Terri Wingham's RTW Volunteer Adventure
When was the last time you put off writing an essay or typing a proposal so you could surf travel websites and daydream about leaving the stresses of your real life behind? If you had the chance to see the world, where would you go? Would you climb the red sand dunes of Sossusvlei in Namibia? Sip a glass of Bourdeaux in a cafe in Paris? Or, volunteer to teach English at an underfunded school in Costa Rica?
As I write these words, I am breathing in stale air, listening to the drone of engines, and hanging somewhere between Vancouver and Hong Kong. Two years ago, I could not have imagined I would ever set off for a six-month volunteer trip around the world. But, a single moment changed everything. One moment, three little words, and in October of 2009, I became a 30 year old with breast cancer.
For 18 months, I barely got off the couch and the idea that I would ever travel again felt like an idealistic dream. But, here we are - 34,000 feet in the air. To read more about how a volunteer trip to Africa helped heal me from cancer and led to a dream of traveling around the world and volunteering on almost every continent, come check out My Adventure of Hope.
Who knew that entering the Leave A Review contest on this site about my experience volunteering with Cross Cultural Solutions in Cape Town would land me a generous flight subsidy and the support of the tireless and dedicated Go Overseas team.
For the next six months, I feel lucky to have this little slot to share some of the highs and lows of life on the volunteer road. To kick things off, here are a few tips for putting together a trip around the world in six weeks or less. (I know call me crazy).
- Find yourself a great travel agent to help you with flights and routing. Whether you use AirTreks or a personal Flight Centre Travel Agent like I did, you need someone who has your back and will get you the best deal and the best route for your money.
- If you are trying to decide between a backpack or a rolling duffle, borrow each from a friend and do a trial pack. For any other breast cancer survivors out there - a little note - a rolling duffle is a helluva lot less painful post surgery!
- Before you depart, take 15 minutes and come up with an Emergency plan for if your daypack/shoulder bag gets stolen. Email yourself copies of all of your critical documents and make sure you have contact numbers for all of your credit cards. Consider stashing an emergency credit card and a little cash in your bigger bag. Big Thanks to Melanie at ProWorld for this great tip
- Drink a lot of coffee because putting together a trip of this magnitude in such a short amount of time means you will sacrifice on sleep in a big way.
- Double check the visa requirements for every country you are visiting. By the time you read this, I will have spent three days stranded in Hong Kong because I trusted a website that told me I could buy my Vietnam Visa on entry into the country.
- Make sure you have travel insurance from the day you depart until the day you return home. If you are volunteering, Volunteer Card is a great option and has great rates for fellow humanitarians.
- Build in a contingency fund for emergencies like getting stranded in a city where the hotel costs are sky high.
Stay tuned for tips on volunteering in Vietnam, India, Rwanda, Spain, Peru, and Costa Rica. If you want to hear the stories about the good, the bad, and the ugly, like My First Travel Fiasco & It's Only Been 24 Hours, come visit me at A Fresh Chapter.
Remember to visit Terry's website, A Fresh Chapter, to follow regular updates from her adventures abroad. You can also follow Terry on Facebook and Twitter!