Nora Dunn discusses eight online tools to help you travel long term and live rent-free.
So you’ve decided to do it. You have a friend or family member who can store your belongings for an undetermined period of time, you’ve tied up loose ends, and your bags are packed. It’s time to start traveling long term!
But now what? You have a few family members and distant friends who have offered up a couch if you’re in their neck of the woods, but surely they won’t appreciate your arrival on their doorstep with no planned departure date in sight.
How then, do you travel long term and not run out of money? Hotels (and even hostels) are expensive over time, and finding rental accommodation in every city you visit is impractical. Heck – you don’t even want to pay rent at all!
Here are eight handy resources to help you get started on your long term travel adventure:
By joining this service (annual membership is approximately US$30), you will gain access to a classified system of people looking for caretakers in exchange for rent-free living. The opportunities vary widely in scope from ranch hands, to organic farm workers, campground hosting, motel management, nursing for the elderly, to just plain house sitting. Locales for your next potential gig could be anywhere in the world, from numerous U.S. locations, to Australia, to Europe and even Micronesia.
Some are paying opportunities, while others are simply work-trade arrangements for accommodation. Others yet will supply an additional stipend depending on your experience and the work entailed.
This is what TIME Magazine had to say about the Caretaker’s Gazette.
WWOOF is an acronym for a number of different phrases, the most apt of which in my mind is “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms”. It is an international organization (located in over 70 countries) of organic farms, gardens, businesses, ranches, (you name it) where you can exchange your services for accommodations, food, and training.
Required services include basic garden and farm maintenance, as well as cooking, teaching, caring for children, and handy work. There is usually some work suitable for anybody willing to adopt this lifestyle.
Whilst surfing Wwoofing opportunities, you will likely also find links to volunteer organizations, and other similar work exchange opportunities. It’s a great way to gain valuable experience, friendships, and to cover your living expenses in a constructive manner.
Most countries require a subscription to gain access to their full listings and contact information of the hosts, and the subscription prices vary from area to area but are not over-priced for the value received.
If you are happy to spend your vacation house-sitting for somebody else, you may find the right opportunity here. You will find lists upon lists of people requesting house sitters for periods of time from a few days to a few months, anywhere in the world. In many cases there are a few hoops to jump through in order to gain the opportunity with liability and bonding issues, and already living or traveling in the same country carries an added advantage.
You can choose from the limited free membership options or the full US$45 one year membership, depending on your needs.
Much like Caretaker’s Gazette and woofing, you will find many worldwide opportunities to proverbially “pick blueberries for a living”. The prospects aren’t limited to organic farms though; you will find hostel management jobs, artist retreat internships, in addition to various agricultural and permaculture settings.
For US$20/year, membership will help you gain access to many great listings and a user-friendly system of contacting hosts and searching for opportunities.
Couch Surfers are a network of people who are willing to open up their homes and hearts to frugal travelers, as well as be those travelers when they are not hosting guests. The site prides itself on referrals and having only high quality members, and has a comprehensive program in place to ensure the safety of both traveler and host. But as with any chance to stay at a stranger’s place for free, a prudent amount of caution should be exercised.
Similar to Couch Surfing, Global Freeloaders is a cultural exchange program for hosts and travelers. Registration is free, but members are required to be able to host as well as travel, so unless you expect to be able to offer up your digs as a host within six months of signing up, you are politely requested to wait.
This is the original Couch Surfers and Global Freeloaders. Servas (meaning “serve” in Esperanto), is a non-profit non-denominational non-ethnic organization of good-will and cultural exchanges. It’s been around for at least 50 years, and is recognized by the United Nations. In addition to being a network to connect people and places, volunteers around the world work in relief camps and advocate for peace through various projects.
Hosts offer their homes and dinner tables for two nights (or more, at the discretion of the host) to travelers who contact them and who meet with their approval. Travelers must go through an exhaustive process which includes an in-person interview before being accepted to the program, as a way of screening for quality candidates.
Once travelers are interviewed and accepted into the program, they are given printed lists or booklets of the hosts in their destination country (Servas is moving towards an online platform, but is not there yet). There are also membership fees which vary from country to country.
Free to join and internet-based, it appears to be the Servas of the online world. It is kept “safe” through a series of passport checks and online feedback systems with checks and balances.
These are just a few opportunities in the world of long-term travel, as you will discover with a little research. I don’t vouch for any of the services or programs, and a healthy amount of caution should always be exercised when accepting hospitality from strangers. However I think Servas says it best when they say: We are all friends. We just haven’t met yet!