Everyone has a different reason for travel, whether you're traveling with friends, a significant other, with family or for work. Traveling means the world to me (sometimes I wish I had a cheaper pastime) and I couldn't imagine life without it. However, during my winter break in my senior year of college, I decided to embark on a different type of trip...a service trip! If traveling for a service project is always something you wanted to do or plan on doing in the future check out these 5 tips listed below.
Find a Service Group Florida State Alternative Breaks sends students out to serve in diverse communities across the country and around the world during spring and other breaks. Alternative Breakers understand the root causes of social issues and work alongside community members to identify and address issues in their community. The first thing you should do to plan a successful service trip is find the right program. I ended up traveling with Florida State University Alternative Breaks.
FSU coordinates week long service trips during Spring Breaks, Summer Breaks and Winter Breaks. I opted for the winter break trip, (I loved Spring Break way too much) which happened to be one week before Christmas. The timing was perfect! The good thing about going with a service group is that everything is already organized for you. You won’t have to worry about choosing travel dates, the location or what to do once you arrive. Here are a few travel service groups to get you started, Projects Abroad, Global Volunteers, Rustic Pathways, the Peace Corps or United Nations Volunteers. Another option is to plan your own service trip with your religious group, group of friends, sorority or fraternity.
Select the City or Country You Desire
In addition to choosing a service project near to your heart, make sure to select a city or country that you really want to visit. Of course the service project takes priority but if you’re able to volunteer in a city you’ve being dreaming to visit, I say go for it! During my service trip planning phase a few U.S. cities popped (most were in the mid-west) that I wasn’t interested in. My service trip ended up taking place in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was my first time in the Big Easy and I was ecstatic. Although, the reason for my visit was disheartening, it was nice to spend my down time in a city with so much culture. New Orleans was a city I was dying to visit. So if you have your heart set on a trip to South Africa or India this could be the perfect experience for you.
Budget for Your Service Trip
I’ll be honest with you; it is very unlikely that you will find a service trip that is free. During my service trip to New Orleans I had to budget for the program fee, room & board, food and activities. My program fee was approximately $300 (this included food) and I brought an extra $200 for spending money and a credit card for any emergencies. Before you plan your service trip make sure you know the exact amount of program fee and any additional fees that need to be covered like transportation, uniforms or materials needed to complete the service project.
Be Flexible & Open-Minded
Lastly, keep in mind the reason you decided to plan this service trip in the first place. Without a doubt I know that challenges may come up but you can’t get discouraged. Be flexible and open-minded for last minute changes, disorganization or even a shift in your job duty. Always remember the chance to give back is an opportunity to share your skills and knowledge.