It’s that time of year when the bees are buzzing, the birds become vocal far earlier in the mornings, and the flowers are starting to bloom abundantly as Spring gains it’s foothold a little later than usual. A new season of growth, changes and opportunities lie ahead, and speaking of changes …
The ever ethereal “they” say that a change is as good as a holiday, and if your idea of a fun holiday is learning new skills as you travel, then you should be aware of the many wonderful opportunities for both matriculant’s and (young) adults.
Taking a gap year – where you travel and work – is a great option for those who don’t know what they want to study yet, and a break from the hum-drum norm for those who have been studying, or working.
Some of the many benefits include:
- Getting to be a traveller and not a tourist.
- Learning about a new culture.
- Gaining new skills and a variety of work experiences.
- Improving your resume.
There are a lot of programs on offer, but always do further research on the company you choose to use, so you don’t end up with an agency who’ll take your money and vanish into the night. If you are accepted into a work program, ensure you read the fine print, and are aware of how long you will be staying, (if it’s only one season, or a whole year).
It’s important to note that most programs require applicants to submit to a drug test, medical examination, and for females, a pregnancy test. To get rid of some of the stress of searching for a reliable company, below are a few established work and volunteer programs:
- If you’ve ever thought of running away and joining the circus, then this is the next best thing. Away2xplore specialises in placing applicants in various carnivals across America. The prospective employers will pay for your return air ticket and work permit. Furthermore, they’ll even pay for your travel expenses in the United States. If you’re accepted, all you need to do is get a passport, a visa, and then you’re well on your way to start earning dollars. http://www.away2xplore.co.za.
- Speaking from personal experience, I can recommend Workaway International as a reputable and reliable agency, placing South Africans in various positions at country clubs in America. You will need to have a valid passport, and attend the briefing session so you are aware of what you’re signing up for. After, you will be informed when interviews will be taking place, and if you’re lucky enough to be chosen after the interviews, all you need to do is apply for your visa, go for a medical exam, and once that’s out the way, they’ll sort out everything in between. http://www.workaway.com.
- The Chennels family have been actively involved with volunteering for over 30 years. Based in Eshowe, Zululand, they offer you a choice of working with either children in local schools, assisting with a community upliftment project, or helping out in the skills centre. They also give you the flexibility to move from project to project to on a weekly basis. Find out more: http://www.chennellsvolunteerprojects.com.
- At Work Travel S.A, all of the volunteer projects are aimed at giving back to local communities. They offer a variety of volunteer work, such as working with orphans, wildlife, marine life, and getting involved with community projects. They also have an internship program in the hospitality industry. Find out more information by visiting their website: http://worktravelsa.org.
- If what you’re looking for is just the travel experience, and no monetary compensation, then consider Workaway.info. The aim of this agency is to introduce working travellers to like-minded hosts, without having to pay expensive agency fees. By doing volunteer work for only a few hours a day, in exchange for food and accommodation, you have the opportunity to learn about the local lifestyle and community. Choose which continent and city appeals to you, and then pick work that you’ll enjoy, from painting to planting, shopping to shearing, and building to babysitting. A small joining fee is required to access their world wide database of hosts. www.workaway.info.
I speak from experience when I say that travelling opens your eyes and gives you a chance to learn more about the world around you. It is a gift to be able to immerse yourself in a new culture, live a different lifestyle, and meet many wonderful people. When you return home (be it two weeks, six months or only after many years of travel), you’ll find that you’ve grown a great deal – and often have a plethora of great anedotes and stories – and some amazing new friends.
Keeping that old saying in mind, “You need to walk a mile in someones shoes to understand them”, I say just start moving forward, and enjoy the journey. Let us know your experiences, if you’ve ever done local volunteer work, or gone abroad to earn dollars, pounds, rubles or yen. Feel free to add any agencies you’ve used in the past, and remember, no matter where you go or what you do, take some time out to relax, look around and memorise every moment.
Main image credited to Nicki Varkevisser (Flickr)