Jul 25, 7 years ago

Get creative to extend your travel

Get creative to extend your travel

It seems that every traveler I meet has a deficit of one of two commodities – time or money. Those short on time squeeze in everything possible during their 7 or 10 days away from the office while those backpackers short on money cut every corner to save, sometimes bordering on the ludicrous. Here, I pose a few strategies for those travelers who want more than just a vacation – a richer, longer experience. Burrowing some points from Rolf Potts’ Vagabonding, this isn’t so much about saving money as it is about extending the amount of time (your most valuable commodity) available to travel, learn, and explore. This is about enhancing your opportunities through traveling as an engaged participant in the community.


World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or WWOOF, is an international organization of farms across the world and chapters exist to varying degrees of sophistication in nearly all Latin American countries. WWOOF facilitates the placement of volunteers on ecologically sound farms by listing posting from potential hosts. Some of the better managed sites charge a small fee to have access to their listings and volunteer reviews, but money is rarely exchanged between host and volunteer. Hosts generally offer accommodations, food, and opportunities to learn in exchange for the volunteer’s labor. An average work day is 5 to 6 hours and a visit can last days or months. The work can be anything from basic farm chores to harvesting, building, or a project that requires a specific skill set. Each arrangement is unique and facilitated between host and volunteer, so it is difficult to generalize, but WWOOFing can be a wonderful way to extend travel, reduce your living costs, practice your foreign language skills, learn about the local culture, and develop some new skills.

Do a Work Exchange

HelpX is a similar organization in that they post listings from potential hosts, but opportunities extend far beyond work on farms. As a “helper” you could work at a farm, ranch, hostel, B&B, hotel, shop, or restaurant. Like WWOOFing, each situation is unique, but food and accomodations are exchanged for 3 to 6 hours of work per day. By essentially eliminating your lodging and food expenses from you budget, a work exchange can extend your travel time three or four-fold.


Idealist is a nice place to start a broad search of opportunities and organizations abroad. There are hundreds of business online that actually charge volunteers, but if you do your homework you’ll be able  to find the right cause and volunteer work. Larger and more established organizations may be able to offer accomodations during your volunteer time.

These three ideas are simply starting points. If you’re serious about planning an extended trip, sit down and think critically about what you want to get and the skills you can offer. There aren’t any rules for this stuff, so it never hurts to send some emails out and ask. Blaze your own trail!

Lead Image: CC Image Courtesy of thebittenword.com on Flickr


Ryan is a writer, photographer, and teacher living and volunteering throughout Latin America.

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