Travel is eye-opening. It is transformative. And above all, it’s fun. Travel has allowed me to grow as a person in ways that I never thought possible. In fact, I love it so much that I am determined to make it a regular part of my life rather than just something I pursue on holiday. However, if travel is associated with fancy hotels and expensive restaurants, making travel a “way of life” can seem unrealistic for most people. But that’s not necessarily the case. The world has become so interconnected that finding a way to exchange your volunteer work for free room and board has become easier than ever. In doing so, you will meet people from around the world and encounter new cultures from a local’s perspective. Regardless of your talents or interests, there is an opportunity for anyone who seeks extended travel without the cost. Here are a few ways you can do it:
Become an au pair
If you like kids, then this may be the job for you. An au pair is basically a nanny (live in or live out) for kids. Regardless of where you’re from, there are probably some parents out there looking to teach their kids your native language. As an au pair, a family will take you in as their own, usually providing food and your own room in their home in exchange for you taking care of and interacting with their children. As an au pair, you will live like a local in whichever country you choose and oftentimes, host families are eager to share their culture with you. Some even take you traveling with them! Two great websites for finding au pair jobs are www.greataupair.com and www.aupairworld.com . With an account, you can browse families, countries, and work expectations.
Work on a farm
WWOOF is an organization that pairs volunteers with organic farms all around the world. Usually, in exchange for free room and board, you will be required to help with farming in the mornings, leaving your evenings and weekends free. Not only will you meet other travel-oriented people, but you will also be contributing to sustainable farming practices- two birds with one stone.
While I will go into further detail about teaching English in a future post, there are many teaching opportunities that don’t require a long-term contract. One of the best ways to find this is to search for English-Immersion programs. These are usually short-term (a week or so) and provide all your amenities while you converse with non-native speakers. In between programs, you are able to travel and see the country in which you are staying. I participated in 3 programs with a company called Angloville in Poland this summer where I made so many new Polish friends and learned more about the country than I could have as just a tourist. Additionally, this program allowed me to obtain my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certification. These types of programs exist all over the world so if you’re interested, check out Angloville https://angloville.com (Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary) and Vaughan Town http://volunteers.grupovaughan.com (Spain). These programs do not require a teaching certification.
Work anywhere doing anything – Workaway
Do all of these opportunities sound cool but you’re not sure if they are a good fit for you? Workaway is the best database to search for all jobs that are looking for volunteers. Hosts include hostels, animal rescues, schools, yoga studios, eco farms and more. With an account, you can read reviews, talk with hosts, and even link your profile with a friend’s if you are traveling together. I have met many people who have used Workaway and most say it was one of the best experiences of their lives. One of my close friends, Jennifer Bishop spent the summer after her study abroad backpacking around Europe by working in hostels. Read about Jen’s experience below:
“Doing a Workaway experience in a hostel was one of the highlights of my time backpacking in Europe! Not only did I save a ton of money in the time that I spent there, I also made lasting friendships who I still FaceTime with frequently a year later. I worked in the #1 hostel in Zagreb, Croatia for 1 month. Each volunteer was required to work 5-hour shifts, 6 days a week. There were three different shifts you could get which were morning, afternoon, and evening. The morning shift was entirely cleaning – we were in charge of changing any vacant beds (up to 60), mopping and vacuuming all the floors, cleaning the common areas like the kitchen, and sweeping outside. I’ll be honest, the cleaning shift was a lot of actual hard work but in the end rewarding. We worked alongside the full-time housekeeper. The other two shifts usually involved a bit of cleaning and then helping to check people in and giving tours of the hostel, or running game nights and entertaining guests in the common areas. In return for our work, we received free access to an amazing breakfast buffet (which I would sneak away enough food for lunch ha), a free bed in one of their 8-bed dorm rooms, free laundry, and free beers and ciders during our shifts. In my opinion, it was well worth it since the exchange rate was ridiculously good for the U.S. dollar at the time so I only spent $2-3 a day at most for anything else I wanted. Overall, I had an amazing time. Not only did I get to meet all kinds of people from all over the world without having to travel myself, but I was able to have a more localized view of living in Croatia since I made friends with the regular staff. I can’t wait to use Workaway again to find more volunteer opportunities abroad!”
Volunteer opportunities are changing the way people travel. It allows those with fewer savings to experience new cultures for an extended period of time. More and more, I meet people who return home for a few months at a time to make money before they head out to their next few work away assignments. If you are willing to put in a little work, there is nothing stopping you from seeing all this world has to offer.
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