“Safe travels!” This is a common way to wish someone well just before they embark on a trip.
But is it really necessary? Doesn’t wishing someone “safe travels” inherently imply that travel may not be safe?
It’s natural to have certain fears surrounding travel in general, and participating in volunteer projects abroad in specific. After all, you’ll be going to a foreign place, surrounded by a culture you’re not familiar with and people you don’t know, speaking a language you might not understand. These things can be scary, particularly for those who don’t travel very often.
But responsible travel can be perfectly safe with the right preparation, awareness and guidance from those who understand the place you’re visiting.
THE RISKS OF EVERYDAY LIFE
Consider the risks each of us routinely face in our day to day lives, like driving a car, crossing a busy street or falling down the stairs in our homes. From a statistical standpoint, we’re far more likely to fall victim to one of these accidents (or our own poor health-related decisions) than we are to experience any sort of dangerous incident while volunteering abroad.
As with any unfamiliar situation, it’s always important to be alert, aware of your surroundings and responsible to ensure one’s safety.
But, other than the need for some basic common sense (see: not ostentatiously flashing huge wads of cash or expensive technological devices in high-traffic, low-income areas), there’s rarely cause for heightened concern when we travel. In fact, a lot of the best recommended safety practices are the same ones you’d practice in any metro area in the United States or Europe.
COMMON FEARS RE: VOLUNTEER PROJECTS
Discover Corps is committed to providing safe and comfortable experiences for our volunteers. Read on as we address some of the most common safety concerns with volunteer projects abroad…
I’LL GET SICK!
It’s true that you could potentially get sick while traveling. But you could also get sick in the comfort of your own home.
Travel does come with some inherent health risks, but most of them are more manageable than you might think. Many of us try to do it all when we travel, desperate to soak up every possible experience. We push ourselves to the limit, and often don’t get enough rest. This combination can lead to exhaustion, dehydration and a lowered immune system. But travelers who remember to take care of themselves on the road are likely to enjoy happy, healthy trips.
Additionally, the options for travel insurance are expansive these days. You can be covered for everything from a mild illness to a life-threatening injury (which, again, is much more likely to happen at home). Discover Corps even has health insurance to offer our volunteers. We make sure you’re in good hands, no matter where you’re heading.
I’LL GET LOST!
Let’s face it, there’s even odds that you will get lost. Even those travelers who pride themselves on a hearty sense of direction will at some point be confused by the street signs and traffic patterns of a foreign city. But getting lost in new places can also be a big part of the fun, encouraging you to explore your surrounding with eyes wide open!
Getting lost is how you often stumble upon a tiny cafe that wasn’t mentioned in the guidebook. It’s what forces you to consult your language dictionary and ask for directions from a local, which can lead to great suggestions you’d otherwise never know about. And it’s what prompts you to find your own way in a new place.
Discover Corps hosts are always on hand to help you navigate new cities and towns. You’ll always be provided with the maps and directions you need to safely explore your new surroundings. But who knows? Maybe once you’re comfortable, you’ll actively want to leave that map at home!
DEVELOPING COUNTRIES AREN’T SAFE!
Developing countries are sometimes plagued by more crime than the places our volunteer travelers call home. This occasionally happens when tourism develops quickly in a place where poverty is prevalent. The opportunity for petty crime opens up considerably when valuables are out in the open in a place whose inhabitants have significantly less wealth than most travelers.
But there are simple precautions that can be taken to avoid common petty crimes, like pick-pocketing and theft. Leaving valuables in the safety of your accommodation, being discrete with payments and the handling of money, and asking locals for advice on where to go and where to avoid will all help you stay safe in developing countries.
Our Discover Corps hosts are all intimately tied to the places where they work. And they’re always on hand to offer advice and assistance to our volunteers.
The important thing is to educate yourself on your destination prior to visiting, and understand what types of risks you may face in this destination. Whether it’s immunizations to avoid illness or precautions with valuables to avoid theft, we can all take steps to improve our safety while traveling and working on volunteer projects abroad.
Should you ever have any doubts about your safety, we’re happy to answer questions and offer our expert advice on the locations our volunteer trips travel to. We here at Discover Corps are committed to your safety, and we’re confident that all of our volunteer travelers will feel safe and comfortable while doing great things for the places they visit!