You don’t need a fortune to travel. It’s true. Even if you’re going to Europe. People always ask me how I afford to travel. They say they want to, but they have excuses, involving both money and work.
There are two key organizations that, once you know about them, will help your travels be both inexpensive and much more rewarding. I’ll also add in a few extra bonus tips at the end from my own experiences. Check this out:
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms! This is an international organization that hosts websites for both organic farmers/gardeners and travelers. The basic premise is work in exchange for room and board. This gives you, the traveler, an opportunity to see life through the eyes of a local, to get your hands in the soil of the country you’re traveling in, to learn about organic and sustainable agriculture and can offer you connections that you’d never get as a tourist.
Things have changed a little bit since I first got connected to WWOOF. Nowadays it appears that each country has its’ own website. And you have to purchase a membership to their organization. Ireland, for instance, charges 20 Euros for an individual, 25 for a family for a 1 year subscription. And the sites work sort of like any social networking site. Farmers along with travelers have profiles so you can check each other out.
Communication is key to WWOOFing. Make sure you know up front how many hours you will work per day in exchange for room and board. Once you’ve arrived stay in communication with your host. I’ve only had positive experiences doing this, but I’ve only tried it in Ireland. I know many people who have done it throughout Europe and have had great experiences. WWOOF does have a feedback system so if you encounter something strange or bad, you can pass that information along to officials.
www.couchsurfing.org is another fun venue for quirky traveling. Just like WWOOF and Facebook, each member has a profile. And what will you find there? Places, all over the world, where you can crash on people’s couches (although frequently you get an actual bed!). All of this is free. Another cool feature on the site is something called Coffee and a Drink. This helps you get connected to local people who have similar interests to you without having to enter their homes and trust them with your life.
I’ve couch-surfed twice, both times in Ireland, and both were good experiences. In fact one woman I surfed with is now a dear friend of mine. I also have a handful of friends who have used this system in different countries, and they have all had positive experiences as well. Like anything in life you need to use your awareness and your instincts to decide if a couchsurfing host is right for you. And if anything feels off, just don’t stay with them. Be careful and have fun!
3 Extra Tips for Traveling like a Local
Tell people where you are going: You’d be amazed how many contacts you can get pre-trip if you do a little storytelling and let people know about your adventures. And please, don’t worry about being a bother to your friend’s friend in Argentina. Most of the rest of the world (outside of America) are curious and interested in meeting real life American; they are happy to host you, get over it! And the best thing about meeting locals is they introduce you into what life is really like in the country in which you are traveling. That shit is priceless.
Allow for Spontaneity: This can sometimes be challenging for us as Americans. We want to get in, get out, and get the most bang for our buck. When you travel, you never know who you’re going to meet, what kinds of friends you might make, and what sorts of adventures you might go on. These things can only be determined in the moment. Allow room in your schedule, be flexible, go with the flow.
Help X: I’ve never used this organization, but I’ve heard good things. People can post work exchange opportunities here beyond what WWOOF does. I once saw an ad for help needed on a sailboat! Here’s the link: http://www.helpx.net/
So, have you ever used any of these organizations? How do you like to travel? Leave your thoughts, stories, and questions below. As always, I’d love to hear from you!