Passport Safety Tips While Traveling

January 24th, 2017 Comments off

Having a passport is a wonderful thing. With it, you have access to thousands of incredible destinations around the globe. Without it, you’re stuck at home.

Whether your passport is stolen, misplaced, or wrecked, having to replace it while abroad is ridiculously stressful, and something which can really throw a spanner in your trip. Replacing it means traveling to your nearest consulate or embassy, and in some parts of the world these buildings might be in another country. Check-mate. Best ways to keep your passport safe.

So it’s important to keep it safe at all times. It’s a small document, but ever so crucial, and whether it’s before, during, or after your travels, you should treat it as if it’s gold. The following are tips for keeping your passport safe, as well as other important passport info.

How to Keep Your Passport Safe While Traveling

Make Copies

Regardless of whether you’re traveling for a year, a month, or a day, you should always make multiple copies of your passport (you only need to photocopy the information page with your photo and name on it).

Place a photocopy in each piece of luggage, keeping them hidden, and leave an extra copy at home. Be sure to scan and keep an electronic copy too (email it to yourself or store in a password protected file on your computer).

Having a paper photocopy will help with the process of getting it replaced, and act as your identification should it be stolen or misplaced. If you want to go the extra mile, you can always have these photocopies certified (there is usually a fee involved with this). What happens if my passport gets wet?

Pro Tip: It’s not a bad idea to travel with an set of extra passport photos in the unlikely event that you have to replace it. You can usually obtain these from a local post office or grocery store.

Protect it from the Weather

If your travels include drastic changes in climate, buy a passport protector, and store it in a room which is as climate controlled as possible. If you’re traveling with it stored in your bag, make sure you have some form of waterproof cover.

A recent trip to Costa Rica ended with my passport in a bowl of rice in an attempt to dry it out as much as possible (rice absorbs moisture). After two weeks of exposure to extreme humidity, the whole passport became damp; ink ran and stamps became blurry, with some sticking to the other page.

The information page remained intact, and I was fortunately still able to travel on it. Albeit stern lectures from immigration officials about the importance of taking care of my documents. Is it worth buying a passport cover?

Note that storing it somewhere climate controlled is also important when you’re at home. If you find that your passport is damaged before your trip, don’t stress, you can look into getting it expedited.

Pro Tip: The Kyza Travel Wallet is a great way to protect your passport. Made from genuine leather it comes with 2 wallets; an outer wallet for your travel necessities (passport, currency, notes, boarding pass) and an inner wallet for your everyday travels (credit cards, smaller notes).

Discount: Use the discount code MEGAN10 for 10% off at kyzatravel.co until March 31 2017.

Lock it in the Hotel Safe

The best place to keep a passport while traveling is in your hotel safe. You do not need to carry your passport with you at all times, and it is much safer to keep it in the hotel. Where to keep your passport when traveling.

If your room doesn’t have a safe, head to the front desk and ask if management will put it in theirs. Otherwise, if you have doubts about the safety of your accommodation, find a lock for your travel bags and place it in a secure location in your room. Where to put passport when traveling.

Apart from airport security and clearing immigration, it’s not necessary to pull out your passport for everyone who asks for it, not even the police. Always try to use a drivers license instead. One of your photocopies will do just fine.

Keep it On Your Person When Carrying it

There are certain times when you’ll have to carry your passport with you, namely when in transit. In instances where you do have to have it on you, make sure you keep it concealed and that you know where it is at all times.

Keeping it under your clothes or in a hidden pocket is a good way of carrying it, though make sure you have it in something that is water resistant, and something discreet which doesn’t give away that it’s there. Do not buy a money belt. DO make sure you have removed it from your pocket before throwing your clothes in the wash. How to keep passport safe in Europe.

If you don’t have a suitable pocket or place to hide it under your clothing, hide it in your backpack (you can get secure day packs from Eagle Creek). Do not leave your bag unattended, and avoid placing it anywhere which is easy to access. Make sure it’s hidden, preferably within a pocket within a pocket.

6 Essential Things You Need to Do Before You Travel

August 24th, 2016 Comments off

Originally posted on mappingmegan.com 

When it comes to planning a holiday, most people aim to tick off the essentials – tickets, accommodation and itinerary. However, in order to truly enjoy a smooth and carefree holiday, there’s a lot more prep work that needs to be done prior to the big departure.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Nothing dampens the excitement of a vacation more than unwanted surprises you could’ve planned for.

