What are HelpX and WWOOF, and How Can They Help You Travel?
HelpX & WWOOF are wonderful secrets to anyone traveling Australia. The biggest plus is that it is your ticket off of the “backpacker trail”; as you will find out, most places you hear about in Australia have already been frequented, heavily and exhaustively, by backpackers. The locals might be amenable to the hordes of travelers coming through their little town, or they might be sick and tired of it. Either way, if you’re staying at hostels within a mile radius of a Greyhound bus stop, there is little opportunity for you to do something “new”. After a few months of this, you might start to become a bit cynical, realizing that it’s difficult to break out of the little community of travelers you’ve found yourself a member of. Of course, not everyone thinks like that. Some people love the hostel life, and I fully encourage them to live it to the fullest. However, for those of us who want an experience that’s different from the one that millions of backpackers are getting, the key to mixing it up is HelpX or WWOOFing.
These sites provide websites dedicated to connecting travelers looking to work for a place to stay and people who need a hand with any number of projects and are willing to put up travelers in exchange for a few hours a day of work. The arrangements vary by the institution you are visiting: some just ask that you help out around the house with their kids in exchange for a couch and meals, others have set work schedules that you will be adhering to with a private room and shower. It all depends on the posting itself, so be sure to read through the ENTIRE posting before contacting the host, and know if it is some place you are willing to work. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time, least of all your own.
It all starts with your profile. You should have a picture of yourself, and present yourself and whomever you are traveling with in as inviting a way as possible. Never forget that you are essentially a stranger that is being invited into someone’s home: you want to show that you are helpful, respectful, kind, considerate, and friendly. There’s no requirement that any host accept you—you need to convince them why you will be a good person for them to bring into their house. BE FRIENDLY AND APPROACHABLE. This is paramount.
Additionally, any skills that you might have should be listed in detail. Anyone can wipe down a kitchen or pull out weeds, so if you can show that you’ll bring value to your host, now is the time to do it. If you are an electrician, carpenter, painter, or have any sort of trade experience, highlight this. Other things that will make you stand out are any experience with child care, in the hospitality industry, or something which proves that you can get along with others in an unfamiliar situation. Depending on what you bill yourself as, you might find that your hosts even contact you!
Finding a place to stay is much easier if you have a car. Sure, there will be hosts that are close to public transportation, but right off the bat this limits the amount of hosts you can stay with. It also means that you increase your competition for staying with the host: everyone without a car will be competing for the same spots. Having a car in Australia can be an expensive pain in the ass, but it also opens up a great number of opportunities for you to experience new things, since there are large swaths of the country that are in the palm of your hand which millions of other travellers won’t be able to access!
HelpX is similar to WOOFing in the sense that you are trading labor for room and board, but in my opinion it’s a better option because it is not limited explicitly to farm work. If you are explicitly seeking farm work so you can get your 88 days signed off for your second year visa, that’s a different story, but if you are looking for a different experience while trying to save some money, then HelpX is far superior. Giving you access to hotels, resorts, family homes, and farms, there is a wide variety of jobs you can add to your resume and people you can network with. All you really need to do is show that you can add value to your host, be it through a trade, cooking fantastic meals, or even just being good company for someone who can’t travel as much as you can, it’s a fantastic opportunity to break out of the East Coast backpacker trail.