Help Exchange - Free Room and Board for Volunteers

Help Exchange – A New and Rewarding Way To Travel

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“On mountaintop. Great view. On a small Caribbean island. Pineapple and wax apple farm. Building in construction. I live with my 3 kids. 3 German Shepherds 1 Dobermann, in the unfinished building. This is a child friendly environment. St.Vincent is a lovely island, non touristic. I can offer food and lodging for your help. I appreciate your assistance. Please come and help out with farming, construction, creating greenhouse, landscaping, plumbing, carpentry, organic planting, house stay, restoring antiques, handyman, domestic work, kids homework, kids activities, decoration, home reorganization….We speak Flemish, English, French, Dutch, but all nationalities are welcome to apply.”

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The family farm in St. Vincent. Photo courtesy of HelpX.com

The above is just one of hundreds of listings found on HelpX.net (short for Help Exchange), a website that connects host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats with volunteers who exchange short-term work for food and accommodations. This particular listing is for a property located on the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean, and the family has already hosted numerous volunteers, some of whom have posted reviews of their experience. Kurt wrote:

“I loved the saltfish and bread fruit. Accommodation is very nice, your own room and bathroom. There is plenty of work, maintenance of the pineapple fields and landscaping around the house and odd jobs. Trips to town are often and you will get to mingle with the locals. When taking the local bus…hold on :) it is a ride.”

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Home in St. Vincent where volunteers stay. Photo courtesy of HelpX.com.

HelpX is a refreshing departure in a world where “Volunteer Travel” has become big business. Google the term and more than 25 million results will be returned. One offering on the gitzy VolunteerAbroad.com website advertises: “Volunteer and Travel Abroad Experience Starting as Low as USD $499.” But the offerings at HelpX are volunteer opportunities in the purest tradition – in most cases the volunteers pay nothing. In the rare instances where money exchanges hands it is usually a small fee to help pay for food in the poorest countries.

In order to view complete listings at HelpX potential volunteers must sign up for one of two levels of membership, Free or Premier. Although the site states that Premier membership costs 20 Euros for two years and allows the helper to contact all hosts and read all host reviews, I was able to read complete reviews and access host emails with only a free membership. Hosts in Europe, South America, Canada, Mexico, SE Asia, Australia, and New Zealand sought helpers for tasks ranging from farm work in New Zealand, to teaching english to children in remote villages in Thailand, to working in resorts, and in a few instances were even searching for volunteers who could design websites for their budding businesses.

Since learning about HelpX, my mind has been working overtime. Maybe I could just travel full time, going from place to place, volunteering my time in return for places to stay and food for my belly. It would certainly be a great way to see the world without spending a wad of money and this type of travel would be authentic, allowing me to really get to know a place, rather than just rolling through as a tourist.

This article by Barbara Weibel is originally published at Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

46 Comments on “Help Exchange – A New and Rewarding Way To Travel

  1. I am writing to let you know about another new low cost volunteer exchange service – HelpStay.com.

    Trust and safety is their top priority. They get to know each of their hosts over the phone or in person before they are featured on the site.

    • Dear families,

      My name is Iva Miloshevikj. I am 17 and i live in Paris.
      I am looking for a free accommodation (room)in exchange for a babysitting in a nice family. Anywhere in England would be fine.
      I have a school vacation starting from 17th of octomber-3rd of november and i want to spend my time productively to improve my English and to help around your kids and household chores.

      Please,feel free to contact me or pass on my message to some of your friends..It will mean a lot to me ! :)

      Cheers,

      Iva

      iva_milosevik@hotmail.com

  2. It’s going to be finish of mine day, however before end I am reading this impressive post to increase my knowledge.

  3. Good web site you have got here. It’s hard to find good quality writing like yours nowadays. I honestly appreciate people like you! Take care!!

  4. Hey there! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading your posts. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same subjects? Thanks for your time!

  5. It’s perfect time to make some plans foor the future and it
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    want to suggest you few interestiung things or suggestions.
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    My blog site is in the very same niche as yours and
    my users would truly benefit from some of the information you present here.
    Please let me know if this ok with you. Cheers!

    • Hi Banana: Quotes and short excerpts from posts are perfectly fine, as long as you attribute them to me and provide a linkback to the full article. Reproduction of the entire article is not allowed.

  7. I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your sites really nice, keep it up!
    I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back down the road.

    All the best

    • On the green menu bar at the top of the posts, under the word “contact.”

  8. This post and some of its comments just make me smile. Thank you so much for sharing Barbara. I went back to my little abandoned blog and happen to find the post where we ‘first met’. :) You simply posted a comment. I wish you much happiness throughout your travels. Thank you for connecting so that I may ‘tag along’.

    • Hi Shanna! Glad you found some worth in my article about Help Exchange. Wishing you wonderful travels as well.

  9. realmente se ve muy interesante y quisiera saber un poco mas al respecto…seria muy lindo que me manden mas informacion sobre el voluntariado a mi mail..muchas gracias y felices fiestas de corazón para todos!!!!

  10. Hello my name is Carlos, I’m looking for a place to live… I have a great deal of experience in maintenance and some with computer software such as: ms office.. I offer an intelligent person with experience in many fields for a place to live and a nominal fee. my email is: meyourguest@yahoo.com.

  11. Hi my name is CG Bostwick i am 23 years old and am interested in going back on the road but this time i would like to do it in a moe productive way not just for money . i would like to help somebody in need and possibly learn a new way of life. im a hard worker who is dedicated and willing to work long hours please contact as soon a availability is open bostwickcg5@gmail.com looking forward to learning and working

  12. Hi my name is Jason. I have an Associates degree and am 34 years old. I am looking to relocate to the San Diego area. I have an injured knee but am still able to do physical labor such as work on a farm etc. if you can find a job for me.

