Warum ich mich nicht sonderlich um Reisewarnungen kümmere

is it safe to travel to kenya

und was ich stattdessen für meine Sicherheit auf Reisen tue

Oft werde ich gefragt: Wie gefährlich ist eine Reise nach Kenia? Meiner Meinung nach beginnt Sicherheit bei mir im Kopf. Hier ist meine Ansicht:

Vor der ersten Veröffentlichung dieses Artikels hielt die britische Botschaft in Kenia ihre Landsleute an, einige Orte an der kenianischen Küste und in der Hauptstadt Nairobi zu meiden. Dieser Rat kam nach einigen Angriffen und Drohungen durch terroristische Gruppen. Die Orte, die stark vom Tourismus abhängig sind, bekamen die negativen Auswirkungen dieser Warnung deutlich zu spüren.

Die kenianische Regierung bat die britische Botschaft, diese Warnung wieder zurückzuziehen. Auch die amerikanische Botschaft, die ähnliche Warnungen veröffentlicht hatte, sollte diese entschärfen. Ich muss dazu sagen, dass ich zu dem Zeitpunkt an einigen der als gefährlich bezeichneten Orte war und noch lebe.

Dann wurden die Warnungen plötzlich wieder aufgehoben.

Ein paar Hinweise blieben, aber viele der vorher als gefährlich bezeichneten Orte waren laut den Botschaften nun wieder „zugänglich“. Dies geschah kaum eine Woche nach dem Angriff auf eine militärische Einrichtung in Lamu, bei dem mehrere Angreifer getötet wurden. Unter ihnen war auch ein Brite.

Das zeigt, dass solche Reisewarnungen manchmal politisch motiviert oder einfach willkürlich sind.

Ich hatte mich für den Newsletter der deutschen Botschaft eingetragen, aber ich meldete mich schnell wieder ab. Denn meistens bekam ich Warnmeldungen oder andere Hinweise, die sich nicht mit meinem Alltag in Nairobi vereinbaren ließen. Ein paar Beispiele:

  • Nutzen Sie keine Matatus (öffentliche Minibusse), es ist gefährlich, mit ihnen zu reisen. (Nun, wenn ich nicht ständig zu Hause herumsitzen will, MUSS ich notwendigerweise irgendwann in ein Matatu steigen. Sie sind das einzige mir verfügbare öffentliche Verkehrsmittel.
  • Vermeiden Sie überfüllte Orte. (Nairobi Downtown, die Endhaltestelle meiner Matatu-Route, ist automatisch immer ein überfüllter Ort, den ich durchqueren muss, wenn ich ins City Center will.)
  • Herzliche Einladung zum kenianischen Oktoberfest. (Ich gehe nicht mal auf das deutsche, warum sollte ich dann auf das kenianische gehen? Ich habe gehört, letztes Mal gab es nicht mal deutsches Bier. Und außerdem müsste ich, um dahin zu kommen, gleich mehrere Matatus benutzen und mehrere überfüllte Orte durchqueren…)

Was ich sonst für meine Sicherheit tue:

  • Ich bin in meiner Straße bekannt und unterhalte mich viel mit Leuten. Sie kennen mich und wissen, dass ich keine Touristin mehr bin, sondern eine Anwohnerin.
  • Ich habe einige Freunde, die mich UND die Stadt kennen und die mir gute Ratschläge geben können, wie ich mich verhalten sollte.
  • Wenn mir ein Kenianer sagt, ich solle einen bestimmten Ort nachts meiden, folge ich dem Ratschlag.
  • Wenn es dunkel ist, richte ich es so ein, dass ein kenianischer Freund mich begleitet.
  • Ich lasse es mir nie anmerken, wenn ich mich verlaufen habe und achte darauf, den Weg immer genau zu kennen.
  • Ich trage keinen Geld-Gürtel und versuche auch sonst, so wenig wie möglich wie ein Tourist auszusehen.