To help you out, here are some tips for things you need to do while you’re packing and before you leave.

Share Your Itinerary

Share you itinerary only with trusted friends and immediate family. This is so they can keep track of your whereabouts while you travel.  For any reason that something happens back at home, they can contact you immediately.

Do not share your travel itinerary on social media. Lurkers may take advantage of this information and launch a scam during your absence, or may steal information shown on your itinerary. It also advertises to the world that your house will be empty while you’re away.

It’s easy to get excited in the lead up to a trip, and we all want to share that we are travelling somewhere exotic, but be cautious of the kind of information you share online. Just don’t post a photo of your hotel booking with your contact details or credit card.

Call Your Credit Card Company

Call and inform your credit card company that you will be travelling a couple of days before you leave, and make sure your credit card is ready for use in your destination. In case of an emergency abroad, make sure you have written down the hotline number for your card.

Putting a travel alert on your card also protects you against potential credit card scams. Ie if your credit card company knows you’re in Australia, they will know that anything from Texas is suspicious usage of your credit card.

Prepare a Photocopy of Your Travel Documents

This is for your safety in case you lose your travel documents that you have with you, at least you still have another set of photocopy sitting inside your luggage.

If the lodge or hotel offers safe or lockers make use of this to store your important travel and identification documents and valuables.

Hold Your Mail

If you will travelling for a long period of time, hold your mail and subscriptions at your local post office. Or maybe you can ask a trusted friend to drop by your house and clear the letterbox for you (give them permission to open any mail that may be important, such as car registration renewal).

This is so you avoid an overflowing mailbox and scattered subscription magazines at your doorstep. This attracts attention and says to would be thieves that no one is home.

Secure Your Locks

Secure your front door locks, window locks, back door locks and basement door locks. Make sure it’s bolted lock really tight and secure. It would be good if you some outdoor lights on timer or motion sensor night-lights. This is a big help to distract would be thieves. Double check your security alarms to make sure they are turned on and really working.

Arrange for house sitter if possible, especially if you will be travelling for a long period of time. There are great websites that offer this service, and it means your house will be more secure having someone living in it.

Hold Your Memberships

Hold your gym, carpool, zumba or any club memberships that you make monthly payments to. This is to avoid accumulating monthly payments when you come back from your long term travel. Imagine racking up 3 or 6 months of monthly payments for your club memberships that you didn’t use.  Ouch!

Categories: Travel, Travel Risk Management Tags:

How to Travel Safe in the Age of Terrorism

June 27th, 2016 Comments off

Originally published in 2015 on MappingMegan.com

This year has been a frightening year for those who travel – terrorism appears to be on the rise, governments have been issuing overblown safety advice, and travelers are becoming more and more paranoid about whether or not it is safe to travel (it is).

We have seen separate attacks this year in Belguim, Kuwait, and Turkey, and most recently as last week, there were double ISIS bombings in Beirut, terror bombings in Iraq, and the appalling attack which occurred in France.

Tourists were among those killed in Tunisia when a gunman started shooting in a museum in May, and a car bomb injured seven people in March on a tourist island in Thailand. Two explosives were uncovered in Belfast in June, mosques were bombed Yemen, and there was the horrific Peshawar school massacre – when militants from the Pakistani Taliban entered a school and opened fire on the students, detonating multiple explosive devices at the same time. 132 children and nine staff members were killed.

Though one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in history happened in January of this year, a multi day attack of villages in northern Nigeria leading to the deaths of almost 2,000 at the hands of Boko Haram – the same group responsible for abducting over 200 girls from a school in the northeastern town of Chibok in April 2013. Am I safe from terrorism if I travel overseas?

Each of these were horrific events, and we pray for the victims and their families of all involved. We pray that hatred will be eventually stamped out, and that the delusional cowards who aim to spread terror and fear in the name of false religions will find themselves cut down.

But despite the horror and tragedy of each individual situation, and despite the overblown daily paranoia instigated by our media through sensational stories which only promote fear, each of these were isolated events, and your chances of actually being caught in a terrorist attack while overseas are very slim. More likely to be crushed to death by a vending machine kind of slim.

Realistically, cities like London, Prague and New York have some of the highest crime rates in the world, though no government agency advises against travel here. And you have just as much chance of being caught up in an attack on your own country as you do while traveling abroad, yet no-one lives permanently in a bunker underneath their home for fear of coming out.

