Looking to see the world but wary of lugging an overstuffed backpack from hostel to hostel or paying out the nose for a succession of overpriced hotels? Sites like Workaway, WWOOF, Help Exchange and Staydu help connect wide-eyed travelers with farmstays, hostels, bed and breakfasts, ranches, parks, vineyards and a bevy of other welcoming hosts eager to trade some simple and often interesting work in exchange for the opportunity to live and eat with the locals and create some truly one-in-a-lifetime memories. Ditch the mediocre beach resorts and forget about big-budget tour guides; here are 15 unique work exchange opportunities that will blow your travel-loving mind.
Here in the shadow of the Pyrenees, it’s easy to be captivated by the sight of fields filled with thousands upon thousands of fragrant purple lavender plants shifting in the breeze. Trade in a tired trip to the guidebook-listed botanical gardens and instead spend your time in France helping your hosts care for this beautiful and aromatic crop. In exchange you’ll live in a cottage on the farm only a stone’s throw from a few quaint local villages, plenty of hospitable locals, and some of the most adorable cafes you’ll ever sip a latte in. Bonus: lavender is known to have a calming effect, so expect a relaxing work week.
If your love of traveling to far-off places is rivaled only by your affinity for all things cinematically wonderful, consider spending some time popping corn and taking tickets at this co-op movie theater in Cambodia. You’ll get to see how the locals do movie night (think lots and lots of air conditioning and big, sprawling rattan sofas strewn with oversized cushions) and when you’re not working you’ll have several apartments to choose from where you can stay, mingle with coworkers from all corners of the globe, and recharge.
Eco-conscious travelers and animal lovers alike can heed the call of the wild in Borneo, where this combination eco-resort and organic garden is just waiting to introduce you to the wonders contained in their 12000-square-meter bit of oceanfront rainforest. You’ll make friends with dolphins, monkeys, and the occasional snake (and some really nice people, as well) and learn about producing solar- and hydro-electricity, growing organic produce, and what it really means to build a home from the ground up.
Handymen (and women) can pack their toolbelts and talent and head to Venice where this young family will happily pick you up and drive you the hour north to their beautiful old farmhouse. Once there, you’ll spend time in the heart of Prosecco country renovating this stunning property as the owners work towards their dream of opening a bed and breakfast. The house has plenty of character and so does the surrounding area, but we recommend you brush up on your stonemasonry skills and find that out for yourself.
The Emerald Isle is known for many things but most people don’t immediately equate the land of shamrocks, Guinness and Riverdance with windsurfing but the happy couple running their own watersports center in lovely County Kerry know better. Help them out with cooking duties and some light housework and they’ll teach you how to harness the power of the offshore Atlantic waves – and you’ll still have plenty of downtime to kick back and enjoy that Guinness.
Native German and English speakers are in high demand in Banja Luka where the proprietors of the local language school hope to find skilled travelers willing to teach conversational classes while they explore the region. School will only take up about three hours of your day, most of those in the evening, so you’ll have plenty of free time to seek out all this historic city has to offer – and your hosts will even provide a car to do it with.
Information is a bit scarce about this Croatian boating work exchange but life is simpler at sea, so we can kind of appreciate this relaxed host’s succinct approach to posting. You’ll live on the boat and help with the housekeeping and food prep and in return he’ll teach you the ins and outs of rigging and wavecutting. We’re not sure those are actual boating terms but when you get an eye of the Croatian scenery you’ll be treated to on a daily basis you’ll quickly see why we’d be more than happy to head over, pop on a life preserver, and practice our water-related vocabulary.