I am a self-funded traveller. This means that I pay for my travels and support myself when travelling, no one else pays for me to travel. And that includes everything I do while I travel.
I mentioned in a previous post that I’m currently in Buenos Aires teaching English with Voluntario Global (‘First day nerves…’). I also mentioned that this teaching position is voluntary, which means I’m not getting paid for it. Not only am I not getting paid for it, I am actually paying to do it. And why am I paying to teaching English and not being paid to teach? Well for a start, Voluntatrio Global is a charity that works in underprivilleged areas in Buenos Aires (and other countries in South America). By paying to teach, and teaching, I’m helping in two ways. First of all, money I’ve paid goes towards the charity, and to a social fund, and then pays for my rent here. Secondly, I’m not only giving money, I’m giving my time.
A few people I know have been on charity projects abroad (building schools or houses etc, with the similar idea), but they’ve all gotten sponsorship for this and have therefore not paid anywhere near as much as me. So why didn’t I just go through the sponsorship route? For the simple reason that I’m here for purely selfish reasons. Yes, it seems really selfless and generous of me to give up my time and money to teach English, but really the way I see it is I’m gaining experiece. Not only am I travelling, but I’m also broadening my work experience. And I’m also living out my dream (I also said in the post I’ve mentioned above that it’s been my dream for years to come to South America).
I don’t expect anyone to pay for me to be able to achieve my dreams when I know there are people still dreaming, thinking their dreams aren’t possible. This is why when it comes to charity travel or volunteer travel (voluntours, as it’s now becoming known as), I have a different range of opinions.
I think if you’re a teenager, it’s ok to do charity travel, as long as you believe in the cause and want to go to the place you’re actually going. If you’re any older, why can’t you fund your own travels, charity or not, like I do? If you’re in your 20s like me, or older, then you’re probably working, which means you’re earning enough money to travel. A 14 year old wanting to go on a charity trek to Mount Kenya, they can’t afford it. If they’ve been given an opportunity like that, they should embrace it, grab it with both hands, and no one should stop them. They might never get that opportunity again. When I was at school we had the chance to do ‘World Challenge’. This was an opportunity I let pass me by.
If you’re of working age, like I am now, you’ve probably had these opportunities and let them pass you by, like I have. If you haven’t had these opportunities, now is your chance. Save the money you’re earning and do it. But don’t ask someone else to pay for you live out your dreams.
It might sound like I’m anti-charity, I’m not. What I’m against is people asking other people to donate some of their hard earned cash towards what they will essentially see as a holiday they’re never going to have. A lot of the money they raise will go towards the cost of the trip (flights, accommodation etc), and anything left over goes to the charity. Yes, you do amazing things on a voluntour, and a long trek is really rewarding. But because I won’t ever ask anyone to pay for me to travel now I’m old enough to be able to pay for it myself, I’m very unlikely to financially support other people my age doing charity travel. The best support you can have when travelling is the love of your friends and family back home, which I have, and am very grateful for. And if after reading this anyone feels the need to donate to charity, then do it, donate to any charity you want, I’m not going to tell you how to spend your money, just make sure that whatever you do spend it on makes YOU happy.