So many New Yorkers are cancelling their plans to go to Paris, but think about what occurred right in their own backyard on 9/11. You can’t let extremist activities stop you from traveling and you can’t live in fear.

Because the truth of the matter is that it’s not travel which is dangerous – it’s LIFE. And if you stop traveling, the terrorists win.

So don’t stop traveling, just travel smart. Here’s how to travel safely in the face of terrorism. How to be safe from terrorism when traveling overseas.

How to Travel Safely in the Face of Terrorism

Register your travel with your government and maintain contact with your consulate or embassy in the event of a terrorist attack. Many countries have a smart traveler program where you can lodge your travel plans and this is especially important if you’re heading to an area where you’re worried about terrorism or unrest. Safe overseas travel with terrorism.

Doing this means the government knows which of its citizens are at risk in an emergency event, and is the only way they can contact you. You should always travel with the phone number and address of your local embassy as a matter of routine.

Leave a copy of your itinerary with someone you trust. No matter what your age, never underestimate the importance of letting someone at home know where you will be. Leave the names, address and numbers of your hotels, information about your transport, and names of anyone you have pre-arranged to meet. In the event that things go south you’ll have someone who can act immediately to aid and assist, or even attempt to locate you.

Get your bearings as soon as you arrive in a new city, as this will help you navigate an emergency situation with less confusion and stress should one occur. Stay safe from terrorism attacks overseas.

You don’t want to be wandering aimlessly around the streets of a new city if a terrorist attack has just occurred, so make sure you are aware of your surroundings and know, for instance, a route back to your hotel so you can remain calm and leave the incident as quickly as possible. It’s always a good idea to keep a business card from your hotel on you. Worst case you can jump in a cab and present the driver with the card.

Travel with a phone. While  international roaming charges are the reason many leave their phones at home, in the event of an emergency you need a way to communicate with others. So even if you switch your phone to a constant state of flight mode while overseas, having it with you at least allows you the option of a more immediate form of communication than email if it’s required.

If you’re in one location for a prolonged period of time, consider buying a local SIM. And make sure you save the numbers of your embassy and hotel.

Make sure you recognize the uniforms of local police and learn a few basic phrases in the local language of where you will be.

Should something happen, local police and military are have more up to date information about what’s happening on the ground and they’ll know best course of action to ensure your safety. Always follow their directions.

Megan Jerrard
Mapping Megan

7 Female Travel Trends This Year

May 24th, 2016 Comments off

2016 has well and truly seen the rise of the wander woman. Over the past few years women have tipped the scales and have become the majority of travelers over men. Female business traveler trends. Female travel trends.

Wondering what the travel forecast is for 2016? The following are female travel trends you should know about for your next trip overseas.

More Active Adventures

“The average adventure traveler is not a 28-year old male, but a 47-year-old female. And she wears a size 12 dress.” – Marybeth Bond

Women are starting to move away from luxury vacations that focus on relaxation and spa treatments and spend their money on more active adventures instead. Most women are looking to have “experiences” when they travel. They want to spend as much time away from the hotel as the next traveler, and they want to explore and discover destinations which are unusual and new. Are women more adventurous than men? How do women travel?

According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, timeless destinations like London, Paris and Rome are starting to lose out to more exotic locales in South America, Asia and India. Popular destinations among female travelers.

Stylish, Comfortable & Versatile Fashion

2015 saw a quest for beauty while traveling. Whether or not that’s a good thing, women this year are still aiming to travel in style. Though comfort and versatility have become key factors in travel fashion choices.

I mean, why travel with a scarf when you can travel with a scarf which has built-in hidden zip pockets to hold and carry your essentials? Why try and stuff your suitcase with 10 pairs of shoes when one pair of interchangeable sandals will give you shoes for every occasion? Why travel with a shirt, a skirt, a dress, a scarf, & clothes for some serious partying, when you can travel with one garment which covers it all? What women wear when they travel.

Women in 2016 might be more fashion focused than before, but they’re generally only willing to buy something if it’s comfortable too. And we’ll go ga-ga over almost anything if it’s versatile. Female travel fashion trends.

Not Going it Alone

2015 was the year of solo female travel. But in 2016 girls are deciding they like to travel together. You are not alone, you always have someone to rely on. You can talk, laugh and share beautiful memories when you’re with a companion or group. And traveling with other girls means not having to deal with awkward propositions! Female travel companion wanted. Find women to travel with.

