Nelson Santos discovered a passion for volunteering in his mid-20’s but financial reality brought his plans to a halt until he figured out how to travel the world without saving up first.
Despite Iceland’s reputation as an expensive country preceding it, with a little planning and a willingness to trade some of your spare time it is possible to visit this staggeringly beautiful country without emptying your bank account. We examine realistic options for saving money by taking a volunteer role in Iceland, or even making some with a paid one.
Shay Gleesom found his purpose after spending six months travelling, working on farms, helping in back packer hostels and volunteering teaching, exchanging a few hours’ help for accommodation and board. Those experiences gained and people encountered guided him to his future path and into something that he genuinely wanted to do with his life.
Volunteering in exchange for a bed and food has become a common means for young people to travel the world on a budget, the two dominant trends being in agriculture (WWOOFing) and hostel work (Helpx and Workaway), which are constantly in need of cheap young labor. My experience revolves around the latter sector.
HelpStay connects small projects looking for a hand with independent travellers looking to save money on accommodation. For travellers there is also the opportunity to add purpose to their wanderings, get a local insight into the area, and learn new skills as well as passing on their own. We've selected 14 of our favourite current projects around the globe, offering a mix of helping in schools, hostels, eco projects, animal rescue centres and NGOs.
Running away to sea has long been a thing but unionisation and modernity are just two reasons why adventures under sail are scarcer than they once would have been. Classic Sailing has some advice on how to work in tall ships and for those with the appropriate skills might have some paid job vacancies too.
Surfers are generally a relaxed, friendly bunch, so when they put down roots and find themselves in a position to open a hostel they tend to welcome kindred spirits to help them out around the place. While the itinerant surfer helpers they once were get a free bed, usually food, and perhaps use of a board too, the hostel owners benefit from having someone keeping an eye on things while they hit the waves themselves.
There are plenty of places around the world for horse riders to get a quick equine fix but only by volunteering can travellers hope to spend any length of time directly with horses. Most work exchange hosts will prefer volunteers to stay at least a month, but longer stays are often required.
When most people think of Thailand and big cats they think of the ethically dubious Tiger Temple but not far away from there is a place where backpackers can get up close and personal with a tiger but do something far more worthwhile for the creatures than exploiting them for a cool social media profile photo.
HelpStay connects independent travellers with farms, house holders, art retreat centres, ecovillages, backpacker hostels, surf lodges, vineyards, ranches, schools, monasteries and kibbutzim who are looking for a few hours of help in return for a place to stay. Food is usually provided too, while others perks can include horse riding, free use of bikes or surf boards, and the chance to learn new skills.