Volunteering: the fun and economic way to travel
Okay, I say’ volunteering’ – but really it just a way to use your time, skills, youth and charm to pay your way while travelling.
No I’m not talking about prostitution.
Its workstay. In exchange for a place to sleep and some food to eat, you offer your man (or woman) power whilst you get to stretch your dollars, francs, pounds – or whatevers – and afford to stay on the road that little bit longer.
There are now several websites where people offering board-for-work can reach out to the thrifty traveller community. The most popular of these is WWOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), however the site I used was Workaway as it provides for a wider range of working experiences than just farming.
The blurb from the Workaway website:
“Workaway.info holds a database of families, individuals or organizations in an extensive range of different countries who have registered with us and are looking for volunteer help in a huge range of different fields. From painting to planting, building to babysitting and shopping to shearing, Workaway.info aims to introduce working travellers and language learners to like minded hosts, without having to pay expensive agency fees.”
After a sign-up fee of about $20, you get to explore the range of places and ranges of experiences on offer.
In Canada there was a smorgasbord to choose from, such as caring for sledding dogs, renovating cabins, assisting at B&Bs, running a ranch, house-sitting, at-home care for disabled/ elderly, childcare, farming, yoga instructing…. just to name a few.
You and your host work out suitable times and arrangements, but its usually at least 5 hours of work a day with 1-2 days free a week. Its a pretty sweet deal!
My only regret was that I wished I had found out about this sooner!
Sharing the experience with other travellers for weeks at a time, I made some great friends and learned so much about how to travel and about other cultures. The hosts are usually keen to meet new people from new places, and are like tour guides; providing ideas of things to see and tips on how to get around.
The first time I did this I worked for a month on a cute little organic farm in Owen Sound, about an hour away from Toronto on the Niagara Escarpment. I spent my days picking, planting, cleaning, packing, milking, collecting eggs, feeding animals, cleaning the barn and canning. I got fit, lost weight, and it felt so good to feel tired at the end of the day from physically working. Plus we drank fresh cows milk each day, and ate home baked bread, fresh vegetables, home jams and cured meat from the farm. I was lucky enough to experience my first ever Thanksgiving holiday with three fresh baked geese raised on the farm itself, and had a wonderful Halloween carving fresh, organically grown pumpkins that we picked ourselves.
I then moved on to Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. I worked with a family-run events and catering venue, in a beautifully refurbished barn house designed for functions. I got experience waiting tables, setting up for functions, setting dinnerware, kitchen prep, polishing glassware and working the bar. A far cry from my usual 9-5 desk job! It was hilarious to see the look of confusion on people’s faces when I asked them in my Aussie accent if they wanted water, but all they heard was – “wada”.
There are hosts in most countries, so if you’re after a different way to cheaply travel then just hostel hopping – get online and check out the opportunities!