“Studying abroad can be one of the most nerve-wracking, exciting and rewarding experiences out there.
Adapting to a new culture, learning your way around a new city, and even learning a new language, are some of the challenges to be overcome. However, the rewards for combating these obstacles are great: the sense of pride and the new found self-confidence can be life-changing. Studying provides a fantastic entry into your life overseas, because it offers a supported environment in which to acclimatize and adapt. You are thrown into a novel environment, but the international student community and your chosen university can offer you more than just a base, but also a range of opportunities. Alongside this it can provide a sense of grounding and stability, and perhaps most importantly, a wealth of potential new friendships. Building close relationships with a diversity of people from around the world, who often have different backgrounds and customs from your own, instils the idea that you are a global citizen of the world. Suddenly, the world becomes smaller, and its people appear more connected and united.
For these reasons, it is understandable that many feel pangs of gloom upon their return home. This new life you have created for yourself suddenly seems out of reach, and your day-to-day life can seem to lack the excitement that living abroad provided. Luckily for you, that absence you are feeling now doesn’t have to last forever. There are plenty of opportunities to travel again and to recreate that authentic global experience. Ethical adventure trails are a fantastic way to travel; enabling you to reclaim that sense of adventure whilst being surrounded by a group of like-minded explorers. By including a period of volunteering during your travel, you get the chance to become an active international citizen and make a contribution to the global community. Trails generally involve being part of a group with a couple of trail leaders, and they often travel across more than one country, giving participants the opportunity to take in the sights and feel of an area.
As a graduate from the exclusive realm of study abroad, you are not a first time traveller, so you have gained the necessary confidence to be away from home for many weeks. This means that you probably won’t be concerned about moving between many different countries over a relatively short space of time. You are also likely to have gained a sense of adventure, and a compulsion to understand new cultures, people and places. Your experience abroad has prepared you well for adventure travel, and you will feel confident and assured embarking on your new venture of traveling and volunteering. You’ll have probably found as well that having a support network and a readymade set of friends can be an asset to your traveling experience, and allow you to get even more out of your time away.
Ethical trails allow you to involve yourself with the community by taking part in relevant and necessary volunteering projects. You could find yourself undertaking conservation surveys on an idyllic beach paradise, or teaching English in a local school for underprivileged children in Cambodia. If Central America is your chosen destination, you could find yourself exploring the legendary Mayan ruins and scuba diving in amazing Utila one day, then working on a wildlife conservation project in the rain forests of Costa Rica the next.
You are not just seeing the sights and getting a superficial understanding of the region; taking time to volunteer abroad allows you to spend time off the beaten track. An ethical
adventure trail allows you to become more connected to your chosen countries, so you can have a glimpse into the challenges of a place, rather than solely appreciating its immense beauty. Traveling as part of a trail gives you the comradeship of other volunteers, with the support of a well-travelled trail leader who acts as an organizer for the trip – whether it be recovering lost luggage, or dealing with emergencies, it is reassuring to know there is someone on hand to help. If you have a desire to volunteer but you also want to get a larger understanding of an area, then ethical adventure trails really are a joining point between the two.
So don’t be blue; the world is out there, with many doors open to you. Take the time to research what you want to do and where you want to go next. If you find an ethical adventure trail matches your aims, then why not give it a try? You could gain new skills, make new friends, give-back, and find a way of satisfying your insatiable travel bug.
Camilla James works as an Online Journalism Intern at Frontier, an international non-profit volunteering NGO that runs over 300 conservation, community, and adventure projects in 57 countries across the globe. She can be found blogging on Frontier’s Gap Year Blog or posting on the Frontier Official Facebook page. Tweet us your thoughts @FrontierGap.