In this 21st Century, people all across the world have become more aware and thus, the concept of ‘responsible tourism‘ is emerging at a faster pace than ever. According to data released by the US Dept of Labor in 2016, about 62.6 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2014 and September 2015. Out of this, 27.8% were women volunteers, who traveled to several Third World Nations, with the aim of giving something back to the society.
Most of the women who traveled to volunteer abroad were between the age group of 15 to 35 years. They are mostly the college students or the university pass-outs or those who need a career shift – and usually, these women prefer to travel solo or with a group of people belonging to the same age. While for men, things are a little easier, women have to be a little more cautious while they are in a new country. But the fear of the unknown circumstances should never stop one from taking the step out of the comfort zone. On the other hand, women can follow certain safety rules, to ensure a peaceful and meaningful volunteering experience.
Let’s take a quick look at some of these safety tips, that women should follow:
1. Keep Your Documents Safe
Before you set out for your journey, make a note of the original documents (Passport, ID Cards, Debit/Credit Cards etc) that you will be carrying with yourself. Also, make at least 2 photocopies of each and keep one in your luggage and another in your hand baggage. Try not to carry the original documents with you, when you are traveling within the country.
2. Being Alert
The most important thing is to learn a few words in the local language – that’ll help you a lot if you ever get stuck somewhere. Google can be of much help, and then comes your program coordinator, who can assist you to learn the necessary phrases. While you are in a foreign country, mind your body language so that you don’t send any kind of wrong signals.
If you visit during popular festivals, say, for example, if you take part in La Fallas while volunteering in Spain or in Holi during your volunteer trip to India, then be careful of your belongings. Be extremely mindful in crowded areas. Take a note of the emergency numbers: the nearest police station, hospital etc. Also, don’t forget to save your local coordinators number. Your coordinator will be your savior in the foreign land!
3. Dress Properly
Do a little bit of research about the culture of the country where you are going to volunteer. Essentially, most of the developing countries are quite conservative when it comes to the dressing of the women. In Middle Eastern countries or places which have a Muslim majority, girls are expected to cover their entire body. In Southeast Asian countries like India, Nepal, Thailand etc, women should wear clothes that are below knee-length and cover their head while entering religious places like temples and gurudwaras.
Avoid wearing tightly fitted clothes – just to be safe, try wearing loose fitting clothes, long pants, and long dresses. Also, avoid wearing expensive jewelry as that can attract attention, and you may be robbed of them! The best would be to follow the locals and dress up like them. That way, you’ll also get a true essence of mingling with the society.
4. Avoid Late Night Parties & Drinking With Strangers
If you are volunteering with any trusted organization, they will instruct you about the rules that you need to follow, one of which is to avoid late night parties! You must understand that this rule is made for your safety only. It is better for women not to head out alone at night.
In case you wish to explore the nightlife, take prior permission of your country coordinator and ask your peers if they are interested to join you as well. It’s always better to move in a group at night, than being alone. Also, don’t consume enough alcohol to lose your senses, as that might put you in trouble.
5. Keep In Touch
No matter how far you travel from home, know that your family will always be there to help you. While on your journey abroad, always stay in touch with your folks back home, and keep them updated of your whereabouts. Send emails and texts telling how you are doing, also photographs of your peers and project site. Keep them informed about everything that is going on. Even if they are hundreds of miles away, knowing the little details might be helpful for them in case you are in trouble or if you fall sick. Share the number of your coordinator with your family and vice versa.
6. Get To Know Your Fellow Mates
It’ll be good to connect with other volunteers who’ll be there with you at the project site. Try to know them over social media, and talk to them to know more. Know that these people are the ones whom you can trust the most (after your coordinator), as they have also stepped out to be a part of the journey. You’ll soon realize the joy of making friends out of strangers, and probably, these people will be your best travel mates ever! Try and find out whose interests align with that of yours. It’ll be safer to travel with them, in a group.
Women, these days, are ahead in everything, and no fear should stop them. Remember that in most of the cases, your safety lies in your own hands. Take that much-awaited volunteer trip, do good, inspire others, and feel the joy of adding happiness to someone else’s life.
Follow the above-mentioned guidelines and have a safe journey. It’s always good to be safe than sorry!