NOBODY DECIDES to travel halfway around the world to spend weeks or months of their life undermining a local community. But voluntourism – like that famous quote about the paving on the road to hell – often comes close. The debate about the practice, like most things in life, is far more ethically nuanced than many organisations facilitating such experiences often let on.
Always wanted to travel extensively, but did not the financial resources to do so? Here are some ways to earn your keep while traveling. Well, these suggestions might not be able to sponsor your whole trips but at least, if you are willing put in the effort, they are definitely worth a consideration.
Visiting a country isn’t all about catching the popular tourist sights. Sometimes, it is through mingling with the locals that you gain greater travel satisfaction. Volunteering is an activity that kills two birds with one stone. There are many overseas volunteering organisations that are able to provide free food and lodgings, say for exchange of your time to do some teaching at the local orphanage. Not interested in teaching? No problem, you can also participate in the Willing Workers On Organic Farm (WWOOF) programme. As a WWOOFer, all you need are some green fingers to help out in organic farms as a volunter worker. I WWOOFed in South Korea and did interesting farm work in exchange for free meals and lodgings. After after working hours, I was invited to join the family activites. In short, WWOOFing allowed me to see much of the South Korean lifestyle without spending a single cent. Great deal eh?
It has been 3 years since I last wrote a packing guide. Not much has changed, I am still using almost the same packs as before. But I am older and not too keen to carry as much stuff, so an Ebook Reader and photocopied notes has replaced the books I used to carry, a smartphone has replaced my netbook and a Sony Nex 3 has replaced my heavier Fujifilm S6500FD.
While I do not think one should be unduly worried about the items to bring, one should definitely pay more attention to items that cannot be purchased easily (if they can be bought in the first place) in the destination countries. Some of these items are passport, money, credit card, phone, medicine, camera and chargers. Other items such as clothings and tolietries are usually easy to find.
I also do not think it is necessary to invest in specialised travel products if one does not travel often. A normal cotton towel works just as well as a microfibre towel even if it takes up more space. A pair of sport shoes are enough for normal walkabouts and a pair of hiking shoes might not be necessary. If you are on a guided tour with vehicles, you might even want to bring along a luggage instead of a backpack.
For my upcoming trip to China (Sichuan, Tibet and Yunan) in November, I would be bringing warmer clothings and here is my packing list with photos.
Many travelers, including me, enjoy reading while traveling. The major problem of such a hobby is that books can quickly add up to the weight of your backpack. Finding books in some places is another common issue.
Here, an Ebook reader would come in useful. Such devices are light-weight, capable of storing hundreds of books and often come with the ability to purchase books directly via internet. Other common features are web browsing and music playing. While the Ebook reader’s screen might not fully duplicate the feel and look of an actual book, most of the popular Ebook readers actually comes with a display technology called E Ink. This is different from the LCD screen we see in iPad or laptops which is not conducive for long hours reading because of the glare and reflection.
Watch the Amazon Kindle advertisement below which shows the difference between an E Ink and LCD screen.
Personally, I own the Sony PRS-350 Ebook reader. It is one of the smallest Ebook readers around and unlike the more popular Amazon Kindle, it supports ePub which is a free and open format used in E-Libraries and online bookstores.
Borrowing an ebook might sound like an exotic concept. But it works rather well. Just like a normal library book, the borrowed ebook would automatically expire after a certain number of days set by your library. Here is a quick guide from the online library which I usually borrow my books from.
I was preparing for my trip to India and had to transfer some money to a HDFC bank account in India. I did some research and found HDFC Quickremit which promised low fees and reasonable exchange rates. Moreover, they have an arrangement with my bank (DBS) in Singapore which I can make a quick funds transfer and avoid the use of credit cards. Everything sounds good.
But my experience has not been great. Here’s my 1 month saga.