“Where do you come from?” and “How do you pay for this?” are two of the most common questions we get. For the second I’m often tempted to say that I earned it with my body working in the red light district. But let’s face it, with the look that we have now, no one would believe it anyway so we just have to answer with the truth- we saved it. But what if we didn’t have the money…
We met a lot of fellow travelers that focus their backpacking around voluntourism, so volunteering while they are travelling. And we actually spend 2 of our precious months volunteering as well. It saved us money but more importantly we got to stay longer in one place, we felt needed, we learnt a lot and we met amazing people. We had time to actually get to them and understand them and that is the best thing you can get while travelling- new friends.
But how do you do it? Where do you find the spots and what do you actually have to do?
What kind of volunteer opportunities can you get?
What can’t you do would be a shorter list. You can work in a hostel, in any type of wildlife preservation, with kids, with people from the slums, you can teach people yoga, you can heal them. Whatever floats your boat.
How did we find our volunteering opportunities?
Our first volunteering experience was in Argentina on a farm and to get that we used WWOOF.
It’s mostly made to find farms although you can also find teaching opportunities and possibly other things depending on the country you
search in. We don’t use it anymore because every country has its own chapter which means different rules per country, totally different web page each time and obviously a brand new fee as well. It ends up being expensive compared to other communities out there. Unfortunately, the Argentinian chapter was unorganized, the web page was unbelievably terrible to search through (the idea of wordpress still hasn’t occurred to them), the list of the farms was not actualized so we were sending emails to people that had long forgotten what WWOOFing even was. And if they had new farms you actually first needed to contact WWOOF to get their details to write directly to them. That I am not going to mention that there was no feedback about the places so the hosts could write you would sleep in a mansion with a pool and a spa for teaching English for 3 hours and no one would even verify if it’s true.
The two other times we volunteered we did it via Workaway, it’s a much better idea because it’s worldwide so you pay only once for 2 years. And you can have a couple account so if you travel with the two of you, you don’t have to have an extra account. And the places have feedback so the chance that you will end up with a psychopath is much lower. Workaway offers any kind of work really, farms, hostels, construction, schools etc. We also subscribed for Helpx, which is practically the same as workaway and many of the hosts are actually on both.
What do you get for your work?
That’s the question you always need to ask to your potential host. Because it depends. Typically for working in a hostel you can expect a free bed in a dorm (that’s what we got) and maybe a breakfast (we had it in one of the hostels). When WWOOFing it is more common to get also other meals. With other projects it varies, sometimes
you get a bed, sometimes a hammock, sometimes not even a place on the ground. So always ask!
When we were first thinking about volunteering we thought people would wait on us with open arms and everybody would respond to our messages just because we want to help. Nope, there are plenty of people who want to volunteer also many freeloaders who want to stay and take advantage of the fact that something is for free. It’s a big business from both sides so some people don’t even respond or places are booked few weeks in advance. So to be sure you get something you always have to write to a few hosts and always a few weeks before. Don’t forget that some people earn money off the “volunteers” by for example charging a fee. So you have to pay to actually be able to work for free, because you cost money, because they need money for the food and for animals. Sometimes it’s true but many times it’s just a way to earn money off the naïve ones. We realized that when we were going through volunteering options of Volunteer Latin America and some were costing seriously thousands of dollars for a month and unless they are planning to ship you food from home or built a zoo from nothing, it doesn’t cost that much. Volunteer Latin America claims that they also have many other projects that they don’t put online and you need an upgraded account to reach them so we did that and then the only thing they did is to ask many questions about what you’re eager to pay and bla bla bla and then they only send us a list of emails that we could write, from which most of the projects were with a super high fee that we obviously didn’t want to pay. What’s more many of the hosts they have are on Workaway anyway so… 🙂
For those of you who plan on volunteering but didn’t know how, I hoped I helped. If anyone would have any questions, it won’t be hard to contact me to ask them