Omni Traveller

Budget Backpack Travel in Europe

Travel Accommodations: Wwoofing, and Teaching English Abroad

I was having a conversation with a fellow traveller over dumplings the other night and she lamented how she ended up having to stay in hotels every single night of her last international trip. She was travelling through India for a couple weeks with a friend and her friend was a little less seasoned than her and would neither set foot in a hostel or anything else other than a hotel.

A guy and young woman talking in Tuscany, Italy

Wwoofers in Tuscany, Italy
 Photo: Natalie HG


Now, this traveller I was talking to wasn’t upset about having to stay in hotels because the hotels were crummy. Not at all, she said the hotels were wonderful. Instead she was upset because she ended up having to pay a whopping $30 US (€24, £13.50) a night for her accommodations.

I completely understood her point as I generally aim to spend no more than $10 US (€8, £4.50) a night on accommodations when I travel, a point that often influences what countries and cities I choose to explore. She and I laughed about this ridiculous sense of entitlement we both shared, the sort only travel hackers and backpackers develop, the belief that even if you have the money to spend, the day-to-day realities of travel should be as inexpensive as possible.

And while I prefer to stay in low-cost hostels even I’m paying way more than others who explore the world, as there are plenty of ways to visit foreign countries without paying a dime for the roof over your head.

Why do people feel they can’t travel around the world? If you teased through the many excuses the average individual will throw your way, you’ll realize most of these mental roadblocks revolve around a single factor- money. People think they can’t afford to travel the world. This is nonsense.

The two main expenses related to travelling, transportation and housing, can ring up much lower than the average individual believes. Combining fare aggregate websites and a flexible schedule you can fly for cheap without spending more than 5 minutes a day (at most) browsing for deals. And housing? Housing you can get for free.

 

WWOOFing

Working in a farm field in Takayama, Japan

Wwoofing in Takayama, Japan
 Photo: Natalie HG


Pronounced like a dog’s bark, WWOOF provides a truly unique way to travel the world. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and it offers exactly the sort of experience you expect it you. All you have to do is join WWOOF (for a small fee) and you’ll receive access to listings of organic farms all around the world. Contact the farm you’re interested in working with, ask them when they need help, and if your schedules match up head on over to them.

When you WWOOF (yes, it’s used as a noun and a verb) you will work on the farm like one of their own and they’ll house you and feed you. Some farms will take you as long as you want to stay there, others have set periods of time where they need help and have the space to house you.

WWOOF is hard work, but the system is effective and you can do it indefinitely without putting in a whole lot of planning. A friend of mine WWOOFed for 18 months straight, travelling all throughout Europe, and only planned his first stop. At each stop when he felt ready to leave he looked through the listings, found somewhere he thought sounded cool, then headed over and started working there until he was ready to hit the road again.

It’s also good to note you can WWOOF domestically, giving you the ability to essentially experience a deeply foreign experience even if you don’t have the cash on hand to fly to Europe or elsewhere.

 

Agritourism

View of an organic farm in the Netherlands

An Organic Farm in the Netherlands
 Photo: Suzuette Pauwels


An alternative to WWOOFing but still sometimes like it, agriculturally-inclined tourists can have a green vacation for themselves or even with their family at a farm or other place that accept volunteers for varying jobs and situations in exchange for room and board. An agritourist can find themselves helping a farmer tend vegetables in Sweden, picking grapes in California or Tuscany for a winery, picking olives in Greece, or become a demonstrator of farming chores on a recreated mid-19th century farm at Lakes National Recreation Area in Tennessee. There are many possibilities.

Agritourism is considered a growing form of niche tourism that includes farm and ranch stays that is considered a growth industry in many parts of the world as much as it is an aid to small farms and ranches. Unlike WWOOFing, agritourism is inclined to offer visitors with an educational experience with farming methods and the rural farming culture of Europe and North America.

Agritourism tends to draw young people interested in organic farming and to experience “going back to the land”, as well as urban and suburban baby boomers and senior citizens who have a wish to experience the romanticism of rural farm life. In taking part in agritourism they can learn something about their own family’s past when Europeans, Canadians, and Americans were once nations of farmers. This is an experience of a return to nature that is pure and honest.

 

Teaching English Abroad

The demand for English teachers is overwhelming in some countries, especially in Asian countries. There are not enough teachers to go around. If you have a degree in anything (yes, anything), you can easily qualify to be an English instructor. The single most important qualification is to be reared in an English-speaking country and to speak English from birth as your native tongue. Several organisations actively track-down young and old native English speakers alike to teach English in schools worldwide. Teacher’s training or experience is not needed.

Not everywhere you might wish to teach English abroad will provide you with free housing, it really depends on the program. However, as a general rule from my own research and from speaking with friends who have taught English abroad. if you teach in Asia you’ll receive free housing, while if you teach in Europe you need to find your own apartment.

Young ESL teacher with one of his adult students

Young ESL Teacher With One of His Adult Students
 Photo: Josh Berglund


If you find a program that covers your housing (like those in South Korea, Red China, Taiwan, and Japan) you’re in luck as they’ll take care of everything. All you need to do is show up and they’ll take you right to your apartment. These apartments are usually located in a nice neighbourhood that’s convenient to the school where you’ll be teaching. As a general rule, the better the school where you teach, the better the accommodations they provide.

Usually, you will be paid rather well for any English teaching job you may take. Now, it isn’t good money compared with a well-paying job in London, Vancouver, or Los Angeles, but considering exchange rates and the fact teachers live rent free, it isn’t surprising most of the people I’ve met who taught English abroad ended up living for a year in Asia while still saving up a few thousand dollars by the time they return home. However, perhaps the greatest benefit is the gratification acquired by the very act of teaching.