The type of work varies a lot: from gardening, fencing, smaller reconstruction projects, seeding or harvesting, helping with child care or in the case of inns, with serving the breakfast and cleaning the rooms. A few hours of work is all that’s needed and it’s always agreed in advance by the host and the helper. In exchange you get a room, or in many cases a separate, well-equipped cottage or apartment for your use and sometimes your stay can include full board -- food! -- for free. But your stay is much more than simply a bargain. When you take advantage of voluntary travel deals, it means that you are not a passive tourist looking at the destination of your trip through a camera lens or guest-room window. Possibly, you will be getting involved in the daily life of the local community, and helping a local business thrive. By doing this you get real insight into another culture, a way of living, and you have a chance explore the intricacies of a business in which you might always have been interested. You might the opportunity to practice a foreign language, make valuable friendships and do something active, often for a good cause, while on vacation.
In databases like www.helpx.net and www.workawayinfo.com there are thousands of hosts wordwide offering you the chance to find the place, type of work, and type of host that suits you best, and you’ll always be afforded the chance to agree on the specific details of your stay. Here are just a few exciting examples from the US and around the world:
How about a private horse farm in Asheville, NC where two helpers are needed to do various horse- and non-horse related work. They have a fishing lake and a pond, lots of wooded trails and are surrounded by mountains for hiking. Helpers are expected to work 20-25 hours a week in exchange for room and board. Or, why not stay on a charming, rustic boat located in a bay off of Key West, Florida? In exchange for amazing sunsets, dolphins and sea turtles, some general help is needed with sanding, scraping and cleaning the vessel.
In the Loire Valley, in France families are warmly welcome: some gardening and smaller reconstruction work is required on the property of an English family with three kids. You can stay in a mobile home with two bedrooms, and after finishing with the work, head for Chateau Gontier, an amazing castle and town along River Mayenne. Your kids, and you, just may make friendships that will last a lifetime.
In Catania, Italy, a friendly family splits their lifestyle and time between their cottage in Etna, their flat in the city or their farm in Sicily. They accept helpers in all three places. They are seeking help with gardening and smaller renovation works. Simona, the lady of the family is a bookbinder, and it’s also possible to join her in this if you are interested. They speak English but you can will also have ample opportunity to practice your Italian.
When talking about voluntary travel the sky really is the limit, almost literally: a luxury-camping park in Tanzania -- with a splendid view of the Himalayas -- is looking for a chéf for December and January. The lucky candidate will live in a luxury-tent, with full board, lodging and visa paid for! In Buenos Aires an engineer in his sixties runs two rustic inns and accepts one helper any time during the year (without age limit) for one or two weeks, who helps clean the place and serve breakfast. You are expected to work three hours each morning and then the whole day (and night!) is yours to explore the city.
In England you can stay on a historic ship and be involved in renovating it. The ship is anchored a few minutes from the charming center of Colchester, which is the oldest registered town in England, replete with an astonishing 12th century castle. Speaking of castles: you can even stay in one, in Normandy, which is operated as a B&B in the middle of a huge park. An English couple is looking for couples, age 50+, who speak English well and are ready to help with gardening and around the house. You can stay in one of the lovely suites and enjoy the fabulous cuisine prepared by the innkeeper. They even lend their car for part-time use by their guest-helpers.
Voluntary travel is open for everyone: for solo travelers, one-parent families, younger or older couples, as well as for families with small kids. It is an excellent way to show kids the real essence of a destination and its people, and to experience a destination in a terrific new way. This type of immersion travel guarantees you will have new and unusual experiences and you will surely return from a trip like this with much more than postcard, pictures or souvenirs.