Month: December 2011

My Seven 2011 Travel-sentials

What a year it’s been! I’ve travelled up and down the East Coast, out to the West Coast, to the Midwest and back, and even made time to head down south. Below is a list of things that made it possible- and helped me keep my sanity- while on the road in 2011.

1. Earplugs

Never underestimate the power of these beautiful foam wonders.

Step 1: Roll up

Step 2: Insert into ear canal

Step 3: Tune out, zone out and enjoy the ride.

2. Smart phone with Wifi capability

Never again will I have to worry about writing down my flight confirmation number thanks to the modern marvel of wifi connectivity! All I have to do in basically any situation is touch the screen “on” for instant help. Need a taxi? Google it! Can’t find your boarding pass? Load your digital one and have the airline attendants scan that! Trying to kill time on layover? Hello, Facebook!

3. Airplane pillow

Oh little green pillow, how I adore thee. When my neck threatens to bobble off its hinges after 5 hours in transit, drool dripping from my agape mouth, this little savior props me up and ensures plenty of hours of decent rest.

4. Excedrin/Any headache  or migraine relief

You better believe that I always travel with some sort of headache relief on hand. You never know when temperature changes, allergies or copious amounts of alcohol will have you suffering the worst migraine of your life. After I pop a pair of 500mg Excedrin, I’m ready for just about anything life throws my way.

5. Deodorant

This I carry on me at all times. There’s nothing more refreshing (albeit a shower) than a quick swipe under the arms. It’s amazing how smelly you can get from just sitting there for 8 hours in transit. Be a pal and keep the B.O. under wraps.

6. Reading material

This should be a no-brainer. Have a few minutes, or hours, to kill? I always try to catch up on the biographies of my favorite artists, chef personalities or writers.

7. Digital camera

Always expect the unexpected. Rarely am I in a spot where I long for my digital camera. I try to keep it on me at all times, especially to capture life’s unexpectedly awesome photo ops. Like this gem. I had  been lost in the woods for 9 hours, but I made sure to get some damn good pictures of the landscape. One could say it was almost worth it.

Workaway vs. HelpX: Which do you use when planning a working holiday?

I’m currently planning my first extended stay abroad in Australia! I’m filled with feelings of excitement, nervousness and overall anxiousness. I don’t want this to be a typical vacation for me. I want to step out of my comfort zone and really immerse myself in a different culture.

For that reason, with the help of websites like Workaway and Helpx, I’m able to plan a less traditional vacation to Sydney.  I want to do a combination of couch surfing and volunteer work (in exchange for room and board) to extend my travels.

Both Workaway and Helpx are sites that allow travellers to access a database of hosts by country and region of working holiday opportunities. The idea is that in exchange for 2-5 hours of work a day (usually 5 days a week) at a hostel, farm, eco-project or family home, travellers are rewarded with free room and board. This offers the off-the-beaten path traveller the unique experience to extend their time away while not breaking the bank.

I’ve been using both sites religiously while trying to secure a spot abroad. Below are the pros and cons of each:

Helpx:

– Membership costs $29 USD for 2 years

CONS

  • You can see all of the amazing opportunities that await you by viewing a host’s listing. You won’t, however, be able to access their contact information unless you sign up for a Premier Membership for the above cost. They definitely tease you a bit and lure you in to pay for that exclusive contact information!
  • You cannot upload a photo unless you upgrade to a Premier Membership.

PROS

  • Creating a profile is free.
  • Helpx postings are sorted by which ones have been most recently updated. This way you’ll know that you’re emailing and active host rather than one that let their profile get old, or one that forget they had it all together.
  • You are encouraged to answer back all inquiries, even if you are declining an offer, so that a potential inquiry doesn’t hang in thin air, so to speak. There’s nothing more nerve-racking than waiting to hear back for a confirmation that will never come.
  • What do you say to sell yourself? After all, these people are opening their homes to you out of the kindness of their hearts. Helpx offers a page on what to write to people, suggesting that you stay away from mass-messages and add a personal touch to each note.
  • The companion tab is like a Craigslist for travellers. Here, you will find a constantly updated forum of travellers world-wide looking for company, whether it be someone looking for a museum buddy in Italy or someone to fill the last seat in a caravan for a an east coast Australian road trip. The possibilities for meet-ups are endless.

Workaway:

-Membership costs  $29 USD for 2 years

CONS

  • You can’t tell how recent the hosts’ postings are. You can be emailing a host’s posting from yesterday or last year. There is no way tell the last time a host updated their profile. I’ve received emails from hosts saying their circumstances have changed (sometimes drastically), they have moved across the country, or are generally unavailable and didn’t bother to take down their listing.
  • I have hard time getting a consistent reply from those I emailed. About half of those I’ve messaged have gotten back to me with bad news and the other half have not responded at all. I have one possible host out of many many emails I’ve sent out, nearly exhausting all of my options.

PROS

  • The layout is more comprehensive and aesthetically  pleasing.
  • Their mission is commendable- making travel more affordable AND rewarding
  • Workaway is a great way to facilitate initial contact with possible job opportunities abroad

If you are looking to join either of these websites and only want to sign up for one, which one do you choose?

The winner? Helpx, mainly because the postings are more consistently current and the repsonse rate is high.

Which site do you use to organize your working holiday volunteer opportunities? Have you used Helpx or Workaway? Which do you like better?