Volunteering, Travel and You
Traveling now a days is seen as something that only people with a lot of money can do. People work their 9-5 jobs and hope for that 2 week Vacation and save and save for a 5 night stay at a fancy resort. The cool thing is though, with a little research, dedication and an open mind, travel really doesn’t have to cost that much at all. It’s no secret that I’ve accrued student debt, who hasn’t? The thought of traveling anytime before I was 40 was nonexistent. A little google searching helped me find out what I needed to do to get my Adventure on!
This is where we start, and oh boy is it important. There are hundreds of Volunteer programs across the world, so which one do you choose? I started off looking into well known programs first, such as:
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, shortened to WWOOF. I checked into the Canadian one since I didn’t plan to leave Canada for my first experience, but I’m assuming the process is the same. You pay a yearly fee and you get access to seeing who’s hosting, meaning looking for people to help out with organic gardening, housework and other odd jobs. When you WWOOF, your accommodations and usually your meals are taken care of, as well you get to meet some pretty interesting people, gain some wicked experience and still see a new and unfamiliar place. That sounds like a good deal to me!
Help Exchange or Helpx is another great Volunteering website. It’s very similar to WWOOFing but with a few more options. If you don’t want to work on a farm, you have options of helping someone build a house, or helping with child care or even doing hostel or B&B work like housekeeping or anything else they might need, but you still have organic farming options. The thing I like about Helpx is that when you pay for your membership, it’s for 2 years and you get access to everywhere in the world, unlike WWOOFing. I also really like the variety you have with Helpx. It’s the same process as WWOOF, you sign up and you get access to seeing who’s hosting and sending them messages.
I picked those two programs specifically because I’ve had experiences with both of them, however there are plenty of others around, WWOOF.ca compiled a list of other Volunteering Programs HERE
My first Volunteering experience was in Victoria, British Columbia. I was doing housekeeping for The Ocean Island Inn, a seemingly small hostel on the Island. Keep in mind, this is my first trip. My first everything. I stayed in a hostel in Vancouver, it was a Hi Hostel which is a pretty big name so they were very professional, clean and everything was great, I thought all hostels were like this. I was wrong. The Ocean Island was completely different! Not in a bad way either, it looked a lot more like a party hostel, it was a little cramped and it was hard to find your own privacy. I walked into my dorm room, whom I was sharing with 5 other helpers and it was clear they had been there for awhile, there was little to no room for my own stuff! I didn’t unpack anything. I went outside and called my mom like a baby and complained, after I was done with that call, I called Corbin Fraser, of ibackpackcanada.com After all, he was the one who inspired me to travel in the first place, talking about the sights to see and the people you meet. He said nothing of messy, small spaced hostels where I’d soon be cleaning radiators with toothbrushes. He then assured me this would be worth it, clean a few hours a day and explore the rest of the time, give it a few days and I’d find reasons to stay.
Corbin was right. The first day was hard, it absolutely sucked. The beds I made were worse than they were before I touched them. It was a day or two later that I really started getting the hang of it and actually enjoying the work (I can make a bed beautifully in seconds now!) 6 hours a day wasn’t too bad, and the other helpers were awesome people. We were all in the same situation, didn’t have a lot of money and wanted to see the world however we could. On our off time we were normal travelers, though maybe we appreciated it more given the work we had to put in to be there.
AN OPEN MIND
Budget travel can’t all be extravagant hotels and first class flights. You have to realize that you may have to take the cheaper route to get somewhere, or clean a few bathrooms to stay in a small hostel. For instance, flying to your destination is great! It’s fast, typically comfortable and for the most part, little to no hassle. But usually there are other ways to get where you’re going. Keep in mind Greyhound and Via Rail are fantastic ways to travel and depending on where you’re going, they can be great money savers. Sure, it takes a little longer to get there, but why are you in a rush? Pump your brakes and enjoy the view!
So you can’t afford to go up the CN Tower, or drink on George Street every single night. There are plenty of affordable things to do that aren’t all giant tourist attractions. Don’t get me wrong, those things are great to do, but considering you just paid for your trip out to a new place, you might not have a lot to spend on that kind of stuff. So what should you do? The great thing about most hostels is that they usually host tours, pub crawl nights and other deals to see the city for a cheaper price and sometimes even for free. This gets you meeting people and seeing cool things! Maybe that new person from Australia you just met has a car and wants to take a trip around Tofino and hey, you’re invited! Chip in for gas, a coffee run and maybe some evening beers to thank them.
So for all of you naysayers out there, know that traveling on the cheaper side is definitely possible, there isn’t a secret to it, it’s not a myth. It all comes down to sacrifices. However, you can’t expect to travel and not spend money. Be sure you’re prepared as best you can, but plans will change, as your travels progress, and that’s a good thing. The trick is to keep smiling and roll with the punches.
If you have any other cheap travel tips, feel free to add them!