Mission Trips and Volunteer Travel; is It Right for You
Mission trips and volunteer travel can be life changing for all involved. Any trip should be carefully considered and all of the pros and cons need to be considered. Here are just a few considerations to think about before committing to mission trips or any other type of volunteer travel.
Choosing between domestic or international
Mission trips that take place overseas are perfect for some people but others can find themselves wishing for more familiar ground.
Does the idea of being exposed to different foods, languages and customs excite you or fill you with dread? Do you have (or can you obtain) a valid passport or travel papers? Vaccinations are required for travel to certain countries. Are you phobic about having shots or do you have health risks that might prevent you from traveling overseas? If you answered 'yes' to any of these, then domestic mission trips may be for you.
Similarly, does the thought of a different culture make you want to call the airlines? Are you looking for an immersion experience that introduces you to a country and its people? Is your passport valid or still smoking from your last trip? If so, then international travel may be right for you.
No matter where you travel, the reputation of the organization or company that you are traveling with should be sterling. Ask around and compare reviews online. It pays to do research before you leave. If there is any doubt about the reputation of the organization, skip it and look elsewhere.
Team leadership plays a vital role. Some organizations and mission trips require leadership to have special training or certification and others don't. The leader is responsible for keeping records or seeing that they are kept in an appropriate manner. He or she will need to be able to convey information to team members, assign duties and have the ability to handle an emergency if it should arise.
Participants deserve to have trip leadership that they can count on. Dependable leadership should be non-negotiable on mission trips or with any other organization that arranges volunteer travel.
Check the fine print on any applicable insurance policies. Health insurance coverage may not pay for health issues outside of the country. In-network physicians may be difficult to locate in a different part of the country.
For these reasons and more, supplemental policies and special insurance papers may be required. Participants may be required to purchase a missions trip or volunteer insurance policy from the organization. Standard trip insurance may also be warranted. Trip leaders may provide this information but it can be helpful to do your own research.
Volunteer travel and missions trips may have accommodations that are very different from home. Participants may be required to bring linens, share a room or sleep on the floor. Privacy may be limited. This can be an important consideration when deciding if a missions trip is right for you.
Deciding what you can afford is always a consideration. Missions work sites are usually in very poor areas. Participants may be asked to help pay for materials, food and lodging. This is in addition to airfare, transfers and any other travel related expenses. As with any type of travel, the expensive can vary widely. Knowing what you can afford (or reasonably fundraise) will impact the type and location of any missions trip or travel experience that you undertake.
Can you be self-sufficient? No one will be there to carry your bags. In fact, mission trips and volunteer travel are quite the opposite. Participants are expected to pull their own weight and then some. These are not sightseeing vacations (although you may be able to do some exploring.) There is work to be done and as a volunteer, you are there to do it. If you are not up to the challenge it may be best to consider if mission trips are right for you.