Your Ultimate Volunteering Gap Year?

To my humble travelers and fellow adventurers, my name is Tiara and I can’t stop thinking about traveling! I’m a new placement advisor at Kaya and I thought it would be fun to have a look through our many amazing projects and put together a short blog about which ones I would choose on a gap year and why. I’ve so far been fortunate to visit 18 countries in four continents, and I very much enjoy planning adventures. Maybe one day I can help you to plan yours!

My perfect gap year trip would incorporate as much diversity as possible both geographically and culturally, and I would hope to give as much as I gain from my placements. I crave cultural immersion and outstanding natural beauty, as well as easy-to-access exploring during my free-time. For a balanced mixture of projects, I think it would be fun to do one that is nature-related, one that promotes sustainable community development, and another that incorporates some form of skills-building on the side, which is always a great addition to a CV/Resume. As for budgeting, I checked into flights between the most diverse regions that interest me and found ones reasonably priced before settling on Borneo, Nepal, and South Africa as my gap year destinations.

Borneo stood out as an excellent nature-based destination because the tropical diversity on this large island is fantastic! The PADI Training and Dive Expeditionsounds fascinating because it provides an introduction to marine conservation and volunteers are trained for the advanced level PADI certification, which means I would be doing research that’s beneficial for the environment and I can carry these skills forward with me to pursue similar interests in other parts of the world. When I’m not diving and supporting the project, I can catch some rays on the beach or visit one of the nearby towns. All of this sounds like an exceptional way to begin a gap year trip and to visit somewhere very unique and beautiful!

For a more community-centered project, I looked to Nepal for the Empower Nepalese Women on a Sustainable Agricultural Initiative. It captured my attention because it offers full cultural immersion and it is an excellent opportunity to work alongside local women who have been socially stigmatized for being divorced or widowed. While gaining insight about Nepalese development issues, I’d also be doing physically demanding work and staying fit until I’m ready to go hiking in the Himalayas at the end of my placement! Nepal is popular for its stunning scenery and trekking opportunities, and I would definitely budget extra time to explore the country before moving onto my next destination. You never know which opportunities can arise when you allow yourself time to wander some, which is part of why traveling is so amazing!

As for skills building I would choose the Event Management Internship at an NGO in South Africa because this 12 week placement is hugely practical for a number of reasons. This particular project has an environmental focus and interns help to plan events that raise awareness about the green movement in South Africa, but the skills gained are applicable in different contexts. There would be opportunities to network with locally based organizations, stakeholders and beneficiaries, which is excellent for building up knowledge about development goals in the region. The internship is long enough to really get situated and make an impact that benefits the community, and there’s lots of time to travel on the weekends! I would definitely plan an expedition to visit the local wildlife.

I recommend traveling and volunteering because it is one of the most holistic ways to learn about global diversity and about yourself as well. While it can seem daunting and pricey to plan a big trip like this, the personal growth and learning that comes from an international experience such as this one is priceless and with proper budgeting it absolutely can be done. There are so many amazing projects in different regions, and Kaya advisers can help you to narrow down a selection. Don’t forget to take time to explore before or after your volunteer placements so you can get really immersed in what the world has to offer. It’s definitely worth it.

Sustainable Agricultural Initiative volunteer with Nepalese women