Volunteering is not only a meaningful way to spend your time helping with a worthy cause but is also a way to travel and see the world on the cheap and in a more up-close and personal way than traditional sightseeing. An extremely wide variety of volunteer vacation possibilities exist around the globe, from working on wildlife conservation to teaching the rural poor, but finding the right position requires doing some serious homework.
Decide what type of volunteer work you would like to do. Before determining your destination, think about what kind of volunteer work would be the most fulfilling for you. Volunteer vacations are available in areas as diverse as working in a museum to helping fight for political rights.
Research a particular destination or region of the world. Some regions have a high number of volunteer positions open for particular areas and not for others. For example, those wanting to go to Africa for a volunteer vacation find that there are many positions open for health care workers, teachers and economic development specialists. For those who want to take a volunteer vacation in developed countries, such as Italy, it is easier to find volunteer work on an organic farm or in the tourist industry, volunteering in exchange for room and board.
Check an online directory of volunteer positions in your chosen locale and area of interest. Online directories like Idealist.org and Charityguide.org host huge compendiums of volunteer opportunities around the world, organized by country and type of work. Organizations outline the requirements for each position on these websites and include instructions on applying for them.
Contact each organization through their contact information given on the directory and submit any required information, like a resume or personal references. Be sure to include a summary of why this type of volunteer work is important or attractive to you and why you think you would be a good candidate for the position.
Avoid middlemen organizations that charge high fees. Although some organizations that connect volunteers with volunteer positions only charge enough to cover expenses, some organizations charge high fees that are beyond what is necessary for their services. If possible, try to contact the organization that requires volunteers directly instead of dealing with a middleman organization.
Make sure the terms of the volunteer contract are clear before accepting the position. Many volunteer positions require minimum time commitments, have specific seasons that need to be worked or require that you pay a certain fee for living expenses. Other organizations actually offer stipends to volunteers to cover basic living expenses. Make sure you understand all the terms of the contract before agreeing to become a volunteer.