Mit diesen Maßnahmen fühle ich mich sehr sicher und bin entspannt. Das funktioniert viel besser als sich von politisch motivierten oder willkürlichen Reisewarnungen der Botschaften verrückt machen zu lassen.

Choose your format for Responsible Travel Blogging

travel blogging

How and why to publish through email, on blogs, social media or WhatsApp.

My first travel blogs fulfilled the sole purpose of keeping my family and friends updated. I just wrote, added some pictures and then published without editing. The posts were long, because I wrote twice a month and a lot used to happen within two weeks. The response was scarce, but friends and acquaintances generally were interested in my journey and I was sure they were reading.

If you are thinking of opening a travel blog, these are the first two questions you need to ask yourself:

Why are you writing?

Who is your audience?

These questions go hand in hand. If you are writing to keep your family and friends updated, they are your audience. But don’t underestimate the bragging power of parents: My dad started sending the links to the blog posts to his colleagues and friends, because he liked them so much. So the private audience quickly expanded to a bunch of people I didn’t even know.

Ask yourself why, how and when they are reading or following you. Are they going to read long texts? Or are short videos better (Periscope)? What about daily quick thoughts and photos (Twitter / Instagram)?

Maybe you are a professional travel blogger, or want to become one. Or you want to journal for your own benefit. Whatever your reason to publish and whoever your audience is, they determine your platform and format for travel blogging.

Here are some options. You can combine them, and there are more. But this should give you a quick overview.

Blog

Publish on a blog for friends and family with the possibility of expanding the readership. Blogs are also great if you want to reach a bigger audience, publish journalistically, inspire others whom you don’t know personally or even want to raise money or make some political, social or cultural phenomena public.

If you want to journal just for yourself, lock it with a password, so that you are the only one who has access.

Video

I kept getting similar questions about how and what I was doing in Kenya. But I myself find emails addressed to many people not very personal and sometimes even boring. So I record a video every month, upload it and send the link and password to a growing number of people.

I don’t have special equipment. Neither do I have a script. I just start talking in front of the camera, insert some photos or scenes I recorded previously and sometimes add some music. I always keep them around six to maximum ten minutes.

Watching a video is less effort to many people than reading a long email. And I feel more authentic towards the people who are genuinely interested in what I am up to.

There are plenty of options for platforms, tech equipment, professionality and formats. Some audiences may be satisfied with only seeing you talking. However, travel vloggers often have great cameras and microphones and their videos are full of action.

Shooting the video is only one quarter of the work. Vloggers usually have thought about a story before, and edited it later. And then there are data volume requirements and not everybody has internet everywhere.

If you want to do videos, you can also just record short clips, a bit like taking moving photos, and upload them on Periscope, in your WhatsApp or Facebook group or on Instagram.

Email

Emails will definitely be found in someone’s inbox. There is no escape and people can’t miss it. And you know exactly whom you are sending it to.

Consider your audience here: Hardly anybody, apart from your biggest fans, take their precious time to sit down and read 3 000 words of continuous text about their friend or niece, who is currently travelling through a country they can hardly imagine.

If you want feedback, a WhatsApp or Facebook group is more attractive than email, simply because people can quickly like something or leave a short comment with one single click. Also, your messages might be shorter, more regular and not these big bites that nobody in the boring non-traveller’s daily life has time for and enthusiasm to read.

WhatsApp

On WhatsApp or other messenger services you have more control over who gets to read what you are writing, and you will more likely get feedback, because it’s easier and quicker to answer.

Social Media

Social media is usually more public. You can change the settings for who will be able to read and share though, or open a separate, closed group.

Photos, videos and voice messages will be easier to handle on social media, like Periscope, or a messenger service like WhatsApp.

Podcast

Voice messages or podcasts are only suitable for people who know you personally, because they can imagine your face with the voice. Describing a different culture in a ramble for a podcast is a real challenge, and I would like to dare you here to be the next best travel-caster! However, most of it works better visually or when you have written it well.

This worksheet will help you getting an overview over all the points made so far and pick the right medium for you.


