Will Work for Shelter and Wine (Preferably Wine)
I am now completing my first two weeks of Help Exchange, a website I have used to find new and alternative ways to travel and meet the real people living beyond the tourist destinations. Through doing this I have learnt many new things from how to make my own gnocchi the way real Italians do to discovering that I am actually quite the budding building apprentice, getting my nails chipped and my clothes dusty, laying bricks and concrete for a luxury balcony at a B & B in Dozza. In exchange for my hard labour I am rewarded with a roof over my head, a delicious home cooked meal and some local Italian vino (ah bliss!). Along with learning all of my new skills I have probably consumed a normal years worth of tomatoes, figs and pasta in these last two weeks, all of which has flowed abundantly in my home stays.
I was lucky enough to have very genuine, interested and kind-hearted hosts in my first week who took it upon themselves to include me in their family (even if it meant having to translate a room full of conversations for me) and who loved to teach and learn equally through their own interests in cultural exchange. Even the kids were accommodating and we couldn’t even speak the same language to each other! I am very grateful for that first introduction to Help Exchange, although now I have a problem. My expectations for each new experience are very, very high!
So if you ever want to experience a completely new way to travel, away from the tourist attractions, the crowds and away from the traditional notion of a holiday then you should make sure to give this a go. The jobs vary from helping someone in the kitchen or on their farm to working at a hostel or babysitting (and many more I’m sure). If you’re lucky enough to get amazing hosts like I did then you will definitely learn a great deal more about your destination than you would staying inside the walls of your hotel room. So here are a few tips to get you started!
1. Create a thorough profile including photos and your best assets (not the physical ones). Hosts (especially those with families) like to know who they will be inviting in to their home and putting some effort in will help you get picked.
2. Don’t copy and paste messages to your hosts! If you are sending several still take the time to personalise each message. A copy and paste is easy to spot.
3. Make sure you know beforehand exactly what will be required of you. I didn’t check this out on my second home and whilst I’ve had a great time, I have done a lot of housework here (which is fine because I’m really good at it) but I’m doing Help Exchange primarily to learn to do things I wouldn’t normally do at home. I have met some more great people here though so it was worth all of the scrubbing!
4. Be open to all people and experiences! You will be living in other peoples homes so you need to be flexible and mindful of other people. And enjoy their company, learn from them.
5. Be prepared to work! Usually you can work for just the first half of the day and then you have free time and a day off if you stay long enough. It all depends on the host but generally there is hard work involved for a few hours a day. If it’s something new and different though, it can seem easy!
6. Finally, try to share as much as you can from your own culture with your hosts. This could be through food, photos, stories or music (good or bad!). People like that. You are interesting.
If anything, it’s a great experience to get you out of your comfort zone, even for just a week or a couple of days. Thanks to my hosts I now feel fierce like Beyonce, like I could do anything! I can build a damn balcony if I want to! (maybe with a little help from my friends) Now that’s something I didn’t know I could do two weeks ago. ¡vivathebuildersapprentice!