Mobile app Tourlina has popped up just in time to cater to this trend; a free app which empowers women to find a female travel companion.

It’s the first women-only travel app that lets you connect with other solo females who are visiting the same destination and share the same interests. It offers the chance to travel with inspirational women you may never have known about otherwise! Looking for a female travel companion.

In a similar fashion to Tinder, you enter vacation dates and times, and swipe right or left to choose a travel companion. Once you choose someone, you can start chatting to organize your plans. Find a friend to travel with.

Everyone is verified, and, like Tinder, you’ll only be able to interact with other travelers if you match. The team at Tourlina manually check every new user to make sure they’re female and not a fake. Tinder for travelers.

If you like the idea of travelling with a female companion download Tourlina on iOS. The Android version is on the way. The community is growing at a very fast rate, and user reviews have been fantastic. Travel with a girl.

Not Quitting Their Jobs to Travel the World

Likewise with solo travel, 2015 was the year of quitting your job to travel the world. Though women this year are realizing that travel doesn’t always have to be about leaving everything behind. Sometimes you might actually like your job, and the stable lifestyle of a 9-5. Sometimes you might actually enjoy the security of having a home base to return to.

While there are many travelers right now realizing their dreams of full time travel, there are many more successfully juggling a full time corporate job. Women in 2016 are recognizing that it is absolutely possible for to take uptravel without sacrificing other elements of their lives.

Women are Increasingly Bi-Lingual

Women are becoming increasingly bi-lingual, which is making international travel much safer, easier and a lot more rewarding too.

Being bi-lingual opens up new social and cultural opportunities, meaning you can interact with different people and understand the nuances of another culture. This means you might have more opportunities to make friends and achieve a more local experience while abroad.

“Travel can also be cheaper when you speak the language of the country you’re visiting. You won’t be limited to staying in expensive foreigner hotels, eating at restaurants where the staff speaks English or traveling with a tour group. Instead, you can find your own way and experience the country the way a local would. You might enjoy cheaper access to museums because you don’t have to pay for a foreign-language guide.” – Katherine Kostiuk.

A Focus on Local Travel

Nowadays, women are looking for a more local, authentic experience when traveling. And their expectations for travel have grown beyond normal travel agents. Female travel trends. Are women traveling the world more than men?

Women in 2016 are looking for more intellectual stimulation and “experience” in their travel.  They are also looking for these trips without paying the high costs that some of these trips have commanded in the past.

They are a big part of the push towards socially responsible tourism, and realize that we have the power to choose who we open our wallets to, and that where we choose to travel has real economic and political significance. Using their power as consumers and economic leverage as travelers, women are beginning to throw their support behind the most ethical destinations and organizations, and are sending a message to the rest of the world in doing so.

There’s no Age Limit on Female Travel

There’s no age limit on female travel in 2016, and while travel was once seen as a pastime of the young and responsibility-free, older travelers are more likely to globetrot than the younger generation. And they’re more intrepid too!

We’re seeing a trend that as people get older they only want to travel more. “Quite often one hears of grannies and grandads cycling across the United States or Canada, or from Helsinki to Gibraltar, or from Mexico to Patagonia.” This 90 year old woman with cancer said no to chemo and yes to traveling the world in a camper. Women traveling the world. Female traveler statistics.

Senior citizens are now considered one of the fastest growing demographics in travel. Some of that can be attributed to the growth of the widowed and divorced, rising growth of “indies” and the growing longevity and vitality of those in their senior years. Travel is a great way to keep physically and mentally fit once you’re retired, and to take part in social life.

My Biggest Mistakes While Traveling The World

April 12th, 2016 Comments off

I’ve been quite lucky that in over 10 years of extensive travel I have never once been mugged, held up, arrested in a foreign country, or found myself in any kind of trouble which requires an embassy to assist. Knock on wood.

I have, however, made my fair share of stupid decisions and mistakes while traveling abroad, and hopefully you can make note so that you don’t have to learn the hard way too. Funniest travel stories

The following are my biggest mistakes while traveling abroad.

Not Being Sun Smart

The sun is something I am incredibly conscious about while traveling. Having been viciously burnt in the past on numerous occasions abroad, I now apply suntan lotion each morning out of routine, and carry it with me everywhere we go. What not to do when you travel – international travel mistakes.

