Our final month of Remote Year begins in less than 1 week and the tears are already starting to flow. While the last 11 months have been nothing short of incredible, most of us are bracing for real life to begin again. An end to RY means going home, back to an old life, old conversations, first world problems, and people who can’t relate to a year abroad. Or does it?
What if you could continue traveling, but instead of paying Remote Year $2,000/month to travel and live abroad, you could do it for free? What if you were asked to build a castle in South Africa, run a ski area in New Zealand, pick grapes in Bourdeaux, teach Buddhist Monks English in Nepal, restore an 18th century farm home in the mountains of Peru, help at an orphanage in Myanmar, paint a hotel in Sri Lanka, open up an eco-hotel in Guatemala, teach little kids English in the bush of Namibia, run a coffee farm in Colombia, work at a front desk in a museum-turned-hostel in Cape Town, South Africa, work with elephants in Thailand, build guitars in Mexico, get trained to teach diving and surfing in a small beach town in Ecuador, or simply help run a yoga camp in Honduras? All this with your own room and 3 meals a day. Not bad.
This lifestyle is possible with a site called Workaway: a host organization of more than 29,000 opportunities in over 155 countries. As long as you can get yourself to the location, room and board are covered in exchange for 5 hours a day of work, 4-5 days a week.
And if you shop around a little bit, around the world flights can go for as low as $1500 for 8-16 stops with sites like: Sky Team or Round the World (a UK-based travel agent), or even through major carrier partnerships like One World and Star Alliance. Skyscanner and Momondo are international sites that compare all international airlines (even the tiny ones that Kayak and Travelocity miss) and are terrific sites for round trip, one-way, or multi-destination travel.
Workaway is my favorite search site for free volunteering, but there are plenty of others that offer their own unique twist. Check out a similar site called HelpX, one for yogis: YogaTrade, one for Organic-would-be farmers: WWOOF, Volunteers Base (completely free for both host and volunteer), or Diverbo (stricty for teaching English to single families in Spain or Germany for 1 week stints). Aside from WWOOF, which charges per country, most of these memberships are $30/year. Considering many volunteer opportunities around the world go for $200-$2,000 per WEEK (not including flights, ground transportation and visa), this is an amazing deal for the volunteers. It’s also a great deal for hosts who don’t need to do more than post photos and a description to lure free help.
I know what you’re thinking. This sounds dangerous. Moving in with a family in Namibia? Flying 24 hours to live in an unknown ski community in New Zealand? Or how about moving into a yoga oasis in Honduras? Any number of things could go wrong. The great thing about these sites is that others have been there before you. You can sort your search based on past review ratings, accommodations, type of host (i.e. individual, family, farm, NGO, business, or boat), location, internet access, etc. Workaway (in addition to the other listed sites) is a community of both travelers and hosts who keep themselves in check. You need to reach out directly to the host to be accepted, but you can also (and should) reach out to the dozens of people who have volunteered before you. There are countless reviews from people who went for 1 month to a location and stayed for 5; others who have been traveling for years with Workaway while developing skills and living in new cultures; and in one case, a couple who started with only $6k in savings, but traveled for 2 years. The stories and possibilities for planning your life’s master’s degree through travel are endless. Communication with these sites, however, is key, and it’s imperative to have the right expectations before going in. If you’re able to do that, you’re well prepared for the adventure that awaits.
The end of Remote Year is still a change of pace and loss of community, but there’s a feeling of accomplishment at having lived 12 months abroad without returning home. There’s also an excitement about what’s around the next corner. Completing Remote Year will feel like a graduation in some ways and I’m excited to take the training wheels off and continue to live and travel. The world has become my backyard and stepping out of my comfort zone the norm. Thanks to Remote Year, I’m a better person. And thanks to Remote Year, I’ve learned how to appreciate the world.
*photo credit: Workaway