing out debris and running programs for children.
One of the benefits of this program is that there are no associated fees and accommodation as well as two meals a day are provided.
3. Maximo Nivel: Peru, Guatemala and Costa Rica
Around since 2003, this international program functions with a focus on helping local communities and people. Its program range is huge, making this option one of the most diverse.
Some of the options include:
- Medical and health care - Aiding indigenous communities - Animal care - Eco-agricultural - Construction - Teaching English - Conservation and environmental causes - Working with children
What makes Maximo Nivel especially unique is its ability to provide volunteers with real and useful growth.
Volunteers can gain college credits, do study abroad programs and complete internships. Plus, volunteers have the ability to specifically choose what they are interested in and pursue it with a low program fee starting at $595.
Included in the program fee is accommodation as well as meals in a local home and transport to and from the local airport. Volunteers are also offered special perks like walking tours, cooking classes and Salsa lessons.
4. Orphfund: Various Locations
Run completely by volunteers, this organization focuses on helping vulnerable and orphaned children in destinations around the world. It aims to help the neediest of children first so that those who need the most help are able to receive it.
Some of the programs include:
- Sierra Leon: Helping out in several of the children's villages, working with Ebola-infected orphans and helping farmers become more sustainable.
- Uganda: Helping in the children's villages, boarding school, primary school and on local farms.
- Kenya: Providing assistance in the children's villages, pre-school and educational programs.
- Cambodia: Assisting children in the primary schools.
- Tibet: Helping impoverished children in Lhasa.
Thee programs last from three to six weeks, and all volunteers must raise funds before working on their project. However, all of the funds will go towards the project and there are no added program fees except for your flight and spending money.
Benefits of the volunteer programs include assistance in finding accommodation, on the job training and the opportunity to create a custom project.
If you are ready to start traveling more but don't know how, signing up for one of these volunteer programs can be your entryway to the world.
Start out there, gain some confidence, network with others and see how far these experiences can take you both in your career and in your actual travels.