Tag: HelpX

Resources for working & traveling on an extended roadtrip

As I am getting ready to embark on an “extended roadtrip” of sorts, one of the biggest components of making it all happen is research.

Jon and I have been spending countless hours of the internet compiling information we might need on the open road.

In my experience, traveling usually requires two things above anything else: an open mind and resourcefulness.

If you are resourceful, chances are you are able to find solutions to almost any imminent problem using the tools you have at hand. If you are lost, you look around and collect clues to help you be found. You are a likely survivor. Also, an open mind is probably the best thing you can have while traveling.

While reading John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley In Search of America, who coincidentally travels America in a 3/4 ton truck and camper trailer, makes a powerful statement that rings true for all adventurers:

“A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip, a trip takes us. Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip. Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the-glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”

This journey definitely has a personality all its own: I’ve never traveled with a boyfriend before. I usually do all my traveling solo. This poses unique challenges and opportunities such as, “Where do WE want to go?” and “Do you they offer employee housing for the BOTH of us?” But biggest of all, “How are WE going to make money?”

In any case, we’ve been hitting different resources to prepare ourselves for what’s out there, even though both of us are completely willing to live at the edge of our seat and go with the flow.

Here are a few resources we’ve been using that we hope will come in handy. The rest will be up to the trip to decide.

1. A good old-fashioned atlas

IMG_5148

2. Roadtrippers.com

This app allows you, through Google Maps, to explore different breweries, campsites, kitschy All-America spots and more through a series of filters. It’s very comprehensive and we will definitely be using it!

Roadtrippers

3.  Harvest Hosts

This is similar to HelpX or Workaway, but is great for RVers. You have to join for a small fee ($40 for 12 months), but once you do, you can access a list of prospective “Hosts” like winemakers, farmers, museums and other attractions that allow you to stay on their property for 24 hours for no cost. In return, you should make a small purchase from your host in order to thank them kindly for their hospitality. It’s a win win for everybody! It sounds like a great way to meet people on the road and support local business at the same time.

4. CoolWorks.com

Their motto is “jobs in great places,” and it’s very true. You can browse this FREE resource for jobs by state, season or national park. They have a Help Wanted Now tab in case you’re hard up for cash and on the road at that very moment. You can work at Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon or a series of amazing fisheries, wildlife sanctuaries, white water rafting places or resorts for a season.

Coolworks

5. Backdoorjobs.com

Perfect for the traveler with a short attention span like myself, this is a website similar to Coolworks in that you can access a list of short-term adventure jobs. There are plenty of environmental sustainability projects to choose from, campgrounds you can counsel at and an array of volunteer and paid positions to peruse.

Backdoorjobs

Now you can’t say that your dream job isn’t out there waiting for you!

In any case, I’m sure there will be more resources out there waiting for us as the time for our trip is upon us. I just have to keep an open mind and hopefully the resources will keep flooding in.

A Day at Wivenhoe Dam, Australia

We packed up a barbie, some chairs, an inflatable kayak and we were off, driving on the left side of the road on the other side of the world.

I had just arrived in Australia, my first out of country experience, and I was wide-eyed and bushy-tailed for who I’d meet, where I’d go and what I’d see.

I decided to check out Brisbane for about 2 weeks during my stay in Oz. In order to fit my budget (and to learn what was like for an Australian family), I did a home stay which I organized through Helpx. *Side note: I can’t say enough about Helpx, travelers! Don’t be put off by the subscription fee. It’s been worth every dime and more!*

I stayed with a youngish, modern and hip couple called Angie and Gary. Angie worked for the local government while Gary was a chef at a nearby college. They met in London years ago and since had traveled the world together. They opened their home to travelers in order to show Clancy, their young daughter, the ways of the world.

Meet Clancy. This girl has style!

I arrived as Fresh American Meat. When Gary picked me up from the train station and we arrived home he announced, “I found an American!”

That day I was greeted with a lovely lunch and some introductory conversations. But then we were off to explore.

Wivenhoe Dam was on the agenda, about 50 miles from Brisbane. We ended up at a place that’s actually an artificial lake, which made swimming safe (no crocs to worry about!)

A day at the dam

As Gary inflated the kayak and Clancy put on her lifejacket and immediately took to the water, Angie pointed in the distance.

“Look there they are! Some kangaroos!”

I almost fell over in shock. Wild kangaroos were galloping and bouncing about. I definitely was somewhere far away from home.

Where was I? What day was it? How was I on the other side of the world where marsupials bounced around freely? I grew up in the Midwest of America with the likes of squirrels and deer. To be honest, kangaroos are a bit mangy and not very cute.  They’re just as common as deer back in the U.S., but that didn’t make it any less cool to see them hopping around.