If you are thinking of establishing a professional blog or brand, or you have already started out: There is a great blogpost by Regina of byregina.com  where you can find out whether blogging, Youtube, Periscope and other platforms are right for you.

Some general hints

  • Short is always good, especially online. People don’t have time anymore – unfortunately. Unless you are a predestined travel writer, keep your posts around 800 words, your videos under ten minutes and sort your photos before publicly uploading them all.
  • Regular works better than long. If you can write once a week or three times a month, do it. This automatically helps keeping things short. It also “teaches” your audience when to check for news about you. You can announce new posts via email or social media. Or blog on a specific day so that people know, every Tuesday or every 10th, 20th and 30th of the month they can check back in with you.
  • Different platforms give you different ways of control. Do you want control over who is reading or is it okay if it spreads? (Consider password protection, groups with invitation vs. Facebook pages, for example.)

Insider hint for lazy bloggers

Maybe you are already familiar with one or several of these outlets – and you don’t have much time to start learning how to use a new one. Then the best is to go with what you are comfortable with. Register a blog, open a group or set up a profile. If you need to practice, start talking about your preparation, announce your flight, or answer questions you are already getting about your trip.

Do you have any favourites of formats for travel blogging? What did I forget? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Presents for the host

Presents for the host

Ideas for what to bring when you want to reward people for their hospitality

As a guest, it is always nice to bring presents for the host. As a foreigner, it is even more interesting to bring something typical from your culture.

Different things for different people

When you are traveling to an African country or volunteering there, you might meet many different people who will have different roles towards you. Therefore a good hint is to bring several things that you can divide accordingly.

Sweets and balloons

Children will frantically appreciate cliché presents like balloons and sweets, but they only last for a few hours. Afterwards, people remain with plastic waste from burst balloons and sweets wrappers to be disposed, which in some areas is not as easy. Dental health care is rare in rural areas, and the sweets you wanted to spread in a good intention can leave people with big problems.

Another type of rather unique sweets like liquorice from the Netherlands or Salmiakki from Finland have ever led to funny faces among the people who tasted them. They end up being eaten mostly by the people who brought them.

This doesn’t mean that you cannot bring sweets at all. Just mind the amount and the disposal later on.

Cultural Food

People appreciate other food stuff. I am always hitting the jackpot with my dark German bread and sausage. Usually Kenyans regard Japanese food with less enthusiasm, but they are all the more appreciated by international volunteers.

Things like butter, cheese and chocolate obviously melt easily and are hard to store. But I gave out flavoured tea or instant cappuccino and people liked them.

In case you are participating in a work camp or any other event that will involve a cultural day, keep these food items for that occasion.

Photos

With photos you can often spark conversations. I glued together some photos of my family, friends and home and up to date it’s one of the favourite books of a small girl in the village. She knows all my relatives in there by name.

Put together some photos of your family, where you stay, what you do, and maybe a bit of the surrounding area.

Equipment

Another thing we always get orders for are solar lamps. People actually pay us back the expenses. They deem anything that says “Made in Germany” on it to have good quality, be it a clock or something else.

Textiles

And finally there are things like table cloths, dish towels or other textiles or clothes that may have the national colours on them or are typical and significant in another way.

Being the guest

Whatever you bring, try to give it from your heart instead of just disposing stuff on people. Since I am usually the visitor, at least in Kenya people don’t actually expect a present from me like they would in Germany.

Buy locally

Finally, you can also always buy things in the country and bring them. When I visit women, a bag of sugar, salt, rice, flour or a bottle of cooking oil is a common and valid present and I just buy it in the local shop.

What are your suggestions? Share them in in the comments below and add to the list!

When you are feeling guilty, do this

when you feel guilty do this

Why I sometimes feel guilty in Kenya and what I do about it (printable diary prompt below)

When I came to Kenya the first time, something I call “white guilt” struck me. I felt guilty for having been born in a privileged country like Germany. I was wondering: Why had it been me who had been born by a German mother in a German hospital, with electricity and insurance and autobahn and good education? Could not have somebody, who is now living in a slum in Nairobi or in a clay house on the countryside, arrived there on my behalf?

