No matter how old you are, travel is one of the best ways to expand your horizons and enrich your life. Embracing another country’s culture, customs and cuisine whilst learning about your destination of choice is just as important as climbing that mountain to watch the sun come up, or relaxing on powder-white shores. Want to enrich not only your own life but also the lives of the local community during your trip? If that sounds like an attractive and fulfilling idea, then a volunteering holiday could be for you.
We are all familiar with the gap year volunteering programmes that offer young people the chance to take part in wildlife conservation, work with children or help build schools, but there are also plenty of opportunities for those aged 50 plus who might be looking for a worthwhile new way to spend their time abroad.
Some people choose to take a volunteering holiday to learn new skills, help others or cross some challenges off their bucket list; but at the heart is the urge to make a difference in the world. Those over the age of 50 who might be retired but have useful skills that could be put to good use might wish to share their specialist knowledge with communities in need and do something that could change the lives of disadvantaged people.
Additionally, you might find there is something special about the type of people drawn to giving up their time, money and effort to help those in need. You could make meaningful, lasting friendships with people from all over the world as well as getting to know the culture of the country your project is based in on a level beyond that which you are likely to achieve on a simple holiday in the sun.
Volunteering holidays have come under fire in the past for promoting projects that are not sustainable and that are more focused on attracting tourists than helping the host community in the long run. Unethical projects can actually increase problems in certain areas, such as taking work away from local people. However, this isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of ethical organisations out there that are focused on real collaboration with communities in need, putting volunteers to excellent use to implement true and lasting change.
Do your research carefully – find out the exact breakdown of where the money you’re spending will go, ask for evidence of how previous volunteer work has made a difference as well as the goals of the current projects and try to get a feel for how the organisation interacts and works with the host community.
When you believe you have found a reputable organisation, that’s where the fun begins! Volunteering holidays for the over 50s take place all over the world. You could travel to Africa, Asia, Latin America, Australiasia or stay closer to home and choose somewhere in Europe. The best thing about a volunteering holiday is that it really offers something for everyone. Whether it’s wildlife conservation, environmental awareness, health care or working with street children that interests you, you’ll be able to find a trip that suits your passion and your skills.
Although qualified professionals such as doctors, nurses, dentists and physiotherapists will always be in great demand, over 50s volunteering organisations offer a wide variety of projects. A quick glance at GVI’s website reveals experiences as diverse as volunteering at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand or providing teaching assistance to novice monks in Laos.
Once you have booked your volunteering holiday, remember to purchase the right travel insurance for your trip. Remember that the sort of activities you might participate in can affect your insurance policy, so always check with your provider if you are unsure if you’ll be covered. Fortunately, Medical Travel Compared can help you out by offering access to a wide range of insurers, many of which provide cover for those with pre-existing medical conditions. Use our handy comparison tool to narrow down your search and head off on your volunteering holiday with peace of mind.