But what if you want your next trip to have a bit more purpose and meaning? No one can deny that visiting tourist destinations and gorging yourself on fancy dinners can be an exhilarating experience. However, when you are a tourist, you are often more concerned about squeezing in as much as possible in as little time as possible.
You only skim the surface.
To make your next international adventure more meaningful, you not only want to become more immersed in a foreign culture, but you want your reason for going abroad to be more substantive. You’re not looking for royal treatment at an all-expenses paid, five-star resort where your pillows are fluffed on a daily basis.
Instead, you want to experience the true essence of a place. You are determined to be more than just an out-of-place, nervous-looking foreigner…but how?
Giving back to others who are less fortunate than yourself is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Whether you choose to teach at a local school, use your brawn to help with building efforts or care for endangered animals, offering your time, skills and compassion is always appreciated.
If volunteering is your main reason for heading abroad, decide whether you want to have an organization coordinate your trip or if you prefer to find your own volunteer opportunities once you arrive. Orphanages, schools and health care centers are just a few of the places that are always eager to accept volunteers willing to help where needed.
In today’s interconnected world, you don’t need to be a science or math teacher to end up at the front of the class. Fortunately, bi-lingual and multi-lingual language abilities are encouraged around the world. And, who better to teach a language course than a native speaker?
For many native English speakers, teaching abroad is a golden ticket. A 4-week TEFL, TESOL or CELTA course provides you with a certification that enables you to teach in nearly any country. While some countries (specifically in Europe) prefer British-English over U.S.-English, there are generally a broad range of opportunities for anyone willing to do a little research.
If you’re interested in settling in a place for a significant period of time, housesitting might be the perfect opportunity to save some money and become a part of the local community. Housesitters often purchase an annual membership to a housesitting website where homeowners can search through the directories or place a listing to find an appropriate housesitter.
Housesitting gigs can range from a few weeks to several months. And, while some homeowners request that you simply look after their home, others look for house AND pet sitters. If you’re not an animal person, steer clear of the these types of listings!
Of course by now you’re familiar with the typical university study abroad programs, but “study abroad” is not limited to only undergrad students or those seeking advanced degrees. One of the most educational experiences you can have abroad is by enrolling in a language course. Go for one month and you’ll be amazed by how quickly you learn the local lingo.
Educational opportunities throughout the world are limitless. Study Bickram yoga in India, Buddhism in Thailand, winemaking in France or art history in Italy.
If you had a money tree in your backyard you’d be able to travel abroad to whenever you wanted. Unfortunately, funding your travel experiences isn’t quite as easy as picking $100 bills from a tree. Most of us need to work just to pay for basic necessities.
Working abroad, however, gives you the opportunity to do something you enjoy while living in a foreign locale. Professionals can often find jobs for large companies abroad while those with more adventurous spirits can work as tour guides during the summer months. Depending on where your paycheck comes from, there can be some barriers, such as work visas, that can hold up the process. But fortunately, work options are vast!
You’re next excursion can be more than just another photo-op in front of ancient ruins and sandy beaches. Make it really count.
Have you done any of the above? Tell us about it in the comments section below.