At a glance
- Comparing WorkAway to WWOOF and HelpX
- Fees and Services
- Personal Experiences and Plans
- How to Travel on $1000 a Month or Less
Comparing WorkAway to WWOOF and HelpX
WWOOF, as the name implies, is for farm work whereas HelpX includes a broader base of volunteering opportunities such as backpacker hostels and B&Bs but still centers on farms, ranches, and homestays.
Both HelpX and WWOOF have been around for a long time and may have special sites for popular regions such as Australia, Europe, and the US. WWOOF, the oldest in the bunch, is celebrating its 37th year, whereas WorkAway was launched in 2002 (one year earlier than Couchsurfing).
Though there are plenty of hostel as well as farm opportunities on WorkAway, it is not limited to those categories. Because the platform includes a focus on language exchange, you can also find host families.
For example, if you have been learning Italian and/or want to visit Rome, you might find a couple there who would like someone to help improve their son’s English. In exchange for a few hours work (never more than five hours a day, five days a week and often less), you get a place to stay, the opportunity to practice the language you’ve been learning with native speakers on a daily basis, and in some cases meals included.
Additionally, there are lots of opportunities to volunteer for nonprofits who, for example, work with street kids in Manila or teach orphans in the mountains of Vietnam.
Fees and Services
You can become a premium member on HelpX (which is required if you want to be able to contact hosts) for just over $20 (USD) for two years. WWOOF typically costs $30 a year and WorkAway is the most expensive at $38 per year for an individual account and $48 for a couples account.
Besides offering a couples account, WorkAway includes the option to find traveling companions and join two accounts together.
Of course, the main function of the website, once you have set up your profile, is to help you find hosts and allow you to contact them. From there, you can exchange contact info and communicate through email or social media.
The website also allows you to list your destinations and travel dates so that hosts can initiate contact and invite you to volunteer with them. Finally, WorkAway has a blog with lots of helpful tips for first-timers.
Personal Experience & Plans
Personally, I haven’t used WWOOF or HelpX but I have heard quite a lot about them as both are quite popular here in Australia. However, I never had the intention to backpack from farm to farm across this vast continent so I didn’t take much personal interest.
I have, on the other hand, been a member of the Couchsurfing community since earlier this year and have already had some fun experiences, met great people, and made new friends through it.
One such friend talked about how he had recently traveled South-East Asia with WorkAway and immediately my interest piqued.
I had already been intending to leave Australia by the end of this year and look for opportunities in the Philippines and Taiwan instead,
I decided almost right away to join WorkAway and since then I have confirmed my first host in Palawan in January and have been invited to teach in the mountains of Vietnam in February and volunteer at a surf school in Taiwan thereafter. I have been able to find multiple potential hosts in Taipei, though not as many in Manila. In combination with Couchsurfing, however, there are plenty of opportunities.
How to Travel on $1000 a Month (or a Little as $750)
I book all of my flights out of Manila, as I have been when coming to Sydney, and I have a GetGo card and membership so I earn points every time I fly with Cebu Pacific. They have flights from Manila to just about anywhere in South East Asia (plus as far as Sydney and Los Angeles) are extremely affordable.
You can find flights on the Cebu Pacific website that almost always rival any deal you’ll find on Skyscanner and as a GetGo member, you can use the points you’ve earned to book exceptionally good deals through their website. For example, a Cebu Pacific flight from Sydney to Manila on December 31 through GetGo cost me $250 ($175 when redeeming points) instead of $320 via CebuPacific.com or $330 via Skyscanner.
Round-trip flights from Manila to other islands in the Philippines, such as Palawan, can be booked for as little as $75 and a round trip to Taiwan, Vietnam, or Malaysia might cost $100-150. Even if you are buying your own food, the cost of living in these countries is so low that in a place like the Philippines you can comfortably get by on spending $20 a day.
Coupled with the free accommodation provided WorkAway hosts and maybe a few friendly Couchsurfers, you can absolutely live on a thousand dollars a month or less. In fact, if you booked one $150 dollar round trip per month (countries like the Philippines give you a free 30-day visa upon arrival), and spent $20 a day you could travel, not necessarily the world, but definitely South-East Asia for $750 a month.
I’ll keep you up to date on how this works out for me.
Make Memories and Share Experiences
As great as it is to see the world, it’s the people you share travel experiences with that make the places worth remembering.
And in that way, volunteering for your room and board or surfing couches is not just about traveling on a budget.
For one, your WorkAway host will likely be able to hook you up with great experiences during your time off and possibly get you some good deals too. Many hostels and such places will be geared toward travelers like yourself and odds are good that you’ll meet some interesting people with whom you can share your travel experiences.
I can wait to see what these next few months (or possibly years) of traveling will teach me. It will certainly be quite different from the past year I’ve spent in Sydney, working from home in a quiet and peaceful environment. Though, if there’s one thing we can always count on in life, it’s change.