Are you one of the lucky chosen who get to join us on one of our amazing Guatemalan service vacations? If not, perhaps you’ve got a vacation of your own planned and you need to get ready for it. Either way, planning to leave town and head to another country is no small matter, especially when you’ll spend a lot of time helping others. So, how do you prepare? There are mental and physical elements. Let’s dive deeper.
Deciding to take the plunge and pay for the trip was the first and hardest step. Now you’ve signed the dotted line and its time to prepare. Before you start packing your things, first you have to prepare your mindset. Service vacations are about more than just lounging on the beach – though there is that element. They include hard work helping others, delivering goods, building stoves, and so much more. Yet, you will also witness abject poverty. You will see things that might make you uncomfortable. And while being exposed to it is a good thing, it can be jarring.
Many times we are told that those who join us on one of our Guatemalan service vacations are deeply impacted by the poverty we expose them to. Visiting the trash dump in Guatemala City and witnessing thousands of people digging through trash just to survive is emotional. It can be tough to see that. You must be able to prepare yourself mentally to be able to acknowledge what you are seeing and be touched by it, without letting it lead to depression or anxiety. It is okay to be angry or upset, this is the energy that drives you to help. Puts life in perspective. Still, the last thing you want is to come away from your service vacation feeling worse than when you went in. Steel your mind.
Another aspect of mental preparation comes in the vacation element. Here at Guatemalan Humanitarian Tours, we mix an element of tourism in with our service. Those who join us will go from zip lining and horseback riding to feeding the needy and learning about poverty. Other service vacations and humanitarian trips do the same thing. Mental preparation includes being ready for lots of travel, lots of fun, but also lots of learning.
Alright, so you’ve taken some time to mentally prepare yourself. Now you’ve got to get your body and suitcases ready! Service vacations, like so many other kinds of vacations, involve a lot of movement. Our tours begin in Guatemala City and travel all over the country. We are rarely in one place for more than a day. As a result, we have to be prepared to be on the move. Still, anyone can join us. We are not doing activities so strenuous that we cannot accommodate almost anyone. But there will be a lot of moving around. If you want a more sedentary experience, a service vacation might not be for you.
Next, you want to make sure you pack properly. The last thing you want to do on a service vacation is lug around massive amounts of luggage. Certainly, you want to have everything you need to be comfortable, but there is no need to pack your fanciest club shoes. You want to prioritize comfort and utility over aesthetics. You may be in tropical environments, so packing an anti-bug bite spray or lotion would not be a bad idea. Comfortable walking shoes, loose clothing, and hair ties also come in handy. Still, there may be times where the nights are brisk, so a light jacket or coat is also recommended.
Finally, you want to make sure you stay super conscious of how you pack and what you pack while you are in-country. Try to avoid single-use plastics where possible. And leave room for souvenirs and trinkets as you will be given the opportunity to buy items from local artisans. In most cases, this money goes right back into the pockets of individuals in the community and not corporations, so don’t hesitate to leave some room in your luggage and cash in your pocket.
Going on vacation likely means you are leaving things behind. Consider your home, family, or pets. If you are gone for over a week, once you have your travel date, make sure to contact your kennel or house sitter. You want to make sure they are available when you need them to be. Taking care of it before you actually buy your tickets could result in cancelation or change fees, so make sure everything is in order before you reserve your help.
You may also want to consider pausing any regular deliveries you have coming to the home. We live in an age of digital delivery and many people now get groceries at regular intervals dropped to their doorstep. Don’t forget to stop or pause these unless your house sitter will take care of them.
One of your most important considerations should be your cash flow. Much of a service vacation is included in what you pay, but you don’t ever want to end up short on cash when you need it the most. Also consider ATM fees. You don’t want to get hit with a bunch of them. Check out where your bank has partner ATMs and try to game plan spending. Also make sure you call your credit or debit card company(s) to ensure you don’t get hit with a decline over fraud suspicions.
Finally, don’t forget your hands-free devices. You may need a Bluetooth headset for the plane and perhaps a case for your phone. The last thing you want to do is drop it into a volcano!
Are you getting ready to head on an amazing service vacation or are you looking for the perfect one? We invite you to learn more about Guatemalan Humanitarian Tours and don’t hesitate to contact us today if you have any questions!