I was burnt so badly in 2009 while traveling through Europe that it ruined the pigmentation in my nose which is now permanently red.  When asked on social media I may assert that it’s just very cold out, but now you know the truth!

While I have a pretty thick skin (apparently not literally) and can laugh off the ‘Rudolph’ jokes, it took a lot of expensive laser surgery later for regular color to return to my nose. Epic fails traveling travel mistakes

This was a particularly unpleasant process which saw the in-house nurse hand me a stress ball and then repeatedly zap my face with what I describe as repeated bolts of lightening. Bad things happen traveling

So please, do yourself a favor and remember that you’re not escaping the sun just because you’re in a different country! The intensity of UV Rays differ around the world so just keep that in mind! And for the love of God…you could be wearing all of the suntan lotion in the world, but NEVER forget to apply lotion to your feet. Most embarrassing travel stories

Incorrectly Spelling a Passenger Name on an International Booking

A $300 spelling mistake; in 2010 I was handling the flights to Africa for myself and a friend, and ended up having to fork over a name change fee to the airline to change “Stewart” to “Stuart”. Otherwise the name on his booking wouldn’t have matched his passport. Embarrassing things to happen traveling

Ever since then I have double and triple checked information before locking in a booking!!  Possibly the most expensive spelling mistake I have ever made.

Rocking Up at the Wrong Airport

Sometimes your biggest issue may not be getting to the airport on time, but getting to the RIGHT airport on time. Embarrassing travel stories

You may find this advice to be incredibly straightforward, however I assure you that people have shown up for flights at the wrong airport before, and can assure you of this with 100% certainty because “people” was once me.

In 2009 I traveled with mum on a 2 month European Adventure. Having traveled Europe quite extensively in the past,  I was our resident expert, and planned both our itinerary and accommodation. Though let me tell you, this “expert” was quickly knocked off her high horse!

As it turns out, the flight wasn’t listed because it wasn’t leaving from Heathrow. We were meant to be at Gatwick, and and there was no way we were going to get there in time to catch our flight. Bad travel stories

The good news is, we did get to Rome that evening, though as you can imagine I’ve never heard the end of this, especially since having booked accommodation in a convent with a strict curfew, if we hadn’t made it to Rome by 8pm, we were sleeping on the street. Accidents overseas travel mistakes

We were fortunate enough to cancel our flight without fees, and transfer onto a flight to Rome leaving Heathrow; proof to previous advice as to why you’ll get further being nice to airport ground staff.

Letting Someone Else Pack for Me

This was unavoidable, however still a mistake all the same. In 2010 I found myself on a group trip to the Solomon Islands where we were delayed 5 days due to a volcanic eruption in Chile. 3 of us missed the departure of a 4-wheel drive expedition to Cape York, being the very tip of Australia. The trip departed from Canberra and we met them 3 days later after flying into Cairns, Queensland. Can I let someone else pack for my travel

My sister packed a bag for me and sent it with the cars which departed Canberra.  I will never forget the evening in the campsite in Cairns where I unpacked that bag, pulling out a series of clubbing dresses to the insane laughter of everyone in the group!

We were extreme 4-wheel driving, through some of Australia’s most intense terrain, so let’s just say they weren’t the most practical clothes to be wearing on that kind of a trip. But it’s the thought that counts!

Not Having Left a Copy of My Itinerary at Home

You’re probably wondering why an independent 27 year old and her 32 year old husband would still be sending mum and dad a copy of their travel itinerary. Overbearing much? Not really.

No matter what your age, never underestimate the importance of letting someone at home know where you will be

In 2012 Mike moved to Australia. During April of that year we went on a road trip into the middle of the Australian Outback with the intent of hiking the Larapinta Trail. That’s the only information we thought to leave with friends and family back home. What to do with a travel itinerary

When Mike’s father passed away 4 days into our hike, no-one had any idea where we were. Well out of range of a phone signal, they had no idea how to contact us or where we were meant to be. Sure, they knew we were in the Australian Outback, somewhere along the Larapinta Trail; but with a total length of 223 kilometres, the trail can take weeks to walk.

Going off the little information he had, my father called the Parks and Wildlife Commission and had one of the Park Rangers leave notes at every major trail intersection. They finally caught us on a fluke and transported us back to Alice Springs where we dealt with the tragedy.