Straight up chillin’. Australia’s hot, yo!

Gary and I paddled in the kayak around the lake, taking in the scenery. He was very curious about me and admitted to adoring America and Americans.

“So what do you think of this place?” Gary asked me.

I could see were enormous, beautiful bluish grey mountains in the horizon. The sun was hot on my face and the sunglasses I had borrowed from Angie kept slipping off my nose. All I could conjure up was that this area of Australia reminded me of a tropical Vermont.

I think that observation amused Gary because I heard him repeat it several times throughout my stay with them. Having traveled America extensively, he was very familiar with the North east and I think his laugh was in a surprised agreement. What a strange pairing, Vermont and Australia. But what can I say? It worked.

We had a delicious barbecue next to the lake as the sun set. Typical fare was had like sausages, bread, steaks and chips.

Fire up the barbie

Shortly thereafter, I went to the bathroom and almost sat on the biggest toad I’ve ever seen camped out in the toilet. I then saw an enormous spider, the likes of something you’d see in a zoo. To Ozzies, that’s the norm. They’re just part of the Australian package.

Let it be known: if you’re weary of wildlife, exercise caution when planning your Australian holiday! I never let it get the best of me, but the squirmish better beware.

After sunset we left and I felt lucky and happy to be taken in by such a kind family who wanted to show me their little slice of Queensland heaven.

It’s official: 2012 is my RTW trip year

After much internal debating (Mainly of where to go, not whether or not I was going to go), I’ve officially embarked on my Round the World (RTW) trip.

I’ve read Bootsnall’s articles about  RTW trips, have followed many travel bloggers RTW trips and never thought this was possible for someone like me. I watched television and my heart ached at the thought of Paris and Amsterdam. I knew one day I’d eat Pho on the streets of Thailand and see a howler monkey in the rainforests of Costa Rica. But I never thought my RTW trip would happen so…haphhazzardly.

After I decided to live deliberately, challenging the status quo and going against the grain, I quit my waitressing job and my life in Philadelphia. I was living close to my sister and my friend had just moved to Philly so that we could live together. I felt a bit guilty dropping my life so suddenly, but one day, as it tends to happen, it hit me:  I have savings. I have an insatiable wanderlust. I. have. to. go. NOW!

I started innocently enough in Australia. Big deal, right? It rocked my world. I’m a changed person. I came home craving and wanting more experiences. I stayed a month and enjoyed myself so much, I’ve made the solid decision to stay on the road until my 26th birthday in September.

This picture alone was worth the trip to Oz

I thought I’d come home and work after Australia. But the more I tried to think about what job I would do, I would draw a blank. Go back to school? I wondered, maybe try to get an office job?, hell, maybe I’ll even waitress again. Somehow these all placed second to my desires and the perfect storm of opportunities bestowed upon me.

So after 2 blissful weeks in California, another 4 in Australia and a week of soul-searching in Chicago, I’ve officially decided to keep traveling until I run out and steam. I’m embarking on phase two of my journey this Sunday with some United States destinations I’ve always wanted to see. I fly into Portland to couchsurf, possibly visiting Austin, Texas, flying in Los Angeles at the end of the month to visit a friend, then taking a flight to Hawaii (big island) where I hope to spend the month. After Hawaii, I head to Costa Rica to Helpx on an organic farm (or resort, whichever will take me) and try to spend a month in Latin America (Possible destinations: Peru, Ecuador, Belize, Honduras) to improve my Spanish.

Current mission: find a more beautiful sunset. Wivenhoe Dam, Australia

From Latin America, I’ll fly to Japan, hit up S.E. Asia for a month and finish with a tour through Europe via Eurorail Pass.

Phew. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. My newly acquired passport will need more pages sooner than I thought!

How can I possibly have that many savings? you may wonder. Good question. I don’t. I’m going to be couchsurfing, working in exchange for room and board, sleeping in tents in volunteer situations, staying in budget hostels, you name it. Wherever I lay my hat will be home. I could literally die from excitement. Where will I end up? Who will I meet? It’s almost too good to think about.

I hope you all will join me on my adventures by following along. I surprised even myself with this decision, but I just can’t bear to let this opportunity slip through my fingers. I sincerely hope you, like me, hold on for the ride. It’s gonna be sweet. 

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This post, and this entire trip and my changed lifestyle, is inspired by all of you readers, all of the people I practically stalk for inspiration and information on Twitter, Matador Network for changing my life by watching one video about the Cook Islands, BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Manifesto, Couchsurfing, Helpx, my free-spirited friends, my ever-supportive family, hippie love and that wild, wacky & wonderful wanderlust. 

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?