Traveling overseas for a mission trip is sure to be a fun and fulfilling experience. Whether you are sharing your faith or simply helping an afflicted area, there is a lot to be learned and gained from volunteer travel. Trips like this, however, whether they are for a few days or a few years, bring with them perils that most travelers will never have to deal with. These additional risks mean you will need to be extra prepared. Here are handy tips that will help make your mission trip a success:
1. Be careful of what you drink
Having safe drinking water is key. Although soda is typically a safe bet too, sugary, caffeinated drinks can make you feel sluggish after the initial energy boost subsides, so water is the best way to stay hydrated. Pack a water purification kit so that you do not have to rely on the availability of bottled water.
2. Be physically and emotionally prepared
Any kind of mission travel involves hard work, be it physical or emotional. Exercise daily, eat well, and do everything you can to be physically and mentally prepared for what is to come when you are overseas. You are likely to see poverty that far exceeds anything you have seen in the US, so make sure you have a good support system in place for emotionally challenging experiences.
3. Learn the language
Try to find out about local customs and learn useful phrases if the people speak a different language. In fact, knowing the local language is almost indispensable if you are a missionary staying in country for a long period of time. Being able to communicate will immediately let the locals know that you care about them and the work you are doing. This knowledge will also help keep you out of trouble.
Remember, however, that different words can have very different meanings in various areas. Even if you know the local language fairly well, you’re probably going to make a few mistakes along the way. For example, a common nickname for Ruth in Colombia is an extremely offensive name for a woman in Peru! Most times, people are willing to forgive these mistakes, but having a humble attitude will surely help.
4. Remember to take care of yourself
If you are feeling sick or have an ache that is not going away, allow yourself time to rest and recover. If you don’t take the time to rest, a small injury will never be able to heal and can quickly turn into something much more serious. Although you are doing important work, it is crucial to take time out to address “small” issues as they arise so that you will be able to do more in the long run.
5. Carry a backpack
As a missionary, you are living simply and likely do not need to carry all that much with you on a daily basis, but going without a bag isn’t always the best option. Taking a backpack will allow you to carry crucial supplies like extra water, food, books, pamphlets, and a small first aid kit. Any number of things can fit in a backpack, and all of them can help in your mission.
6. Dress properly
Make sure you dress according to cultural norms and as is most proper for the everyday issues you will face. If you are going to a rainy or wet region, then wear a waterproof jacket or shirts that dry easily. In some areas, there can be extreme temperature differences between night and day, so remember to dress in layers. As you peel the layers off during the day, you can store the additional items in your backpack.
7. Be prepared for unpleasant situations
Unpleasant occurrences are simply a part of the missionary experience, so prepare yourself to face these situations in advance. First, it is very likely you may get a nasty stomach bug that results in vomiting or traveler’s diarrhea. Prepare yourself by packing antibiotics and oral rehydration salts. Also, since you are likely to be in more rural or impoverished regions, the chances you will be bitten by a dog increase. Be sure to talk to your travel health specialist about the Rabies pre-exposure vaccine for added peace of mind overseas.
8. Enjoy your trip
Certainly, your mission trip is going to involve awful days full of shocking experiences, but you are also certain to experience some of the best and most rewarding days of your life. Enjoy your trip, and always look on the bright side of any situation.