Searching for a gap project and looking for some ideas? Rosanne, took part in our Volunteer USA programme. Here, in her own words she explains her journey.
"The two years between leaving school and passing my A- levels mainly consisted of hanging out with my friends, avoiding endless amount of coursework and dreaming of the days when I would be free from education to travel the world as I pleased. But this is easier said then done.
After the hype of passing my exams and waving my friends off to their respective universities, I hit a very big very scary wall: what the hell was I going to do with my year off? I wasn’t ready for university but with no travel experience and about a billion different gap year opportunities advertised online I genuinely didn’t know where to start.
America was always on my list of places to visit but it never occurred to me that moving to a small town Flagstaff, Arizona would be my answer.
Volunteer USA caught my eye after a very long search of gap year placements, it was in my price range, it looked like a challenge and best of all I wouldn’t be travelling alone. Perfect.
In my first few days in Flagstaff, all new volunteers got to move into the volunteer houses, meet the staff and have a full introduction to what kind of projects we would be doing, which creepy crawlies to avoid and what to do if we happened to come face to face with a mountain lion!
I found out that I was living with 12 other volunteers from all over the world and my first project would be trail building in the Arizona desert for 8 days, oh, and there would be no toilets or running water.
I know it all sounds pretty daunting but these first few days really helped ease my mind. When I talk to people about Volunteer USA, the most common concerns I get are…
* What if I’m not strong enough to take part in the projects?
* I don’t think I can cope with camping in the middle of nowhere!
* What about time off? I want to travel too.
Trust me, I had all these worries and more but the truth is that this programme is for ANYONE who wants to volunteer and travel in America, not just those with a Vin Diesel type physique. As long as you have enthusiasm, an open mind (and don’t mind getting a bit muddy) then there’s no reason why you can’t go.
I’m 5.5ft and have about as much muscle as a bowl of jelly. Yet, after that first project I felt like Superwomen. My following projects involved fence building; trail maintenance and clearing old footpaths. I was swinging pick axes, moving rocks (I was even trusted to use a heavy duty drill during a project in New Mexico.)
I had also never really been camping before let alone in the wilderness but it’s funny how quickly you adapt to your surroundings. Yes, sometimes it was frustrating having no facilities or living out of a rucksack but camping on project meant I got wake up in some of the most beautiful National Parks in America without queuing for hours to get in. It also meant I had a proper change of scenery from my life in England: there wasn’t a Tesco’s, Starbucks or McDonalds in sight!
As for travelling, the projects work on a ‘week-on week-off’ basis. So if you have an eight-day project you get the following six days off to travel. It’s pretty easy for 4/5 people to pitch in for a hire car. Every volunteer wants to make the most of their days off so where you go is up to you. In my ten weeks in Arizona, I managed road trips to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Santa Fe and various places around Flagstaff as well as projects in Utah and New Mexico!
Volunteer USA turned out to be the perfect choice for my gap year. I had an amazing experience, meet a fantastic group of people and gave me the confidence to go travelling again. I’ve since been back to America and cannot wait for trip number three in 2012!"
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