    I would not mind teaching others to read or something to that extent. While in California I plan on finishing my Bachelor’s online in Bio environmental engineering.

    • Jason: This blog has no association with Help Exchange, I simply wrote a story about them. To apply you must go to their website – just follow the link in my article.

  13. I have a nature reserve on the Caldera river in Chiriqui, Panama, with three cabins.  LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEERS TO HELP, WITH PLANTING, COOKING ETC. WEB PAGE,   www.rioencantado.com

    Frank  fs213fs213@gmail.com

  14. What a wonderful idea!  I would love to explore this more and will be posting information on this site on my blog for other travelers who might be interested.  Now if I could only get my husband interested…………

  15. Barbara, my husband and I are planning on Helpx-ing our way around the US next year…for a year or longer. My mind, like yours, went crazy when I figured out that I could travel for an unlimited amount of time for practically nothing. So we’re going to do it! I’ve signed up for helpx, paid the tiny fee, and have spent hours adding homestays in the US to our “favorites” list. We’ll stay with friends and family around the US in between homestays. 8 months and counting – we’re so excited! 

    • Zoe! So excited for you. Please report back how your trip goes and specifically how your experience with HelpX went. Best of luck, and have a wonderful time.

  16. Pingback: Will Work 4 Free Work Exchange Abroad | Hereafter College

  17. Hi, we are offering a free room and food in exchange with the cleaning around the house. Its a beautiful single family home in Virginia. We would like to get someone who wants a home to live into and wants to become a member of this family. If youre interested email me at (suad_132@yahoo.com) .

    •  I am a 21yr old American from SW FLA. I come from a broken family and I have nowhere to go. My granny loves me but my paapaw resents feeding me. I am a good guy and I will work hard, you can talk to my granny at 239-415-1861 — ask for Barb.  My name is Roy Wayne H.  Plz call if you need some help — I am willing to do any work.   Thank You.  8-5-2011 

  18. Barbara – did you ever end up trying this? I’ve heard of similar sites and also have had similar ideas of simply working for room and board in order to stay traveling! I’m sort of doing that through GeoVisions this winter in the Middle East – but it is more of an official volunteer program actually. Thanks for the info – would love any follow up if you did it yourself.

    • Lamell: If you want to connect with a farm owner, you must do so through Help Exchange – I am a travel writer who featured the program, but have no connection with them.

  19. Hi’good day
    Hi’ i’m lui my education english teacher and pass time tour guide in phuket Thailand ,may some one know me when few year i work in the speed boat go to phiphi island,met many people, in my trips , now i want to more to new zeland or australia few month to stay in the fram and work , and want to contact with any people to made business for home stay, if any people like to have some please contact direst to me, i very appreciate to have afriends , and exchang,
    thk alot for NY PEOPLE HELP
    LOVE BESTREGARD
    LUI

  20. early child education?this sounds great…looking for such a person to help take care of boys/girls from village in mauritius as well as working as handy man restauration to house and garden in exchange for free borad and lodging…travel costs on your side…

  21. You know, I have to tell you, I truly savour this site and the great insight. I find it to be energizing and very clarifying. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyhow, I felt it was about time I posted a comment on Help Exchange Hosts Provide Free Room and Board for Volunteers | Hole In The Donut Travels – I just wanted to say that you did a great job on this. Cheers dude!

  22. hi’ any people
    i mr.lui thai chiness,born in THailand now 53 year graduate english teacher tour guide in Phuket Thailand i would like to move to newzeland few month to stay in the fram and met some one, i can work in the fram vegetable, dri a truck car motobi,if you widows all singer,and need some one let’s i know,
    bestregrad
    palit

  23. Hey, very nice website. I actually came across this on Ask Jeeves, and I am happy I did. I will definately be returning here more often. Wish I could add to the post and bring a bit more to the table, but am just absorbing as much info as I can at the moment.

    Thank You

  24. Italian mature professional looking for free accommodation for short period of time in exchange for babysitting/housework/italian teaching.

    That will help me starting off a working experience in England volunteering while searching for a job and accommodation. Area requested: Greater London/Southern England.

    nardo.sara@gmail.com

  25. For me working and holiday are two words that don’t sit too well together. It brings me out in a cold sweat thinking about working when I should be relaxing….

  26. There are various completely different towns for one fine holiday worldwide. I don’t recognize exactly why, nevertheless i’m sure i find nice largely these asian region for a travels, as a result of i do believe the folks one can find and so advantageous and great

  27. Hello,
    I am looking for any work in South America in exchange for bed and board. I can not afford the flight and bed and board. I have taught English in Africa, China and England but would be happy to do any job required of me.

    Thank you

  28. hello i am very interested in working for room and board.

    proficient in the english language and speak spanish as well

    please let me know
    how I can go about this

    thanks

    okayjas@gmail.com

  29. Will teach ENGLISH in central america
    in exchange for food and accomodation
    BIG CORN ISLAND NICARAGUA
    ZAPOTERA
    TAMARINDO COSTA RICA
    CANCUN MEXICO

    JANUARY 2010 TILL MAY 15 2010
    EMAIL:
    sugarfreeorganic@yahoo.ca
    gracias
    I HAVE BEEN DOING THIS SINCE 2006!!!

  30. My name is Daniel Fenton Jr, I have been going to a local community college and working full time at a meat market as a supervisor. I feel like i want to see the world and the people in it, and help someone or some cause. I am not sure how this works or who will read this, but if you can e-mail me @ fentonrhymes@yahoo.com with more information on volunteering i would really appreciate this.

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