Was it not unfair that I had all these privileges and someone else on the other side of the equator didn’t?

And all the stuff we had at home!

Bathtubs and toilet paper handles and several sets of towels and several sets of dishes, a car, canned food for the dog and dry sweets for the guinea pigs, tile roofs and iPads and seven different types of milk. And all the money and access and possibilities to buy them.

And all the stupid stuff that my country and my continent had been doing to Kenya and the African continent: missionary undertakings, colonial expeditions, economic exploitation, geographical fragmentation. And what they still did to it: exploitation of resources and labour, marginalisation, stigmatisation, taking influence with moral, financial and social measures…

I was in the middle of this. Actually, I was clearly from the bad side. So I felt guilty and that numbed me down and made me feel powerless and sad and angry.

Obviously, feeling guilty is the solution to nothing.

After reflections, interactions and research and many years later, I have mostly overcome that feeling of guilt and realised that it isn’t all my fault. Nowadays I am very grateful for having been born in a country that enabled me with the possibility and – yes – the privilege, to make these experiences, learn from them and become proactive.

I turned my guilt into my personal responsibility to adapt a certain attitude of awareness, and to travel carefully and respectfully.

This is how in the long run, >>> Mind Set Travel was born.

If you are feeling similar “white guilt”, here is what you can do:

  • Recognise the feeling. Don’t just brush it away as home sickness or culture shock or the side effects of malaria prophylaxis. Those are different. If you are feeling miserable because of your origin, accept that and properly examine it.
  • Examine what you are really sad or angry about, either in your mind or on a paper, maybe in your travel diary. Are they general points or do you have concrete examples? Do you, for example, find it unfair that you can easily get a visa to Kenya, but your Kenyan friend will have to struggle for a German one? Do you generally feel sad about how the BBC is reporting on African issues? Or do you feel plain shame for British colonialism in Africa?
  • Examine your points and find out which ones you can influence and which ones are beyond your power. You cannot make history undone, for example. But you can try to do some research on it, or plan to do it once you are back in your home country. If you feel that the dumping of second hand clothes from your country in the global South is destroying the local textile industry, you can take action by telling others about it and stop donating second hand clothes to charities.
  • But before you tell others about it from an expert standpoint, it is crucial to pause. Don’t write an email or Facebook post in the rush of your emotions. Try to talk to others in similar situations first. Talk to people you are living or working with, your hosts, other volunteers, maybe your sending organisation. Get other viewpoints and clarification. Try to balance your view and expand your emotions to be a foundation of knowledge.
  • Let go of the guilt for the things you have no influence on. Take action on one point you may be able to change. Don’t do it if you only want to calm your conscience. Do it because you realised your responsibility.
  • Accept that you can’t change the world. But you can move within it in an aware and responsible way, gaining knowledge and sharing experiences.

How do you deal with feeling uncomfortable or guilty while travelling? Let me know in the comments below!

This free worksheet shows you once more how to deal with your own confusion, resistance, and guilt.

guilt printable diary prompt

 

All you need to know about the infrastructure when travelling

All you need to know about the infrastructure when travelling

Here are some hints on transport, logistics, phone and internet (not only in Kenya) you should consider when travelling.

Transport

Once you know where you want to travel, you may wonder how to do so. Most likely you’ll be flying, but how do you continue afterwards? Guidebooks can be a good option to check different possibilities for different routes within one country and how to get from one country to the next. The guidebook for Kenya by Lonely Planet, for instance, often describes the exact routes of public transport or which line to use to get to a specific sight.

Much better, though, are people who are or have recently been there, and those who live there.

Often it is sufficient to make bookings one day prior to your tour or day trip, if at all.

Try to settle first, for a day or two, in the town where you land. Then you can get helpful information on how to continue. Hotels, organisations and hosts often have contacts and can help you organise the continuation of your journey.

