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Trip Selection

If you are new to the process of selecting a voluntour, then you are likely feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. Fear not, the process is becoming easier as we speak.

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Traveler - Trip Selection

Getting Started
Trip Selection
Trip Preparation
Processing Experiences
Future Preparation

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Destinations around the world are beginning to formalize voluntourism options on their websites - Cape Town, South Africa; Jordan; Philadelphia, USA; and Vancouver, BC - just to name a few. (See the DMO/CVB section of this website for a more complete list.)

In this section of VolunTourism.org, you will discover some tools to assist you in the selection process.

Once you have determined your Purpose, taken an inventory of your service Assets, and answered the tough Questions, (PAQs) you are ready to move to the next phase - selecting a program. How exactly are you planning to make a decision with tens of thousands of options around the world from which to choose? (And you thought we had already asked the tough questions.)

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Well, this will be much easier than you think.

In this section, we will touch on the following topics:

  • Step #1: Developing a VolunTourism (VT) Matrix
  • Step #2: Research & Mapping of VolunTourism Opportunities onto Your VT Matrix
  • Step #3: Reviewing Options that fit your VT Matrix
  • Step #4: Interviewing Potential Options
  • Step #5: Making a Final Selection

Step #1: Crafting The VT Matrix

Set up either an Excel Spreadsheet or a piece of graph paper with the following dimensions - 25 vertical squares and a minimum of 10 horizontal squares. Here is a condensed version as an example:

PAQs Option 1 Option 2 Option 3 Option 4 Option 5 Option 6 Option 7 Option 8 Option 9
PAQ 1                  
PAQ 2                  
PAQ 3                  
PAQ 4                  
PAQ 5                  
PAQ 6                  
PAQ 7                  
PAQ 8                  
PAQ 9                  
PAQ 10                  
PAQ 11                  
PAQ 12                  
PAQ 13                  
PAQ 14                  
PAQ 15                  
PAQ 16                  
PAQ 17                  
PAQ 18                  
PAQ 19                  
PAQ 20                  
PAQ 21                  
PAQ 22                  
PAQ 23                  
PAQ 24                  

The items that you identified for the "Getting Started" exercise can now be used to place into your VT Matrix. The cells in the left-hand column represent your Purpose, your service Assets, and your answers to the hard Questions as individual elements or (PAQs). The remaining columns are left for organizations that you will "map" against the criteria you have established via your (PAQs) Let's look at an example using "your purpose" only:

My Purpose: To learn more about the U.S./Mexican Border Region, practice my Spanish, and help the people of the area in whatever way possible.

For this example we will use a smaller matrix, but for the one that you put together use the above dimensions. Let's take key words from the purpose statement and put them into our matrix:

PAQs Option 1 Option 2
U.S./Mexico Border Region    
Practice Spanish    
Help People    
No Preference/Help Type    

You will add in the other elements of your PAQs in a similar fashion to build out your VT Matrix. Once you have done so, you are ready for Step #2.


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Step #2: Research & Mapping

There are key elements of your PAQs that will assist you in concentrating your research efforts. Such elements include: Destination, Type of Service, Duration, Accommodation Requirements, Safety, and Price. Identify these as the "Priority" PAQs for you. (For those who really like to be organized, you may want to place these at the top of your PAQ list or even on a separate 3x5 index card.)

When you review books, magazines, or conduct a web search of VolunTourism Options, you will very quickly be able to determine what does "not" fit your criteria. You may also want to talk to friends and family who may have conducted a similar trip to point you in a certain direction, but remember, friends and family are NOT YOU. Their preferences and aversions are not yours.

When you find an organization that fits your Priority PAQs, then fill in the boxes with either a "Yes" or a "No" as you move down your complete list of PAQs in comparison to what the VolunTourism Operator provides. When you have filled out the entire VT Matrix, you are ready for Step #3.

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Step #3: Reviewing VT Options

You have your VT Matrix in front of you. Now you can begin to look through each VT Option and see where the "No's" are. Can you immediately cast aside any of the VT Options because they have too many "No's?" In most cases you will be able to do so.

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With your remaining VT Options, begin to compare and contrast what each one offers. This may take a little bit of time, but it will cause you to really think about your priorities and what you MUST have as a part of your VT experience.

When you have conducted this exercise to a point where you have three (3) to five (5) remaining options, revisit the source from which you originally gathered information about the organization. Copy down all important contact information - specific contact person, corresponding telephone number and/or email address, etc. If you discover through this process that you are not, somehow, satisfied with what they offer in this regard, then you can cross that organization off of your list.

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Step #4: Interviewing VT Options

If you have ever been interviewed for a job, this is where you really want to test your memory and reflect back on the specific questions that were asked. Or, perhaps if you were interviewed by someone you thought was exceptional, try to mimic their methodology. In any event, prepare yourself to thoroughly examine the handful of VT Options you have left.

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Make sure to schedule an appointment ahead of time. This will mean that you will have, more times than not, the undivided attention of the person on the other end of the phone. If you call and someone is in a hurry to get to another meeting, etc., you may find that the answers to your questions are exactly what you want to hear. But when you show up on their doorstep three months later, what you thought was a situation for which you felt a great deal of confidence may not be at all "the situation" that you confront.

What questions should you ask? Well, you have an excellent starting point by referring to your PAQ list. You can start by "double-checking" that what you have copied down as a "Yes" on your sheet is, in fact, a "Yes" in reality. If, for example, you wanted to make sure that the organization has liability insurance, you can ask during your phone interview: "Does your organization have liability insurance? What coverage do you provide for someone who may be injured while volunteering?"

If you have really filled out your VT Matrix, you will be able to ask the important questions. But you may want to ask such things as:

"What is your refund policy in the event that I am unable to make the trip?"

"I have children, will I be able to contact my family during my trip?"

Look for the little things that you may have overlooked in your VT Matrix and ask about these things. Also, you want to take good notes during your phone interviews and make any changes to your VT Matrix based upon those conversations.

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Step #5: Making A Final Selection

If you have really conducted your efforts with due diligence, one program should stand out in your mind as "The" VT Program for You!

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If, however, you still have some reservations, you may want to have a second phone interview or discuss your findings with a friend or family member. Or you could even give us a call here at VTI and we would certainly give you any information that we may have about an organization.

Now, is the moment when you have to really take a little time and reflect on the information that you have. Even if one organization stands out, you may really like an element of another one. Are you, perhaps, will to take the risk of selecting that VT Option over another one? You might be, but until you sit with it for a little while...

Realize that this is an investment of your time, effort, and money. You have every right to do as you please, but consider that this may be the one and only time that you ever take such a trip. Don't you want to give yourself every opportunity to have the best experience possible? Of course, you do.

Sleep on it a few days, practice some yoga or meditation, or whatever you do to help you process big decisions. Then, and only then, make your selection.

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