Am I better suited to volunteering or working on my gap year?

It can sometimes be tricky to decide whether to embark on volunteering or paid work abroad. On one hand, you want to give something back to the countries you visit, while on the other money might be tight, and so paid work would enable you to see more of the world.

Elephant Volunteering

There’s no right or wrong answer. It simply all depends on your finances, current situation and what your biggest travelling goals are. Giving your time for free is fantastic, while so is deciding to stay in your favourite country and getting a job.

Below are some of the things I took into consideration when deciding what to do.

Do I have time to volunteer?

Like I said, I only had a few months to get myself across the globe, so while volunteering is definitely something I’d love to do, I just didn’t have the time to stay in one place for very long. If you’ve got savings to support yourself and aren’t in a particular rush, volunteering is hugely rewarding. From feeding lion cubs in South Africa to teaching Argentinean children English, you’ll find a project that’s right up your street.

If you’re lucky enough to have a year free (or perhaps you’re happy to stay away even longer!), there’s nothing stopping you volunteering before settling down and finding a permanent job.

Can I support myself?

I’d planned my travelling adventure for months, so I’d been busy saving so I could finally get on that plane! This meant I didn’t need to work while I was abroad (not that I had the time), but if I’d taken the plunge and gone for longer, I would certainly have needed a budget boost. I think paid work abroad can be fantastic. You earn cash to see the sights, make new friends who’ll hopefully become your travelling buddies and come home with an amazing addition for your CV. If I’d had no commitments back home, I might have even been tempted to work for more than a year. In Australia, for example, you can complete a year’s work, doing jobs such as fruit picking, and then you’re able to apply for a second-year visa.

What were my commitments back home?

I travelled with my partner, and I must admit when lying on a beach in Thailand I thought I could get used to this for the long term. However, we both had work and family commitments, which meant extending our round-the-world trip was out of the question. You might not have anything like this, so securing paid work would mean you can stay abroad for a fairly long time, supporting yourself to cover travel, food and accommodation costs. If you do decide to stay away for a lengthy period of time, it’s a good idea to join up with people in the same position and maybe get a flat or apartment, as it can be cheaper and more convenient then staying at a hostel every night.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this guest post I’ve given you an idea of which would be best for you. Let me know what you decided to do and why.

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