A Working Holiday

A working holiday is a great way to extend your travelling time whilst learning new skills, trying things you’ve never done before and meeting cool people.

You can use websites such a Help X or Work Away to connect with hosts all over the world who need help with their projects. The work varies from babysitting to farming. You can find something that suites you.

What’s to gain?

With free accommodation, you can afford to stay longer in a chosen destination. A maximum of 5 hours a day will be spent working. The rest of the day is yours, plus 2 days off a week.

  • You can do things you’ve never done before (new skills)
  • You will grow a lot more from the experience than you would sitting at the pool
  • Develop patience with yourself and others
  • The chance to explore a new culture
  • Meet great people and learn how to deal with not so great people
  • Develop your adaptability

What you should know

The agreement should be that you receive 3 meals a day and accommodation for approximately 25 hours work a week. Some hosts don’t offer 3 meals but at least 1 should be provided. It depends on the nature of the work.

Remember, you’re a volunteer, not an employee. If you have a good work ethic, you want your efforts to be appreciated. So make sure you check out the host thoroughly before choosing them. Bad hosts deserve bad volunteers. Vice versa.

How to prepare

Read the reviews. Check when the last review was posted. Don’t be in a rush to get there and enjoy the free accommodation. If you end up with a terrible host, you’ll soon realise you wasted your money travelling to them.

Be real about it. Only apply for a work away that you think you will enjoy and take something from. If you feel in your gut that it might not be for you, don’t do it.

Have a video interview with the host. If they agree to this it’s a good sign that they’re organised and have time for you. Come to an agreement on both sides as to what is expected from each other.

I ended up in the South-East of Spain in mid-August with a host that slept all day and didn’t have enough direction to give me work. I ended up watering the flowers twice a day, which was her one and only job that she decided to give to me. Her lack of enthusiasm and the intense heat quickly demotivated me and I ended up leaving after a few days. At the time I felt it was a waste of money getting to her but I guess all experience is good experience. Point is, you can avoid those situations by following these tips.

Before arrival, ask questions about what work they have lined up: how many hours, what kind of food they provide (maybe you’re a vegetarian and they are not) and accommodation. The point of these questions is not necessarily to find out exactly what the experience will be like, but the interaction will allow you to gage whether they are the right fit for you.

How to make the most of  your free time

I have free styled whilst travelling. The spontaneity has been exciting at times and took me to places I had no idea existed. On the other hand, it can be stressful and expensive. If you know you would like to do a working holiday, it’s worth having your destinations planned out and your work lined up.

Once you’ve confirmed with your hosts you can research the areas you are going to be in. That way, when it comes to your days off you already have an idea of where you want to explore.

It’s always better to have extra cash incase you really aren’t enjoying the experience and want to leave early. This can be an added bonus to your travel – a relaxed holiday in between work away posts (maybe you want to arrange something like this regardless of whether you leave a post early or not).

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the best part about working holidays is the wonderful friends you make

The Irony of Pollution

What do you like to do on a hot summer’s day? The ideal situation is to be on the beach and swim in the sea. I’ve visited five coastal Cities/Towns in Spain this summer and each beach has been packed. So it’s safe to say that this is a common activity amongst humans.

One sunny evening on the beach of Valencia (Spain) the time was getting on, the sun going down and people, here and there, were beginning to pack up their things.

This time of day at the beach is the best. The hustle and bustle dies down and you can hear the waves against the shore. It invites a reflective mood, you could say.

As usual, the beach was scattered with cigarette butts. This is common in Spain (and globally).

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Cigarette butts contain hazardous chemicals such as cadmium, arsenic and lead which are carried to the water supply by wind and rain.

To my right were a group of young women, one of whom was smoking a cigarette.  To my dismay she stubbed the cigarette out in the sand. I wondered if she knew how much harm she had just caused. Was she even conscious of her action, or was it automatic? Whilst travelling I’ve met and seen many smokers who think it’s completely normal and okay to throw cigarette butts anywhere. I don’t think people do this maliciously. In the end it boils down to a lack of education and awareness.

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The chemicals found in one cigarette butt can leach out and contaminate approximately 7.5 litres of water within one hour.

Something urged me to approach her on this but I felt uncomfortable. Isn’t it funny? Despite my knowledge of how harmful her actions were, I still felt that I would be out of place to ‘tell her what to do’. Truth is, we are sharing this world and we have a right to protect it.

I regret not saying anything because a few moments later, she stood up and unknowingly  ground the butt deep into the sand. A symbolic moment. Now it would be even more difficult to approach her as I would have to dig the butt out of the sand. I decided that would make me look a little peculiar and perhaps make everyone feel uncomfortable. I wanted to inspire these women to look after the beach, not alienate them. I took the experience as a lesson and remained calm.

It was what happened next that was truly an eye opener. The same girl (the stubber) turned back on herself to pick something up from the sand. What is it? I wondered. Did she drop something? Had she mistaken a cigarette butt for her own? Is she in fact conscious of her actions?  I looked closely and saw she had collected a pretty little shell: a piece of the beauty of the beach she wanted to cherish.

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THIS is what should be scattered across a beach

How ironic. With the very same hand that she had used to pollute the beach, she used to preserve a token of its beauty. If we appreciate the Earth, why don’t we make an effort to look after it?

There are small changes you can make to be kind to the Earth:

  • carry a portable ashtray (or put your butts in the bin)
  • invest in a reusable bottle and move away from throw away plastic bottles
  • invest in a ‘bag for life’
  • buy or make period panties
  • print less or double sided (the trees give you oxygen people!!)
  • make more and buy less