How to bring back more than just souvenirs

There are numerous reasons why we love to travel abroad; from soaking up the sun for a week in a luxury Spanish resort, to spending a month exploring Mayan ruins in Mexico, with nothing but a backpack for company.

A passion for travelling is often linked to a natural curiosity for culture, exploration and adventure, but sometimes it’s far too easy to get carried away with a whirlwind of sightseeing trips and before you know it, it’s time to write those postcards and return home.

Regardless of how long your trip is, there are plenty more exciting things you can bring back with you than a full camera and a few novelty souvenirs. Read on to see how you can collect skills and enriching experiences on your next trip.

If you’re going for a week...
Develop your passion. From art history lectures in Paris to cookery classes in Florence, a week is plenty of time to learn a new skill. Take time to plan your holiday around a particular area of interest and research local classes in your chosen area. You could even go on a trip tailored to your interests.

If you’re going for a month...
Learn a language. Naturally you should familiarise yourself with the local language of your destination, regardless of how long you’ll be there – even mumbled pleasantries in Portuguese are far better than speaking loud and slow in English – but an extended trip gives you a fantastic opportunity to bring back a valuable skill. Knowing a second language can make you more employable, flex your capacity for learning and, of course, come in handy on future holidays. Look for a willing local tutor upon arrival and immerse yourself in the local culture and engage with the community to help you pick up the language and apply your skills in a ‘real world’ environment.

If you’re going for three months...
Volunteer. Make a difference to the lives of others by volunteering on your next holiday. Take inspiration from your hobbies – work for a conservation charity in Greece, get involved in sports programmes in South Africa or pitch in with childcare at a Cambodian orphanage.

All these experiences will not only give you a truly memorable holiday, but will also help those in need. Many volunteer programmes offer the chance for participants to raise money through sponsorship (to cover flights, food and board) so this option requires advance preparation, but the rewarding feeling you get will be worth it. Volunteering also looks fantastic to future employers, as it shows you have outside interests and self motivation.

If you’re going for six months or more...
Teach. Needless to say that on an extended trip you could do all of the above, but if you’re planning on staying in one country for six months or more, you could look into teaching at a local school or college. TFEL (Teaching English as a foreign language) courses vary in length – from a couple of days to several months, but a qualification like this can open doors and make your holiday a truly enriching experience. The skills you develop will aid you in future jobs (such as overcoming a fear of public speaking) and who knows, it could even inspire a whole new career path!

All of these experiences will enhance your holiday experience and can benefit you later in life – whether that’s adding a second language to your resume, sponsoring a child in need or simply learning how to cook a delicious pasta dish.

What skills have you brought back from your adventures?

About the author: Gavin Harvey is a personal trainer with an insatiable case of wanderlust! He loves to wander off the beaten track and discover those hidden gems that most tourists don’t see. He enjoys learning new languages, and blogs for Linguaphone Group’s child learning programme, Pingu’s English in his spare time. You can keep up with his latest adventures by following him on twitter.

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