How to Prolong Your Travels Through Work Exchange

  • Cynthia Ord
  • 20 February 2012

Some travellers stay abroad for months, sometimes even years. The economics of it mystify their more stationary friends back home. People wonder, and even ask, “How do such long-term travellers keep themselves afloat?”

Long-trippers (often backpackers) have lots of tricks for cutting costs and prolonging their sojourns. They stay in hostels or even camps, cook their own meals when they can and cram themselves into local transport to avoid taxis and flights. They’re an agile, fast-moving species of traveller. The goal is to cover as much ground as possible and travel for as long as possible, which can add up cost-wise no matter how carefully they budget their moves.

Slow Travel work exchange- WWOOF volunteers in Canada

WWOOF volunteers in Canada Through WWOOF Canada, volunteers work on an organic farm in exchange for room and board. Photo courtesy of Becky Young

If you are willing to skip some of the hit-and-run sightseeing and country hopping of gotta-see-it-all travel, there’s a much simpler way to stay on budget and on the road for a long time: Take it slow, base your travels in one place and opt for a work exchange. Today, there are more and more ways for the industrious slow traveller to find work and break even.

BackdoorJobs.com, “Short-Term Job Adventures”

Browsing the homepage of Backdoorjobs.com, your sense of adventure is instantly ignited. Where to click first? “Seeking 7-Month Cheese-Making Apprentice in Colorado,” announces one headline. “Work and live in the redwood coastal hills of Northern California!” beams another. Although these hot travel stints are mostly geared toward Americans looking for something in the U.S., there is also an “International Short-Term Job Opportunities” section that’s well worth perusing.

Check out BackdoorJobs.com

Help Exchange (HelpX)

The idea behind HelpX is to connect willing travellers with farms, bed-and-breakfasts, hostels, ranches, lodges and even sailboats that are looking for someone to lend a hand, short-term. “In the typical arrangement, the helper works an average of four hours per day and receives free accommodation and meals for their efforts,” says the site. Access to listings comes in two flavours – a free version and a more comprehensive paid membership.

Register for HelpX

Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF)

One of the longest-standing – and perhaps the most well known – of the work-exchange programs out there, WWOOF is oriented toward matching help with organic farms all over the world. In the beginning, the acronym stood for “Willing Workers on Organic Farms,” but due to legal issues surrounding the term “worker,” WWOOF now officially stands for “Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms.”

There’s no central WWOOF organisation; rather, each country has its own listing and network to join for a small fee. Becky Young, the coordinator of WWOOF Canada, encourages everyone to try it at least once. “Go for it! You learn to travel on your own and feel safe because you are living with families, immerse yourself in a new culture, learn new things, make new friends and so much more.”

Find out which countries have WWOOF organisations

Slow Travel work exchange- Work and Wine

Work and Wine connects interns with wine industry opportunities in several countries. The trio pictured above are enjoying their time in Australia. Photo courtesy of facebook.com/Work-and-Wine

Work and Wine

One of the newest work-abroad coordination resources on the web, Work and Wine, is based in Mendoza, Argentina, the internationally renowned wine region. The goal of Work and Wine is to resolve visa issues and enable student interns and skilled professionals to work in the local wine industry in Mendoza. It also coordinates exchanges with wineries in other great wine capitals in the world, including in South Africa, Napa Valley in California, Australia and New Zealand.

Get in contact with Work and Wine


Similar to HelpX and WWOOF, Workaway is an online network of organisations, farms and even families worldwide who offer room and board in exchange for some help. For a small membership fee, you can list yourself as a host or as a “Workawayer” volunteer. Workaway is one more big and growing listing of mouth-watering stints that will make you wish you could spend your whole life as a gigging traveller.

Explore the listings on Workaway.info

Slow Travel work exchange- wing it

Travel slowly and keep your eyes open. You never know what kinds of work opportunities will pop up. Photo courtesy of Flickr/Leonard John Matthews

Wing It

Some people like to plan ahead online, others improvise. If you’ve had experiences working and living abroad, you might have seen that some opportunities present themselves in person, on the ground level. Get where you want to go, and then do the legwork by looking for the kinds of work you’re most qualified to do.

Put yourself out there. You never know what will come your way. Find gigs as an English teacher, nanny, waiter, receptionist, contributor to a local publication, or work with a local NGO. If you travel slowly, rent an apartment and commit to staying in one place for at least a month, you’ll see a world of travel work opportunities open up.

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Cynthia Ord

Cynthia Ord discovered the WHL Group while interning with the local partner Outdoor Albania for a summer. She is currently based in her hometown of Denver, Colorado, helping out with The Travel Word newsletter, and planning her next trip. On the side, she writes about the impacts of tourism for her blog, tourism, people and the earth.
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