For most of us ‘holiday’ means cocktails on sandy beaches, shopping trips in old European cities and eating exotic cuisine in equally exotic locations. For some travellers ‘holiday’ has come to mean something more – the chance to make the world a better place.
People all over the world are upgrading from traveller to Travel Hero. They are climbing mountains and running marathons to raise money for their favourite charities, they are volunteering at refugee camps, environmental reserves and aid projects and, they are having the time of their life doing it.
Becoming a Travel Hero is not as hard as you might think. Columbus Direct researched adventure fundraising and volunteer vacation programmes and talked to some experts to find out exactly what it takes.
Am I fit enough to be a Travel Hero?
If your current exercise regime consists of walking from the couch to the TV when you can’t find the remote, then signing up for a multi-marathon in the desert might not be the best idea.
That said, there are adventure fundraising and volunteering opportunities that cater to all fitness levels. Someone getting active for the first time could look into a fundraising tour like Fighting Chance’s 12 day Indian Adventure or this conservation trip to Madagascar. A more seasoned athlete might be interested in joining Interplast’s May 2017 trek to Everest Base Camp or helping to build houses in the Philippines.
(Image supplied by ACT For Kids)
Can I get fit enough to be a Travel Hero?
If you have your eye on an adventure that is outside your current fitness level - excellent! Adventure fundraising and travel volunteering opportunities open for enrolment well before the events take place – this gives participants plenty of time to train, and a hugely motivating incentive.
If you plan far enough in advance, then it is possible to achieve something well outside your current fitness level. Coach Jenny of Runner’s World recommends a brand-new runner take 10 – 12 months to train up to a marathon. If you start today you could be ready in time from the 2017 Berlin or New York marathon. History buffs could be ready in time to run the Athens Penny Marathon which follows the original marathon route and raises money for stray animals at the same time.
If you want to train for an event but don’t know where to start then event organisers and participating charities can be a great source of information. Many charities run the same event annually and it’s not uncommon for charity staff to take part.
Physical activity is not for me… can I still be a Travel Hero?
Yes! There are plenty of opportunities that don’t involve high levels of physical activity. Why not choose an adventure that engages your brain rather than your brawn? You could become a volunteer teacher in South Africa, fill one of Volunteer Base Camp‘s administration roles, or find a partner and join 2017's Mystery Box Rally for an action-filled Cancer Council fundraising trip across Australia.
Am I mentally strong enough to be a Travel Hero?
Mental strength is a must for Travel Heroes. When you’re at home with a cup of tea planning your adventure, Trekking Kokoda can seem like a wonderful way to challenge yourself. When you and your wet weather gear are standing 22 meters up the 2,200metre face of Mount Bellamy, it will take some degree of determination to pass up the idea of a comfy hotel room in Port Moresby and keep moving up.
(Image supplied by ACT For Kids)
Nick Kershaw of Impact Marathons, a combination volunteering and marathon fundraising programme with events in Nepal, Malawi, Columbia and Guatemala, believes that mindset is more important than physical fitness:
“If you are mentally ready to take on the challenge of a lifetime, then you will do the preparation." Share this on Facebook
When it comes to motivation, having a cause that you believe in is paramount. Kershaw encourages his runners to “run for others and not for yourself…then you will have a great time.” Cavill Stone of Act of Kids can back this up – he tells us that participants in their annual Trek for Kids often find motivation from the thought of “making a difference to the lives of Australia’s abused and neglected children.”
I am emotionally strong enough to be a Travel Hero?
Being a Travel Hero can be emotionally tough. This is particularly true for the (absolutely amazing!) people that opt to volunteer with victims of poverty, conflict or illness. Despite the obvious emotional toll that working in these situations can have, many volunteers report that the benefit outweighs the cost.
Do I want to be a Travel Hero?
Holidays are one of the few times a year where putting yourself first is encouraged. Holidays allow us to relax, to experience new things, to step back and gain perspective. If you are hesitant to give up your holiday time then this is understandable.
Travel volunteers and adventure fundraisers will tell you that being a Travel Hero doesn’t take away from a holiday, but actually makes it better. The main goal of a travel volunteering and adventure fundraising is to help others but, there can be a lot in it for you too. Cavill Stone of Act for Kids explains how their volunteers feel after a fundraising trek: “We always get told how happy they are that they did it! It’s a great opportunity to do something for a great cause. They love getting to see the destinations from a new perspective and often that they’ve really bonded with the other trekkers and made some great friends out of the experience”
Does this sound like you? Join the conversation on Facebook using #TravelHeroes and @ColumbusDirectAUSNZ – let us know what inspires you to become a Travel Hero!
Feeling inspired to plan a travel volunteering or fundraising adventure? Then check out the second part of our series: How to find your perfect adventure.
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*The Travel Heroes competition is only open to Australian and New Zealand residents aged 18 or over. The entry period ends at 10:59am AEDST on 7th November 2016. Limit 1 entry per person & 1 entry per email address. The Travel Heroes Finalist Pack consists of a Turkish Murkish Super Soft Towel and an ecococoon Retro Chic 4 Cup Set. Further terms and conditions apply. View the full Terms and Conditions.
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