In Kenya, a common means of transport are matatus, small vans with 10 to 30 seats. Depending on their route and whether they operate within Nairobi or carry passengers from town to town, they are pimped and tuned, play the latest Kenyan or Nigerian music very loudly and they may or may not carry excess passengers.

The German embassy warns of using these vehicles for transportation, but for me there is no other way, since I don’t own a car. Here the best advice is to stick to what your hosts or friends say who use these vehicles daily. There are certain times or places that you shouldn’t use them. You shouldn’t expose your phone close to the window or door. And it is advisable to carry the exact amount of money for the fare with you.

At the Kenyan coast and also in some places in Tanzania there are routine methods for indicating that you want to alight. You may knock on the inner roof of the van or answer in a certain way, when the conductor announces your stage. You will learn these with time.

Transport in the global South is often stereotyped as being chaotic and if you have these expectations, they will fulfil themselves. Try to be open, flexible and not judge or compare everything with your home country. Be careful with describing everything as extreme if it appears to you like that. A ride on a matatu won’t make you a hero. People use it every day because they must.

General logistics and infrastructure

  • People who stay longer can consider to open a P.O. Box.
  • You may not be able to get free Wi-Fi everywhere. Instead, cyber cafes or co-working spaces and hubs are becoming more popular in certain areas in the global South.
  • Find out about the requirements for driving. Left or right? What type of driving licence is accepted? How can you get one?

Contacts

We have made the experience that people sometimes don’t read their emails as regularly as we expected – if at all. Mobile phone numbers are expensive to call, but often a good way to confirm things from abroad.

Not every organisation has an address that may make sense to you. Not all houses have numbers, not all streets have names and not all places have streets. Often, there is the postal address with the code for the P.O. Box, and then there is a description of where the office is.

You may need all these information upon arrival for visa application and general information at the entrance.

Officers want to make sure that you have someone who is responsible for you, or at least that you know where you are going. Carry these contacts with your other travelling documents.

Phone / Internet

You may have seen the stereotypical photo of a Maasai using a mobile phone. In Kenya, almost everyone has a mobile phone, because landlines never really made it.

The idea – and the practical execution of it – to send money through the phone came from Kenya.

You don’t need to come with an extra, “Africa compatible”, robust, old Nokia phone. People also use smartphones there and may ridicule you for thinking that “modern” phones are not suitable.

In most cases, the easiest option is to get a national sim-card. You can easily buy credit for calls and bundles for internet. Ask other travellers how they communicated with the people at home and which one is the cheapest or best connection. Maybe Skype or other services are better.

As I said before: The Wi-Fi coverage may not be as broad as you are used to. But with bundles on your phone, in more urban places and in hubs, cafes and hot spots with many expats you will find connection.

What are your tips and experiences with logistics, phone and internet while travelling? Share them in the comments below.

Choose the format for your travel blog

How and why to blog about your travel through email, on blogs, social media or WhatsApp

My first travel blogs fulfilled the sole purpose of keeping my family and friends updated. I just wrote, added some pictures and then published without editing. The posts were long, because I wrote twice a month and a lot had happened within two weeks. The response was scarce, but friends and acquaintances generally were interested in my journey and I was sure they were reading.

If you are thinking of opening a travel blog, these are the first two questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Why are you writing?
  2. Who is your audience?

These questions go hand in hand. If you are writing to keep your family and friends updated, they are your audience. But don’t underestimate the bragging power of parents: My dad started sending the links of the blog posts to his colleagues and friends, because he liked them so much. So the private audience quickly became a bunch of people I didn’t even know.

Ask yourself why, how and when they are reading or following you. Are they going to read long texts? Or are short videos better (Periscope)? What about daily quick thoughts and photos (Twitter / Instagram)?

Maybe you are a professional travel blogger, or want to become one. Or you want to journal for your own benefit.

Whatever your reason to publish and whoever your audience is – they determine your platform and format for travel blogging.

Here are some options. You can combine them, and there are more. But this should give you a quick overview.

