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Volunteer & Travel Around the World for Less than you Think (even for Free)
2012/08/27
By : Nora Dunn
I received this email from a reader, who - like many these days - has lost her job and come upon difficult financial times:

"...in order to survive, I have to either lease or sell my house of 10 years. I think I will take this opportunity to lease it out and travel for a year. My plan is to travel a few weeks out of each month, and volunteer for local charities the rest of the time. But how do I do it without going broke along the way?"

First off, congratulations!

Congratulations on taking a bad situation (ie: the poor current economy, and the financial fall-out and massive job cutbacks that go along with it) and finding a silver lining. What a fantastic opportunity you have to travel!

As for keeping your costs low, you have come to the right place. Here are some ways you can travel and volunteer around the world for way less money than you think:

Volunteering For Less (even Free)
Finding a volunteer project that you can sink your teeth into that won't in turn sink its teeth into your wallet can be difficult at first blush. Perform a basic search for volunteer travel opportunities, and you'll be flooded with a variety of organizations that charge up to thousands of dollars per week for the privilege of accepting your hard labor and time. Throw on top of it all a sense that maybe this trip is more for the volunteer's benefit than it is for the locals and beneficiaries, and the whole idea can put a bad taste in your mouth before you even leave home.

But it doesn't have to be this way! Here are a few organizations that will help you find an inexpensive and rewarding volunteer experience:

Continental Divide Trail Alliance Folks have been working (rather, volunteering) hard to build this trail that runs along the continental divide from Canada to Mexico. Although trail building is generally tough work, there are positions for many types of crew members, and the cost is minimal. If you like camping and enjoy the backcountry, this is the volunteer gig for you.

Conservation Connect If you are in the neighborhood of Australia or New Zealand, here is an inexpensive volunteer organization that offers various volunteer opportunities depending on your skills and desires. Volunteering for the day is free (and includes transportation from the designated meeting place; just bring a lunch), and longer-term projects require you to pay for your room, board, and incidentals to the tune of $200/week. At a fraction of the cost of most volunteer tourism projects - and less than you could live on at home - it is a great way to volunteer for less.

Create Your Own If you really want to save money, create your own volunteer opportunity! I met a few German girls who were traveling the world doing just that. Once they arrived in a city and booked their accommodation, they set to calling local organizations who might accept their assistance: orphanages, nursing homes, refugee centers, and the like. They attested to how rewarding their work was with their bright smiles and high energy.

Short-Term Accommodation for Less (even Free)
Not having to pay for accommodation will stretch your travel dollar significantly. And the best way to get free accommodation is to take advantage of the numerous hospitality exchange programs available. You can browse these exchanges (membership is usually free), search profiles, and find a host whose personality and interests are compatible with yours. Touch base to see if they are available to host you, and you're off to the races.
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