What does the term travel means to you? Is it going to different countries, eating local delicacies, posing in front of some monuments or visiting museums? This conventional vacation style of travel is most common for urban citizens, as annual leaves are limited and work or family support is sometime a concern. If you have time in your hand and wants to experience different lifestyle in different countries, I urge you to step out of your comfort zone and give yourself a break to see the world /:)
Food and Accommodation Exchange is pretty popular and you can always find something related around the world. It is a type of traveling style where you use time to exchange for some cost saving benefits. This is kind of fresh and interesting to me, I first tried it during my 4th month of traveling in Cambodia and till now I benefited from it far beyond just cost saving.
Food and Accommodation Exchange can also allow you to live with the local, eat what they eat everyday and be amaze by the difference in culture even though we live on the same planet earth. It also gives a tropical boy like me the chance to enjoy Spring filled with pink blossom in Japan, spending Summer relaxing on a cozy beach in New Zealand, stroll along the romantic Seine River during the colorful Autumn of Paris and travel to Iceland for the snow and northern light in Winter.
I hope I do put some enzymes in you to start traveling somewhere soon, if I have not done so, then maybe providing you with some information on how to look for such exchange program will ring a bell, are you ready? Here you go!
World Wide Opportunity on Organic Farming is a good Food and Accommodation Exchange platform if you want to experience how is it like working in farms and plantations. I personally used it during my trip to Japan and work in a soba field for 2 weeks. Usually working hour is 4-5 and the agreement will include food but you need to reconfirm with the host, unless the premise is very special, else I will always go to host that provide food because food in Japan is just too DELICIOUS to miss!!! Also if you do not know Japanese, look for host that speaks Basic English, there are plenty.
There is a membership fee of $5500JPY which covers 1 year usage of the website, different country has their own membership and unfortunately not inter-usable. There is a huge list of host, so don't waste your time reading each of them, you should look for a page that says “Hosts wanting Wwoofers now” to search for active host and increase your chance of getting a reply. You can sometime find non-farm related placement too, like I found a placement to teach English to preschool kids in Hokkaido.
This platform has a wider coverage which is the whole WORLD wahahaha and it only cost you $23EUR for a 2 years membership, super good lobang (Singlish meaning good opportunity), best fit for those doing a gap year. I can say that it is much more complex to use as the food and accommodation exchange opportunities comes in different forms, like hostel cleaning, house sitting, animal care, gardening, carpentry farms and many others. There is a similar platform called Helpx, I browse through both of them and find that most hosts are on both, so you can sign up for 1 or both it is up to you. I chose Workaway because their website is more user friendly, I am not a smart person so I need things to be as simple as possible.
I use this platform when I am traveling in Europe and it is very useful and easy to find host that needs last minute help, there is a filter that you can tick. It will be helpful to learn some basic words of the local language as not everyone in smaller towns speaks English.
If you are under 31 and eligible for Working Holiday Program in New Zealand, go for it, you will not regret and remember for life. For Singaporean the visa cost around $150SGD and each year there are 200 vacancies available, but it's a sure kana one (Singlish meaning sure gets it) as very little people knows about it. The visa entitles you to work and travel in New Zealand for 6 months and you can extend another 3 months if you can collect 12 pay slips from horticulture jobs, further more you can still extend another 3 months of tourist visa so it makes up a year.
Visa application cost, vacancy and requirements are different in each country so you need to check it out for your country. In any case you do not want to apply for the visa but still wants to experience milking the cows, spending time with horses, getting free ski passes or just wants to enjoy the great scenery the country has to offer, no worries. There are a lot of exchange programs listed on the Backpacker Board, it’s like a job board and if you are lucky you can get food and accommodation exchange programs with pocket money.
When house owner goes for holiday, they will need a temporary housekeeper to take care of the house, pets, farm animals or their elderly parents. Personally I have not yet use any of such platforms but would like to try soon for some of my upcoming travels. You can get a head of me and try it, if you have already tried it, please share with me your experience, I would really love to hear about them /:)
When any of the above does not work out, the last solution is to browse the website of local hostels and check whether do they offer food and accommodation exchange programs, if it is not stated on the website, you can still email them directly to query about it. Maybe for every 15 emails you will get 1 reply and sometimes non at all, so this is actually the most tedious way yet I am very lucky to find some very good ones during my travel.
Usually you will be sleeping in a bed in the staff room or a dorm room, food may or may not be covered if so, working hours will be shorter like 3-4 hours a day and most of the time the hostel has good location so you can save on transport while visiting the city during your off days.
I have another fantastic lobang for those who understand Mandarin, this is a very useful travel forum from Taiwan and information are mostly written in Traditional Mandarin. It has a section that provides job listing in various countries offering working holiday visa, but you can apply them too if they are exchange programs, I applied a lot from this website. Registration is free if you need to post and you can find listings like hostel helper, bartenders, au pair, home cleaners, restaurants and more.
Hope the few platforms listed above can give you a good start and save you some money while traveling, I have tried them before and it works for me very well, so I hope it works for you too.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small amount of affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to you as my readers.