Blog

Publish on a blog for friends and family with the possibility of expanding the readership. Blogs are also great if you want to reach a bigger audience, publish journalistically, inspire others whom you don’t know personally or even want to raise money or make some political, social or cultural phenomena public.

If you want to journal just for yourself, lock it with a password, so that you are the only one who has access.

Video

I kept getting similar questions about how I was doing in Kenya. But I personally find emails to many people not very personal and sometimes even boring. So I record a video every month, upload it and send the link and password to a growing number of people.

I don’t have special equipment. Neither do I have a script. I just start talking in front of the camera, insert some photos or scenes I recorded previously and sometimes add some music. I always keep them around six to maximum ten minutes.

Watching a video is less effort to many people than reading a long email. And I feel more authentic towards the people who are genuinely interested in what I am up to.

There are plenty of options for platforms, tech equipment, professionality and formats. Some audiences may be satisfied with only seeing you talking. However, travel vloggers often have great cameras and microphones and their videos are full of action.

Shooting the video is only one quarter of the work. Vloggers usually have thought about a story before, and edited it later. And then there are data volume requirements and not everybody has internet everywhere.

If you want to do videos, you can also just record short clips, a bit like taking moving photos, and upload them on Periscope, in your WhatsApp or Facebook group or on Instagram.

Email

Emails will definitely be found in someone’s inbox. There is no escape and people can’t miss it. And you know exactly whom you are sending it to.

Consider your audience here: Hardly anybody, apart from your biggest fans, take their precious time to sit down and read 3 000 words of continuous text about their friend or niece, who is currently travelling through a country they can hardly imagine.

If you want feedback, a WhatsApp or Facebook group is more attractive than email, simply because people can quickly like something or leave a short comment with one single click. Also, your messages might be shorter, more regular and not these big bites that nobody in the boring non-traveller’s daily life has time for and enthusiasm to read.

WhatsApp

On WhatsApp or other messenger services you have more control over who gets to read what you are writing, and you will more likely get feedback, because it’s easier and quicker to answer.

Social Media

Social media is usually more public. You can change the settings for who will be able to read and share though, or open a separate, closed group.

Photos, videos and voice messages will be easier to handle on social media, like Periscope, or a messenger service like WhatsApp.

Podcast

Voice messages or podcasts are only suitable for people who know you personally, because they can imagine your face with the voice. Describing a different culture in a ramble for a podcast is a real challenge, and I would like to dare you here to be the next best travel-caster! However, most of it works better visually or when you have written it well.

If you are thinking of establishing a professional blog or brand, or you have already started out: There is a great blogpost by Regina of byregina.com  where you can find out whether blogging, Youtube, Periscope and other platforms are right for you.

Some general hints

  • Short is always good, especially online. People don’t have time anymore – unfortunately. Unless you are a predestined travel writer, keep your posts around 800 words, your videos under ten minutes and sort your photos before publicly uploading them all.
  • Regular works better than long. If you can write once a week or three times a month, do it. This automatically helps keeping things short. It also “teaches” your audience when to check for news about you. You can announce new posts via email or social media. Or blog on a specific day so that people know, every Tuesday or every 10th, 20th and 30th of the month they can check back in with you.
  • Different platforms give you different ways of control. Do you want control over who is reading or is it okay if it spreads? (Consider password protection, groups with invitation vs. Facebook pages, for example.)
  • Maybe you are already familiar with one or several of these outlets – and you don’t have much time to start learning how to use a new one. Then the best is to go with what you are comfortable with. Register a blog, open a group or set up a profile. If you need to practice, start talking about your preparation, announce your flight, or answer questions you are already getting about your trip.

Do you have any favourites of formats for travel blogging? What did we forget? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Should I pay for volunteering?

Should I pay for vlunteering?

Yes and no. First you need to evaluate your attitude.

When travelling to Kenya for the first time, I did pay for volunteering. I used two organisations to get there. One German and one Kenyan one. The German organisation prepared me with two seminars and connected me to the Kenyan organisation. The Kenyan organisation connected me to an orphanage and two other projects where I could stay and volunteer.

