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23 Październik 2015



By Katarzyna Majchrowicz-Dolińska

Greetings, young explorer! So, you feel the time has come for you to pack your bags and discover the world. Although travelling today is much safer and easier than when the Mayflower made its way across the ocean, still, going to far-away places requires making a lot of decisions. Many of you not only will be leaving your homes for longer for the first time, but you will also be leaving one more place you know very well – namely, your comfort zone. It is understandable, that if you are a first timer to volunteering abroad with limited experience in travelling - it might be pretty scary. But hey, if you are reading this, it means that the idea is pretty exciting and tempting too…So, you start thinking about this new venture. How should you go on? You might have heard of group travelling, and think that joining an organized group is a great idea. But on the other hand… you value your freedom and independence, and feel more comfortable when on your own. Oh, the decisions, what to do?? Take it easy, because we are here to help! So, let’s have a closer look at what are the differences of travelling in a group versus going on your own.

The pros

Going abroad on your own as a volunteer is alluring in many ways:

- You have the freedom to decide. You choose how you spend your free time, who you want to spend it with and how you will manage this whole experience. And this exact sense of freedom and no limitations is sometimes the magic ingredient that makes the whole adventure taste different.
- You do not have to adjust to others. If you are used to deciding about yourself and having things done your way, choosing to volunteer on your own might save you unnecessary stress, tension and problems.
- You are flexible. Changing your mind and plans in many cases will be quicker, easier and have less impact, as it will not affect the group you will be a part of.
- Spontaneous. It’s easier to be spontaneous and not to plan too far ahead, because you don’t need a group you have to discuss your ideas with in order to make joint decisions. You are your own boss.
- More time to yourself. If you really want to immerse in the culture, mingle with local people and contemplate the world around you, then it might be easier to reach these goals if you decide to go alone. You won’t have to manage anyone’s expectations but your own.

Traveling on your own sounds fun, but for a full picture, check out also what you might enjoy if you decide to go for group travel:

- Friends! As simple as that. Gather your own pack from home, or make new friendships. Who knows, maybe some of them will be long-lasting, and the bonds that you make will turn into something more? Besides, many people feel that having friends with whom you can share your experiences gives your life a whole new dimension. The question is, are you that kind of person?
- Instant companionship. If you choose to join a group, you don’t have to worry about travelling around the country on your own. You already have friends with whom you can embark on this adventure.
- Find support in hard times. Yes, you might encounter a more difficult day, find yourself in a bad mood. Having someone who shares your situation and understands you, with whom you can talk things over - may sometimes be priceless.
- Help. If you are part of a group with whom you live, work and which is in the same position as yourself, chances are they will be the first and quickest source you can turn to for help.
- More ideas. Situations like group volunteering sometimes create new opportunities. You meet people, with whom your paths would otherwise have never crossed. Some of them might totally surprise you and inspire. You might discover, that some people’s minds work differently than yours, generating ideas you would have never thought of yourselves. You have to admit, that it does sound exciting!
- You don’t have to do all the work. If you are part of group, some tasks will be organized for you, and you just have to give a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer or share your thoughts, which might take a great burden of some people’s shoulders. If you haven’t found a manager in you, having a group to share your responsibilities with might be relieving.

But if…

If this will be your first time travelling somewhere far away and for a longer time, you don’t have experience, and are not sure about many things, then consider going through our list of “10 things you should ask yourself before deciding on whether you should volunteer abroad on your own or in group” which will help you answer some questions:
1. Are you resilient to stress?
2. How quickly do you adapt?
3. Are you more an introvert or extravert?
4. How much do you depend on other people for comfort?
5. Are you a good organizer and manager?
6. Do you have initiative, and solving problems is nothing more than a challenge?
7. Do you find pleasure in melting in with local, sometimes very different cultures?
8. Do you like wandering and discovering the world on your own?
9. Do you often get lonely?
10. Do you get bored on your own?
The bottom line is you need to make this decision by yourself. Ask yourself what you want, what would make you feel comfortable and happy.

What else can we advise?

- Talk with volunteers who have been there and done that. You can find them on special dedicated to traveling as a volunteer forums and on Facebook.
- Make your own list of pros and cons basing on your character and expectations.
- Talk with family and friends who really know you. What would they advise you?
- Try and imagine different difficult situations. How would you feel? Would you prefer to handle them alone, or being part of an organized group would make you feel better?

We wish we could do more, but the truth is that you need to do your own research and find answers to those question to feel more confident and ready to face one of the greatest and most extraordinary experiences of your life!