A few weeks ago I wrote about balancing managing an online business while volunteering in trade for accommodation.
But in tackling this topic I realized I put the cart before the horse; let’s first discuss how to get free accommodation by volunteering.
These are often referred to as work-trade gigs; you work a certain number of hours on the property where you are staying, in trade for free accommodation and sometimes food.
The variety of possibilities are endless. Here is a selection of work-trade volunteer gigs that I’ve enjoyed over the years:
- Milking goats in Hawaii
- Running a hostel and painting murals in Hawaii
- Tending to a country estate and B&B in Australia
- Leading eco-treks on llamas in Australia
- Cooking, cleaning, and designing promotional marketing plans at a spiritual retreat and conference centre in New Zealand
- Speaking conversational English in Spain
- Helping out on sailboats throughout the Caribbean
These were each wildly different and incredibly rewarding ways to stay somewhere for a while and live a slice of local life. Oh yeah, and get free accommodation.
Here are a few resources for you to find your own work-trade gigs. Many carry an annual fee, but most are well worthwhile, and just one night of free accommodation will more than pay for it.
This remains one of my favourite subscriptions, with worldwide work-trade opportunities that vary dramatically in nature. House-sitting positions are also often listed here.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is one of the longest standing work-trade organizations. Contrary to it’s name, it’s not all about gardening, but in order to be listed on the site, the host must have some organic component to their operation.
What I don’t like about WWOOF is that memberships are country-specific. So if you already know where you’re going: great. But if you’re open to finding opportunities in many countries, WWOOF is too limited.
I found my Hawaiian hostel gig through this site years ago. It’s similar to WWOOFing but with a global membership.
This site includes a wider range of opportunities from volunteering to teaching to interning. There are both volunteer vacations that require fees, as well as fee-free programs. I haven’t used this service but know others who have.
This is another global work-trade site that is very popular and gets rave reviews from fellow travelers. Job postings and locations vary widely, so have a gander and see what sticks!
This recently updated guide by Kirsty Henderson gives you lots of concentrated practical and inspirational information on volunteering around the world.
You can browse the listings on many of these sites before joining, so you can get a sense for whether there’s a fit with your needs and volunteer desires.
And once you’ve committed to finding a work-trade gig, cast that net wide. There is a lot of competition, and it’s not uncommon to send off many applications without even a response. I talked more about this in my latest newsletter, which you can see here (and sign up for here if you’re not subscribed).
I’ve had gigs that involved little more than an hour of work a day. But for the most part, you can expect to work 20-30 hours per week. While this might seem steep (and it is, especially if you have an online business to manage), it is an immersive experience unto itself. Sometimes traveling without moving is as much – if not more – globally enlightening.
Other Forms of Free Accommodation:
Volunteering isn’t the only way to enjoy free digs around the world. I’ve been doing it in one form or another since 2007. Check out this jam-packed resource to help you make your next trip a lot cheaper – and probably more enriching:
How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World