Since Michèle & I live on a budget we started our first Europe trip telling everyone we would find a job on the road. Making some extra’s was the plan and we thought we could easily find jobs without any preparation; well we were wrong. Maybe it was because we weren’t really motivated to go knock on farmers’ doors and hoping they would hire two girls for a job who don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese or maybe it was because it wasn’t the season at all…
During a stay near Ronda we met a Dutch couple who had a B&B . They told us about volunteering. Two guys from The Netherlands were flying in to stay a month at their B&B and help to make everything summer ready in exchange for food & a bed. We weren’t really enthusiastic in the first place. We wanted to earn money, not volunteer. We gave it some thought and after a week applied to HelpX. We found three places that we could see ourselves at. After another week we got a phone call from a retreat centre, one day later we arrived and started working for ten days.
This story is nice and all, but why did we decide to the volunteering in the end. Well our budget was getting smaller and we figured when we wouldn’t be driving for a few days, no money on food or services, we would let our daily quota shrink. That way we could travel longer, we would have a break from vanlife, get to know new people and maybe learn some new skills: WIN-WIN.
A little more about HelpX or Help Exchange. The platform was launched in 2001 by the Englishman Rob Prince. Rob himself was a traveller and worked at several places for food & accommodations himself. Usually he worked at hostels or farms. There he witnessed that farmers used boards in villages to get their workers. Rob figured it would be best to get an online platform where people would search for jobs and where work givers post the vacancies. It is still today a growing community with loads of hosts and helpers.
You can use the website for free or pay € 20,- for 2 years. The difference is that after paying the € 20,- you can see everything a host is offering and their contact details too. What we really like is that you can choose the option “couple”. That means that we can use our membership for two years for two persons. You can find hosts to work at on a worldwide basis.
Another way of volunteering is through Workaway or Woofing. We don’t have any experience with these services, but they seem really interesting too. Workaway has a bigger community, but costs the same as HelpX. It is also worldwide and they have their own blog and social media accounts. Woofing is more for farm work.
DIY! You can also find volunteering options yourself. Think of Facebook groups, Instagram but also through other travellers. It might be a little more difficult, but it’s free and social media works very fast!
If you’re not really into working and like to watch animals, then pet sitting is definitely something for you. Trusted Housesitters and whole bunch of other services are there to connect a pet sitter with a host. The yearly fee is € 99,- but if you’re calculate what you can save on rent, it’s worth it!
Let me tell you a little about our experiences.
Hidden Paradise – February 2018 – 10 days
Through HelpX we came in contact with Julia & Rupert and their beautiful retreat center in the mountains. We were only helping out since another volunteer had cancelled. We worked together with three others and slept in a cabin made of clay. We had a big bed, another one person bed, a desk and a cute fireplace to ourselves. The whole center is self-sufficient. This means they filter their own water, milk their own almonds, get wind, water & solar electricity and make their own meals. For us this meant we could use the compost toilets or the normal ones. On the terrain there are treehouses, Spanish dorms and a main house. At the main house everyone has breakfast, lunch & dinner. Our job during those ten days was cooking lunch or dinner and cleaning up after. Our daily shift was 4 or 5 hours a day and in exchange we got healthy, fair and vegetarian food (3 times a day), the cabin where we could sleep and the services as toilet, shower, washing machine and water. On the terrain was also a temple where we could do yoga. We could use the natural swimming pool and once the sauna was hot we were able to relax a little in there too with the guests. The 10 days we cooked there was a silent retreat. That means that the guests were not talking. We had to be very quiet, but it gave us the opportunity to build a “relationship” with the crew. All we knew was that we had an amazing time and that we wanted to come back for sure!
Picking Grapes – September 2018 – 12 days
Although we were paid for this job, we also got food and a place to stay and the basic services. We did could use the swimming pool after a hard day of working. For more about this seasonal job, click here to check the post!
Finca Los Figos – February 2019 – 7 days
Sabrina & Bas, a Dutch couple we were following on Instagram, announced that they were buying a finca on the Spanisch campo. After almost six months they finally could buy the land and they couldn’t be happier. Having followed all this we were kind of curious and wanted to give them a hand. Through Instagram we contacted them and a few days later we drove to Pinoso, a rich village with loads of good wine! Since the finca was just standing there for 5 years without any maintenance, there was a lot of work to do. We started with collection all the trash and putting it together to recycle it later. The first weekend the wind was blowing really strong and we were only able to help a few hours. On Monday everything looked better and we started to work in the garden. Since Sabrina is a freelancer she had to work the mornings and Bas made the food. The week flew by and the result was very visible. They were very grateful and we were too. We have made new friends and in a couple of weeks we’re visiting again to cuddle with the puppies and see how much progress they have made!
Hidden Paradise – March 2019 – 21 days