Where & How to Volunteer Abroad?

Hey guys – It’s again YOUR TURN to give ME some advice!

As you all know, I love to travel. I haven’t explored much of the world yet, but so badly yearn to! Most of the places I have been are the usual ‘touristy’ Caribbean areas. You know – the all-inclusive, snorkeling extravaganzas.

I want to change that up. I have always, ALWAYS wanted to volunteer abroad, but I’ve never built up the courage to do so. It’s so much easier to spend money *that I don’t have* on trips with friends or my significant other to drink and lounge somewhere tropical. But I want to be immersed in the cultures and learn from the native people as I bring whatever skills I can to help them. I want to make what little or large difference I can. I want to be out of my comfort zone a bit. I want to literally be halfway around the world. Problem is – I have no idea where to begin! Most programs I keep looking at are insanely expensive!

For example, Cross-Cultural Solutions STARTS at $2,500 for one week and no airfare included. But reviews say it’s an amazing program. The Peace Corps is ‘free’, but it’s a two year commitment. I want something that’s affordable, but safe. I want to have guidance and someone to lean on in a country that’s across the world. At least until I build up a bit more confidence to travel completely ALONE!

Have any of you volunteered abroad? What program did you use? Length? Cost? Pros? Cons?

And how did you fund it, if I may ask? Are there any good programs to raise money?

I’m using my ‘business’ as a start to save and pay off debts, but there’s no way that will cut it anytime soon!

I’m wander-lusting hard, guys.

30K in debt makes it a bit harder.


There are 6 comments

  1. 29andbr0ke

    Hey girl! I love your blog, btw. Giving you some tough love here: don’t travel internationally when you’re in debt. Chances are you won’t be able to afford any major emergency, getting stuck there for a week or two, medical bills abroad., etc. There are just too many things that can happen and WILL happen. There’s also the reality that even if you raise X number of dollars, you’re always going to want / need more as a back up.

    Also, what would Dave Ramsey say if you called him? He’d tell you you’re out of your mind, lol. I’ve got a severe case of wanderlust too, but I’m waiting it out. If you’re paying off your debt aggressively, you won’t have to wait longer than a few years, depending on your plan. What about satisfying your wanderlust by taking an inexpensive trip here in the US? Drive to Niagara falls, see the Grand Canyon, etc? You can find volunteer opportunities everywhere, no need to go abroad. Good luck 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Renee

      I know I know, I reluctantly agree haha…. It’s hard when your heart is saying ‘GOOOOO EXPLORE’ and your mind is saying ‘Wait until debt is paid off.’ It would give me much more freedom without the crushing financial load following me around – and like you stated, give a better security blanket for when those emergencies and mishaps happen. And I know you’re right – there are tons of places in the U.S I haven’t seen or explored, and plenty of opportunities to help the people here! I’ve just always wanted to see Africa, Europe, etc – and can’t shake the feeling of ‘Well what if I die tomorrow and never did it?’ But I think that’s just my impatient side 😉

      Thanks for your advice!!



    2. Adam

      I agree with 29andbroke. Both my wife and I are world travelers and wanderlust is a appropriate adjective to describe us. Right before we were married my wife spent a month traveling Europe and Australia. She came sliding into marriage flat broke. Spent every cent she had on those trips. She wasn’t in debt though. I was. So, when we got married that changed. WE were in debt. Travel was sparse. So too was food and fun for the first 2 1/2 years of our marriage while I finished running up debt (grad school) then we worked to pay if all off. Now, out of debt, loaded emergency fund and investing in our retirement, we travel all the time…on cash. In the past two years we’ve wandered the streets of Vienna, biked along the Danube, hiked the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland, snorkeled,gone shark fishing, grilled fresh Mahi Mahi we caught earlier in the day in the Abacos (Bahamas). We’ve traveled to Denver, Phoenix, Nashville, Chicago, St. Louis, Tampa, Dallas and Austin. And this summer we’re heading to London, Brussels and Amsterdam for a bit. We’ve saved monthly for it and have a budget set for each stop. Traveling is a blast especially when paying cash. Use a goal of travel as motivation for your debt pay off. Motivation to remedy any income shortages and double down on your debt snowball.

      There are far too many surprises when traveling to do so on debt. Accidentally leave your cell phone on like my dad did and end up with a $1500 cell phone bill. Miss a train and have to stay an extra night in a city unplanned and lose the night you paid in another city. Learn the currency exchange rate the hard way after you get back from your trip and find that British pounds are not cheap. Travel when in debt and those things are incredibly stressful not only while there, but even more when you get back. When out of debt, they’re definitely annoying, but not nearly as life altering.

      Here’s an idea that goes along with 29andbroke: you live in Michigan, right? If you want to get a feel of a foreign country and not break the bank, head to Quebec. You can drive there which is exponentially cheaper than flying international. You can see Toronto on the way. Montreal is a beautiful city and I’ve heard great things about Ottawa as well. You can learn a lot on trip advisor about both.

      I’ve spent a good bit of time across Africa, but always with mission organizations. Churches often have international volunteer opportunities. Many other international aid organizations will as well. Both will usually provide some insight on fundraising. Gofundme is also something a lot of folks use to raise money for these type of trips. If you can get involved in an organization and raise all the funds to go on a trip then technically you’re doing it debt free and not using any cash to do it. The challenge is, would it take away from your focus and effort to pay down your debt? Would you be asking for money from family for holidays that they could give you to pay off debt. These are NOT easy decisions nor are they fun. But an “easy” decision for me was to run up a load of student debt for grad school rather than not go or save up and pay cash. That “easy” decision cost us a few years of fun. I deserved those two years of difficult disciplined. By taking on debt I earned the hard reality of paying it off. It was worth the short term sacrifice. I promise!

      That was a really long rant to agree with 29andbroke. Sorry.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Renee

        No don’t be sorry – thank you! I agree with both you and 29andbroke. It would be exponentially harder to travel while in debt and have no emergency funds. It’s just hard to tame your heart! If we work hard and keep reducing debt, it shouldn’t take too terribly long to pay it off – and I too deserve a few years of hard work and discipline to demolish my debt before taking on world traveling. Using my yearning to travel as a motivation for debt payoff will make it seem less….tedious? Dreadful? I hope one day to be as well traveled as you! SO jealous of your summer plans.. perhaps post pictures and stories and I can live vicariously through you!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. 29andbr0ke

    To add to the discussion – I spent a lot of time in my early and mid-20’s trying to satisfy my wanderlust. When you’re young, you usually can’t satisfy it. You just want the next thing, the next place, the next experience. I’m more settled down now, and I still yearn to get back out there. But now that I’ll be 31, I look back on those experiences and realize that while they were great experiences, I didn’t learn as much from them as I’m learning now trying to stabilize and be content. Contentment is my life’s greatest challenge and patience is the number one thing that helps you learn to be content in the moment. My 20’s were a blur – I was never content. Travel didn’t make me happy to my core. Just to keep it in perspective as I know you’re struggling with wanting to travel! And I TOTALLY agree that Canada is a gem!

    Liked by 1 person

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