Helpx - the alternative to WOOFing
Do you want to travel, but your budget is limited? Are you a hands on person? Do you want to get to know the locals and stay put in some place for a little while? So what do know then? Quite likely you already answered these questions for yourself and you came up with the answer ‘I’ll go WOOFing while I travel Australia‘. So, while I have nothing bad to say about it there is also a (maybe lesser known) alternative to it. The website I am talking about is helpx, short for help exchange.
The idea behind it is similar to WOOFING. You register online to find a host and then you work a few hours per day for accommodation (and usually food). On top of that you will receive some knowledge only locals can provide and you might find a place you consider a home for a little while.
Helpx is very popular Down Under and in New Zealand, but people can find hosts and guests all over the world. Founded by Rob Prince, a guy from England with a passion for travel who has worked for accommodation on several occasions the website has become well established among backpackers. A tragic incident was the catalyst to turn the website into what it is nowadays.
How does it work
First you have to register online. There you have two options, either a free membership or you get a premium account. In both cases you create a profile with a little description about yourself that shows your skills, next travel destinations and so on. Without paying for your account you can still be hosted by other helpxers. However, you should consider to go for a premium membership (for 20€ for 2 years) as then you can write to hosts. If you have a free membership the only way to get into contact with your future host is if they write you. They might see that you are about to come to their area (if you keep your profile up to date) and message you, but without being a premium member you can only see their profile, but you can’t contact them.
Once you found a host (or they found you) and you agreed on how long you want to stay, what chores might be waiting for you, etc it is time to finally meet. So you will head over to their place, get to know each other and from then on you are going to spend some time in their home. Usually you will be asked to work about three or four hours a day and in return you get a bed and some food on the table. This often includes duties like gardening, some renovation work and cleaning around the house, etc. There can always be arrangements that differ from that, but that is the most common trade off you will encounter. But at the end of the day, anything is possible. All in all the basic concept is similar to WOOfing as I mentioned before.
Eventually, you might end up finding new friends, a new family and a new home. At least for a short period of time. Not only do you get the chance to save on food and accommodation, but you will also get to know locals instead of staying in your touristy bubble. Helpx hosts can give you inside information on the area, you might be allowed to borrow bicycles to get around and more. Some guy I almost stayed with recently had even a little cinema in his house. So, anything goes.
After you are parting ways you can rate each other and leave comments (a la eBay and many more) which creates trust and will help you to not end up with dodgy hosts. Of course this goes both ways. But don’t worry, you will still find someone to give you a home even if you are new and you don’t have any previous positive feedback from people hosting you.
Pros and Cons about helpx
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To sum it up, helpx is absolutely recommendable, easy to use and just one more puzzle peace that can make backpacking around Australia unforgettable. I would not say that it is better or worse than WOOFing, just different. When WOOFing you will find yourself working on a farm, getting your hands dirty and learn a few skills about self sufficient living. Helpx can be exactly like that, but doesn’t have to be. There is a wide range of working for acoommodation deals. You find different hosts on each platform and it is definitely worth to have a look at both. As I said, helpx is just one more resource you can use.