Help exchange

Exactly what it says on the tin.  Opportunities to volunteer help in exchange for food and accommodation all over the world.   It’s also a great way to interact with the locals and give back to the local community.

With one big added benefit for long-term travellers; you could have a significant drop in your biggest expenses.

Usually expected to work around 4-6 hours per day, particular tasks are made specific direct by your host.  The variety of opportunities available are more than fruit picking, have now extended however this is a snapshot and continues to grow:

Volunteer with hostels or other accommodation businesses – to include reception work, tour coordination, housekeeping and cleaning, cafe or restaurant service, bar staff, social media, website admin

Get your hands dirty and the sun on your skin at an organic or non-organic farm – to include fruit and vegetable picking/cultivation, manual labour, animal care, carpentry, gardening, maintenance

Live with a host family – to include teaching children of the family your language, renovations and decorating, cleaning, gardening, administration

HelpX

My favoured website for searching for hosts and a conduit to contact those of interest directly by the HelpX internal email.  An easy to use website that allows me to search by country and category of interest.  Your age won’t be a factor to HelpX however you may wish to include this in your introductory emails to hosts.

When you register as a host or helper you automatically become a Free member (hosts need to be approved first).  Free helper members who provide a self-description as part of their profile can be contacted by Premier hosts but cannot contact hosts directly.  I advise you simply to pay to be a full registered member; such an extensive list of hosts and only 20 euros for Premier membership.  This lasts for 2 years worldwide for both single or twin memberships.  Really simple maths.

You need to take the time to search through the opportunities.  Only you and your travelling companions can digest all the options.  Volunteer roles and hosts will appeal to different people.  I know I am happy to volunteer at a hostel but I have no desire to be cleaning up after 30 people on a pub crawl each night.  Supporting a yoga retreat in the Alps is a little more my style these days.

The hosts provide a descriptive text of what they are looking for, ideal duration of a HelpXer stay and what is offered in exchange.  They include a few images, their address and website if they have one.

At first glance, some host data can read a little aged even though they are active – this can be easily overcome.  Always sort by ‘Last Updated’ (usual defaulted) and this will list those actively using the website most recently at the top of your page.

I have 3 hosts confirmed after only 1 month of actually contacting hosts to offer my time. This has given me a sense of purpose as well as touristic excitement.  Plus these locations give me a base and a vague idea of where I’m heading; now I’m an advocate of what has been called ‘slow travel’ as I am not trying to achieve a world record for the number of cities I can visit in a year.

Work Away

A second cultural exchange website.  When you sign up as a ‘workaway’ you can access the host list, contact host families, NGO‘s or projects directly to volunteer and offer your services.

The site 1000s of hosts within 135 countries.  To be honest, the website is more modern in design, I really appreciate the image heavy profiles and the search engine filters very beneficial.  I plan to sign up but just haven’t needed to as yet.

Registering with workaway.info is 29.00 USD for an individual and 38.00 USD for a couple.  Accounts are valid for one year.  You can search extensively without paying however to contact hosts, you must be a member.

I will share my experiences with you as soon as I am up and running on the site.

The WWOOF International Website

A long-standing organisation and charity has been active since 1971.  WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (or Willing Workers On Organic Farms ) and it is a program where you can volunteer on a farm in exchange for your room and board.

There are over 100 countries to choose from in the program, from New Zealand to Argentina to France and Scotland.  There is a reassurance in the longevity of the charity and the partners/hosts they would promote.

If you are fit and well enough to work for 4-6 hours per day – there is no upper age limit for WWOOFing.  Many farmers welcome the maturity older WWOOFers bring, especially if you have farming and agricultural experience.

The Federation website directs you to the global destination search engine.  WWOOF started in the UK in 1971, a long time before the internet existed.  The organisation founder, Sue Coppard, was happy for the idea to spread and for people to take it back to their own countries and set up their own national WWOOF groups.  This has resulted in a large network of individual WWOOF subscription fees between 0 – 56 Euro.  You are required to register and subscribe to each country you are wanting to volunteer in and travel to.

A fantastically informed and long-standing blogger Nomadic Matt has a great article about WWOOF: How to Travel and Work Around the World with WWOOF

I start my very first help exchange at the Chateau de Jalesnes located in the rich landscape of the Loire Valley, France, in June, watch this space for a blog post soon.