The opening ceremony for one of the projects was a fundraising campaign. Local officials gave speeches and some women donned them with glittering chains that I just know as Christmas tree decoration. The volunteers, a bunch of slightly overwhelmed graduates from Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Finland had to introduce themselves, and everybody said how happy and grateful they were to be here and motivated to work together.

The campaign followed the common structure: Somebody announced that they were collecting money to support the project we were all going to work in. Then people went in front and gave out money which they collected in a pot or on a plate. Often, politicians use such fundraisings to become known as supporters of certain causes, as they are also the guests of honour of such occasions and draw attention to the project.

When the officials and the project hosts had contributed, something awkward happened:

Everybody was waiting for the volunteers to contribute, but we hadn’t brought cash, because we hadn’t known that there would be a fundraising campaign and that people expected us to contribute. Also, we thought, we paid for our flights and our organisations, so why add expenditures on top?

I didn’t understand the cultural value of a fundraising ceremony by then. And many Kenyans thought that if I had the money to come all the way to Kenya, I would certainly have money to contribute to their cause.

I expected that with the fee I had paid to the German and the Kenyan organisation, they had taken care of everything.

I didn’t understand that NGOs or community organisations that are sending international volunteers to local projects are, at least in Kenya, mostly commercial undertakings. And there is nothing bad about that. Just as my German organisation gets funding from the government and the German participating volunteers to pay their staff, the Kenyan organisations need to cover their costs and generate income as well. They work in offices, they have transport costs and internet fees, and that’s where the volunteers’ money goes.

One of the biggest complaints I heard from many volunteers…

… was that they were disappointed and angry, because they felt that the money they had paid the organisation didn’t reach the project where they were staying. This is very common. But neither are we police nor do we have the authority as volunteers to ask for a total breakdown of the organisation’s cost. None of the volunteers I ever met demanded that from their sending organisation. The tension usually arose on the ground, when expectations were not being met and communication was not clear. Money is only a scape goat for these issues.

Erick Hartmann knows the numbers:

Intermediary organizations may be for-profit or non-profit, but they’re all part of the $173 billion global travel and tourism sector. Within that sector, industry leaders have identified international volunteering as a high growth market. There is also typically a community-based organization (CBO), or a local school or other social-serving initiative, where the volunteering actually occurs.

Depending on the financial model, the CBO may receive a donation with each volunteer, may receive room-and-board revenues, or may experience no clear financial benefit. The CBO, like the intermediary, is part of the financial puzzle that is the rapidly growing $2.8 billion global voluntourism sector.

It’s business – which doesn’t mean it is bad. But knowing that fact can avoid that you have wrong expectations.

But let’s get back to the burning question: Should you pay for volunteering?

You are offering your time and labour for free for people to improve their living conditions. Then why should you add them money on top?

When should you not you pay for volunteering?

  • when you are actually scared or not sure about what you are doing and you want an agency to handle everything – In that case, rethink again whether volunteering is for you.
  • when you want to make claims, get back the exact value for your money or implement your idea on the ground – Volunteering cannot be broken down into monetary value only. Exchange, connection and experiences count much more.
  • when you want to donate for charity – You can do that differently. If you see a situation on the ground that needs support, you can start thinking about how you can assist. (We once got support by the great people of The Wandering Samaritan to do so.)
  • when you want the certificate for your CV – Volunteering is so much more than that. That’s why you will have to pay for much more than only a certificate.
  • when you already know a local project and have contacts so you can organise it yourself – Then it depends on whether you can stay there as a visitor or whether you will contribute to your stay financially. The beauty of this situation is that you can discuss it with the people directly without having to pay an agency for connecting you.
  • when you will be in the country for a while – Get to know people first. They will be able to direct you to projects where you can become involved.

Would you pay for volunteering? Have you volunteered before without paying? Let us know in the comments below!

We are not affiliates with any of the linked organisations or websites – but we think they are great, that’s why we share them.