Help Exchange/HelpX – All you need to know.

This joined our ‘help exchange’ program last year. Free bed and board and she does bugger all.
Digital Nomad Jobs – Help Exchange

The typical digital nomad has to be a bit cautious about the cost of things. Money may not always be flowing in as readily as you like and you need to know what is going where and when. Unfortunately, as the summer months approach, it seems that all restaurateurs and hoteliers are issued with special licences. Special ‘fleecing’ licences that allow them to charge a lot more money for their services. Room and food costs can increase dramatically overnight, and if you’re ill-prepared for this you can easily obliterate your meticulously planned budget pretty sharpish. Another potential downside of the summer is the increase of tourists cluttering up your little piece of paradise. There’s nothing worse than one day waking up to find you have to queue for things in the local shop! Personally, I find overcrowding intensely unlikable and endeavour whenever possible to escape it. That’s one of the many, many reasons I left Birmingham.

An interesting way to avoid these seasonal pitfalls is to enrol on a help exchange program.

Help exchanges are a great way for all digital nomads on a shoestring budget to see the world, learn some new skills, save some money and hopefully make some friends. The basic idea is that you help in exchange for somewhere to sleep, some food to eat and some time off to enjoy yourself. The usual requirement from hosts is that you can work 5 or 6 days a week for 5 hours a day. The work offered on sites like HelpX is incredibly varied and based all over the world. I have little doubt that you will find something that suits you anywhere on the planet.

An important thing to remember if you become a help exchanger is that you are not just going on holiday. People are providing you with bed and board, they will expect you to earn it. Always make sure you’re fully committed to the work before signing up. If you turn up and don’t care/try everyone will probably hate you and you won’t be staying very long. It will just be a waste of everyone’s time and (particularly your) money.

As with all things in life, there are pros and cons to the help exchange system. Obviously, a major plus point is that you get to see different parts of the world without worrying about finding somewhere to sleep and affording food. The flip side to this is that you have no real control over your living conditions and potentially no say in what it is you’ll be eating! If you’re pretty flexible on food and accommodation, fantastic! If not then make sure you spend the time researching the sites to find the opportunity that is just right for you. If you are new to help exchanging you might be best only looking at listings with reviews from other volunteers. Whilst I’m sure most listings are genuine you may find some that are a little ‘economical’ with the truth. If you read the reviews at least you can go into the experience (hopefully) knowing exactly what you are in for.

Help exchangers need to be quite adaptable, it’s very common for the jobs you do to change from day-to-day. No one can force you into doing something you don’t want to do but be wary. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility to expect to be out riding horses on the trails and actually find out you are shovelling manure all day.

A few years ago I went on a help exchange in Olhao, Portugal. It was pretty great, I worked 5 hours a day painting and gardening, had my own room, plenty of food and really friendly hosts. Also, I met the greatest person I have ever met on my travels Susi! To be honest, even if the experience had been awful it would have been worth it for just meeting that new friend. Help exchanges can be a great way to meet people and really immerse yourself in the local culture. If you are lucky you will find a host that is happy to show you around and really make you feel at home.

If you are interested in help exchanging have a look at HelpX, globalhelpswap, backpacker job board, workaway and Worldpackers for more information and to set up your first help ex-adventure.