How many of us have helped our intrepid 18 year olds to get ready to head off on a gap year or an amazing summer of travel and adventure? How many of us have thought, why didn’t I do this?
It’s time to change that question to be:
Why haven’t I done this yet?
What can I do?
For years, gap years have offered students the opportunity to explore the world, to volunteer on some life changing missions and to meet like minded people from all walks of life. In recent times however, people of all ages have started embracing the idea of a gap year and made it work for them. From those taking a career break to those launching into retirement with a bang, to those taking a worthwhile holiday with a difference – move over kids, it’s time for us to move in.
It might be unhelpful to tell you that the world is your oyster, but it is. You can do pretty much anything (within reason and the limitations of the law), and the choice that you make will be guided entirely by your passions – and for this reason, many people turn to volunteer travel.
Volunteer travel is an immensely beneficial way to see the world and can be done for durations as short as a week to up to several months. Volunteering is a great way to travel at all ages and for all manner of people, so be prepared to come away with a very rich experience.
Where do I start?
Here are a few options to consider:
- Volunteer with bears in Romania: this is a fantastic “starter” volunteering holiday option, as it is not a million miles away, it is easy to get there and the way of life, whilst different, still feels very European. Volunteers care for over 100 bears at a beautiful sanctuary near the medieval city of Brasov, with the opportunity to do some exploring at the weekend too.
- Volunteer with elephants in South Africa: whilst admittedly quite a bit further afield, South Africa is an appealing destination because English is widely spoken and there are some elements of life as we know it – but not too many. Visiting Africa is a dream for many, and to care for rescued elephants is beyond many people’s wildest of dreams.
- Women’s empowerment volunteering in Laos: this project speaks to many women, as it helps to give vulnerable women strength and a voice. You will meet girls who have tragically been victims of trafficking or abuse, and this programme helps them to rebuild their lives. Yes, it’s emotionally challenging, but the rewards are huge for all involved.
Can I volunteer as part of a group?
Many volunteer projects overseas are done on an individual basis, with solo travellers arriving frequently to help get the work done. There are opportunities however where you can join a group of like minded people of a similar age on a specially designed project.
One such upcoming opportunity is to join an over 40s volunteering trip to a Big 5 game reserve in South Africa. This trip is accompanied by a cheerful and experienced companion who will be there for you every step of the way. It is a great opportunity for those who would love to do a safari, but make a genuine contribution at the same time. Highlights include:
- Enjoying safaris at night time, dawn and dusk to see different animal activities
- Helping with game counts, monitoring, tracking and more to learn more about the animals’ behaviour
- Clearing vegetation, planting trees and preventing erosion
- Visiting a local school to take part in a feeding scheme
- Learning from local people, not just about the animals, but about their way of life
This trip takes place from 3rd – 10th February 2020. It is run by Oyster Worldwide, who schedule 1 – 2 trips each year for over 40s. If you would like to learn more and be kept in the loop about future trips, please contact Anne on firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0) 1892 771 975.