Abusing Alcohol Overseas

At 18 I took a Gap year and headed off to London for a 12 month break in-between high school and university.  It was the most amazing year of my life and I returned home a far better and much more well rounded person as a result of my experiences abroad. However I drank too excessively that year and am surprised that I didn’t end up in a tragic situation.

It’s all fun and games at the time, however looking back it was incredibly dangerous to have been continually drinking to the point where I couldn’t remember the evening before, especially while I was traveling through countries with people I had only just met, and where I was not fluent in the local language. Tips for drinking overseas

I was lucky. Other’s haven’t had the same luck. There was an Australian woman who passed out drunk in the streets of Canada, for instance, and woke up with the most graphic and severe case of frostbite the world has ever seen. Literally, click through to that story – her fingers were swollen to the point of full size balloons, and she’s genuinely lucky to still have the use of her hands.

Needless to say I drank enough alcohol that year to not feel the need to drink anymore! And you wouldn’t believe how much money I now save for travel from only drinking (responsibly) on occasion!

Lying About Having Travel Insurance

In 2012 I traveled to the Solomon Islands on a volunteer program with Scouting Australia where we spent 2 weeks repairing a red cross school for disabled children.  You will find that with the majority of group projects you embark on, you’ll likely be required to provide proof of individual travel insurance.

Traveling for the next two months and not wanting to ‘waste’ money on ‘unnecessary’ travel insurance (common excuses people use for traveling without insurance), I emailed through a policy which came attached to a credit card and covered me when travel was booked on that card – obviously not the case in this trip. Is travel insurance a good idea?

I mean, at that stage I had been traveling for 6 years, and had never EVER found the need to use travel insurance – what could possibly go wrong?

Well, as it happens, even if you’ve never needed to rely on your insurance overseas before, there’s no way of knowing that you’ll never need it at all. A volcano erupted in Chile and the majority of airports around the world couldn’t fly out. Being that flights only left from the Solomons on Tuesdays and Thursdays and it was Thursday when the volcano erupted, we were stuck in Honiara for 5 extra days.  Luckily I managed to bunk into a hotel room with one of the girls who’s travel insurance did kick in!!

Since having also suffered an asthma attack in Budapest where I refused to receive emergency medical care because I didn’t have the insurance and couldn’t afford to pay, I’ve traveled with proper insurance ever since, and always made sure that my insurance covers health.

Megan Jerrard
MappingMegan.com

Tips for 1st Time International Travel Volunteers: Things Every Volunteer Needs to Know Before They Go

March 21st, 2016 Comments off

When you’re planning your first trip abroad as an international volunteer, there are many considerations to think about beyond making a list of what you should pack. For instance, is the program an ethical one? How much will it cost? What is that money paying for? Who will the program truly benefit? Do you have the right skills? How to know if a volunteer project is ethical

Combining volunteerism with travel is one of our favorite ways to explore the globe, though it’s absolutely vital to choose a project which makes a genuine difference to the community and society as a whole. While investing in your personal development and growth as well.  international volunteer programs

Realizing that this is now an industry which can turn a profit, some companies and organizations are ignoring the long-term effects of volunteering on host communities, and as such the market is saturated with costly projects taking advantage of volunteers, and there is now a lot of cynicism about those who want to become an international volunteer to “do good”.

When structured correctly, volunteer placements can be mutually beneficial to both the volunteer and the local community, though how can we as travelers know which programs are responsible and which are not? What are the signs of an ethical volunteer program?

As a leader in the field of ethical volunteering, we reached out to Mark Horoszowski from Moving Worlds about tips for first time prospective international volunteers, and the things every international volunteer needs to know before they go. What do I need to know as an international volunteer.

International skills-based volunteering, or “Experteering, is more than just an immersive trip, it’s a transformative experience that benefits all parties and helps build a better world.

But I think one of the best aspects of international volunteering, when done right, is the after effect…organizations continue to grow, people are more confident with their skills, and new connections developed turn into long-lasting friendships, and sometimes, even new social impact organizations.

What inspired you to start volunteering?

I grew up volunteering and continued to volunteer throughout college and the first part of my career. But when I hit a dead-end in my career, I turned to volunteering as a way to really explore the types of work that got me the most excited, the industries I was most passionate about, and the best way I could make a positive impact with my career.

What is ‘MovingWorlds’ all about?

Our goal is to connect people to live-enriching experiences that make the world a better place. Globally, one of the biggest barriers to progress is a lack of access to talent, so we help people find where their skills are needed the most, prepare them to make a real impact, and provide resources and support to make sure they have a powerful experience.

