Many young adults are opting to take a gap year or volunteer abroad vacation for a period of time.
With these vacations the children stay for a minimum of one week to three years depending on how they have planned their trip. As a result many parents these days are faced with the dilemma of allowing their kids to travel alone.
The parents have done a great job teaching their children to be independent and responsible. The real test comes when the children ask for their independence by sharing with their parents their desire to volunteer abroad. Most parents are uncomfortable with this request as there are too many concerns to address.
One of the concerns is that their child might not be mature enough to live in a country by themselves for a long period of time. Another problem is that most of the parents have not travelled to other countries and they don’t know how to give advice on travelling abroad. Many parents aren’t sure that their children can travel abroad without them. They are also worried about health issues; their kids could get homesickness; and security issues. Many first time travelers have a problem convincing their parents to let them volunteer abroad. As the volunteers, they should inform their parents of the benefits that come from volunteering abroad, and most parents are glad to let their kids volunteer abroad.
As a parent who has a child who wants to volunteer abroad, you can help by:
Some parents travel with their kids and help them adjust to the new environment. They stay with their children during the first week to help them navigate around the city. You can go with your child to the orientation, find out where the project is, look at the working conditions, meet the project coordinator, look at the available resources and check to make sure it is safe. Also you could help your kid to search out the nearest hospitals, restaurants, cyber cafes and how to successfully travel around the area. You could also get him/her a phone and an appropriate internet connection so that you can communicate when you leave. Make copies of your child’s important documents like passport, visa, credit cards and travel insurance just in case s/he loses them.
You could help your child with budgeting money for the duration of the volunteer work. Since you will be funding most of the expenses, come up with an appropriate budget that can work for both of you. Also you should set yourself as a power of attorney on your child’s bank account in case your child runs into financial problems. Ensure your child has a Visa or MasterCard as these are available in most parts of the country. Carrying travelers’ cheques could be useful in case they lose their credit cards. These are also exchanged in most banks and airports.
When you are planning to take your child to see a general practitioner to get advice and medical checkups, ensure your child gets the proper vaccination(s) before leaving. Get proper travel insurance which will take care of your child when s/he is abroad. If your child is going to an area prone to diseases, like malaria, make them carry a mosquito net, or make them have bottled water to avoid getting typhoid. If your child has a preexisting medical condition tell him/ her to carry double the medication as they might lose their first dose. Give general advice about staying healthy to avoid getting sick.