What are the different ways a traveller can ensure a prospective project is an ethical one?

So “voluntourism”(paying to volunteer) is getting a lot of heat right now because of the issues it can unknowingly fuel, like the corrupt orphanages in Cambodia. We use a number of “tests” to check for ethical opportunities, but the most obvious ones are:

  • The project is driven locally – meaning a local organization has identified the need/ project
  • It doesn’t erode a local jobs – meaning someone locally isn’t in a position to do it (often times why construction projects don’t pass our test, but challenging architecture or engineering projects are OK)
  • It is focused on sustainability and skills – meaning there is a clear demonstration as to how your project will create a social and/or environmental impact

Who should a volunteer placement benefit?

Every project should benefit the volunteer AND the hosting organization. There is a common misconception where people think projects should only benefit the hosting organization, but this actually creates unhealthy power dynamics where the “volunteer” is privileged and the hosting organizations is “needy”; and that’s not accurate.

The truth is, both have so much to gain in the experience and it’s important that both talk about it. We provide a training to our Experteers, as well as a guided planning process to help the Experteer and hosting organization plan an effective partnership. Serve-Smart.com also has a great training.

What kind of organizations do you connect people with?

We support startups, social enterprises, nonprofits, schools, community groups, and even some governmental organizations that are locally led, have the greatest potential to create jobs, and are working to solve last-mile challenges.  There is a breakdown of the percentage of these on our 2014 impact report.

We find that the matching to startups and social enterprises (for-profit businesses that exist for a social reason) make for really great hosts as they are growth-minded, have clear needs for skills, and are eager to find the right professional – meaning they’ll provide free accommodations to skilled volunteers and invest in creating a great experience.

We find that the best experiences come when there is a balance of both of these things. As an example, maybe an accounting professional who is great with Excel and setting up financial controls is partnered with a hosting organization to help setup a new accounting system. But, instead of just doing accounting, the person should focus on teaching someone in the organization the proper concepts and processes to grow without outside help in the future.

So the accountant is working in a familiar area, but is working on new skills like training and on implementation in a new industry.

Should volunteers speak the local language of the country they are working in?

It’s always helpful, but not necessary. We placed on Experteer in Brazil who didn’t speak any Portuguese, but the Experteers was working to help the startup expand to areas outside of Brazil, so her English and Spanish was actually more useful than her knowing Portuguese.

Why should volunteer placements be free?

It’s a good litmus test. If you’re paying to volunteer, the organization is after your money, not your skills. Sometimes, that is OK. Like nonprofit environmental organizations who can’t really make any money from protecting gorillas or turtles against poachers. So instead of working on a real project, they create a unique and immersive field experience.

However, other pay-to-volunteer projects, like paying to teach kids in an orphanage, build a home, or dig a well is a pretty good sign that a project is being invented to procure your money, not to make an impact.

This is really tough, but my guidance is that cost is not a sign of ethical or unethical behavior… I know of one organization that conducts bicycle trips to Myanmar. They charge over $10,000 for the trip, but all of that goes as a donation to specific organizations that the donors get to meet themselves, have been pre-screened, and are led-locally.

I’ve seen other organizations charge $10 / day, but they essentially kidnap kids from remote villages to fill their “orphanages”. So as a traveler, searching for a “budget” volunteer project might actually be more unethical than an expensive program.

What is the problem with companies and organizations who charge extortionate fees for volunteer placements?

As mentioned above, it’s not the size of the fee, but it’s where the fee goes. If you are paying, you should get full insight into:

  1. Where does the money go to, and what is the breakdown?
  2. What is the legal status of the organization?
  3. Is the organization led locally, or is it based in another country?

Specifically, be on the lookout for:

  • High fees for room & board. If you’re paying a lot to live, then that diverts resources from the actual mission.
  • Organizations that are not based in the country you are traveling too who are capturing most of the fee. In some cases, 80% of volunteer placement fees are going to middleman and travel, not the actual organization on the ground.
  • The majority of money NOT going to the mission (i.e. if you’re going on an environmental conservation project, if most of the money is going to a tour guide and your room & board, the organization might not be a good steward of dollars).

Ultimately, it’s so that we can source ethical projects that don’t charge you to volunteer. Groups like HelpX and WOOOF also have similar models. While sometimes a membership fee is a barrier up front, it can actually save thousands of dollars in the process as you get connected to places where you live for free.

In our case, it allows us to find specific projects based on your profile and preferences, and sustain a global support team to provide person support, to keep improving our resources, and to grow our global network of ethical, skills-based projects.

What is generally included in a free placement – ie meals, accommodation, local tours?

At MovingWorlds, all our projects provide unique benefits in exchange for your time. One of the things I think is really unique is that we support all kinds of social impact organizations, from 1 person to thousands of people.

The smaller the organization, the less they can provide, but the more authentic and impactful the experience. The larger the organization, the more resources, and the more benefits they can provide.

As an example, a 2 person startup might provide a room in a shared house and some cooking lessons, whereas a larger organization can often provide a private room and even help cover travel costs or send you on a local tour.

What kind of different projects are available through MovingWorlds?

From one week to one year, we have a really diverse set of projects. Some are related to training, like helping startups learn marketing and sales best practices. Some are for specific projects, like setting up an accounting system, building a website, or creating a video for a grant application.

Others are longer term consulting projects around specific challenges, like lowering operational costs, improving supply chains, expanding into new markets, or developing new products.

What is the most unique volunteer placement you have heard of through MovingWorlds?

We had a project for a chef to help a research team eat healthy, sustainable food while doing oceanic research in Central America.

I think it exemplifies that no matter what skills you have, you can use them to support world-positive ventures.

You actually offer some placements which pay volunteers, correct? Is this still volunteering, or does the inclusion of a per diem then make a placement something else?

Correct, but it’s typically for the purpose of offsetting living and/or travel expenses. As an example, one of our partners in Brazil wasn’t able to provide a place to live, so they provided a small living stipend to help the Experteer cover her costs.

These per diems aren’t that common, but if an organization is in real need of expertise, you’ll see them provide a small stipend to attract an Experteer as soon as possible.

You guarantee to find people a placement – how do you make this kind of a commitment?

We find that about 1/3 of our matches come through projects that are never listed. These matches occur when our global support team gets to know you, then works to source new projects that are the best fit for you.

As an example, if you want to go to Djibouti for exactly 3 weeks to work on marketing for startups starting on June 1st, there is a really small chance that your dream project was posted and is just waiting for you. As such, we work with a partnership network of over 2,500 organizations around the world to find which partner could most benefit from your skills, passion, and availability.

I think every country needs volunteers equally, and this includes the USA. You might see a volunteer make a bigger impact in specific countries that are notoriously resource strapped, but there are needs everywhere.

A recent report from ANDE shared that in some countries, like Brazil and India, the biggest barrier to progress is a lack of access to talent, so we tend to see more requests from countries that have already had big cash investments for the purpose of development – think countries that have had big donations from major foundations (i.e. Gates Foundation) and large investments from impact investors (i.e. Acumen).

Another thing to highlight is that every country can produce volunteers, too. We’ve had Experteers from every continent.

Any other tips for first time prospective volunteers?

We’re full of tips, and have open-sourced some of our content about finding and planning an engagement. But here are a few highlights:

  • Be selfish in planning your volunteer experience. The only way you’ll really make an impact is if you’re motivated to do your best work. As such, you have to be totally bought in to the mission, feel that you’re needed and respected, and know that the organization is co-invested in you and the project.
  • Be humble and open. Just because you have skills does not mean that you know the best way to lead a project, especially when you cross cultural and contextual boundaries. We recommend everyone “shut up and listen” before doing any actual work to ensure that the right solution is being delivered.
  • Create a partnership. The best way to have an immersive experience is to become partners with your hosting organization. Our free training on Udemy does a great job of highlighting the importance of this, and how to go about it.
  • Remember that success happens after you leave. In our planning process, we ask our Experteers and the hosting organization to work in partnership in defining a goal that happens one year after engagement ends. This makes both parties think more about working on sustainable projects that are locally led, and transferring skills to the right people to ensure that the organization can continue to prosper after the Experteer has left.

Why should people volunteer?

In short, It’s good for you, and it’s good for the world. We recently published an article on Forbes, 5 Surprising Benefits of Volunteering with some really compelling research about how much people gain from volunteering, especially if its skills-based volunteering (aka Experteering).

In summary, your most valuable assets are your time, heart, and brain, and today, the biggest challenges facing the world need those 3 things, even more so than money, in order to create a healthier, more equitable planet.

Meg & Mike Jerrard
www.mappingmegan.com

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