Samantha Stirmel/Business Manager
Typing “Travel for Free” in the web browser produces a dizzying amount of results that can overwhelm anyone genuinely looking to travel for free. Sifting through 761 million results does not sound like it would be a good time and is not for most people, but there are some simple alternatives as long as someone is willing to work hard.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is an organization of organic farms from across the world that facilitate homestays. The program allows applicants to stay at the houses of and be fed by their hosts; purely for the cost of you preforming duties around their farms or helping out on their smallholdings.
They will learn about organic farming and be fully immersed in that countries culture either by themselves or with a few other volunteers. Applicants also get to pick where they want to go; WWOOF is active in over 60 countries, each having many different opportunities and each with information on each opportunity like what the ‘job’ entails, where exactly it is located, and the owner of the land’s contact information. Applicants will always know what they are getting into before landing in the country they are volunteering in and negotiate directly with the host for how long they will be there. The typical exchange in most countries is about 4-6 hours of help for the exchange of a full day’s food and accommodation.
Flights and medical care are the only things that must be paid for, however, by teaming up with different travel agencies that service the many countries in which WWOOF operates, the organization is able to offer services, such as reduced flights and other special prospects.
Another option is the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps, US citizens 18 and older who want to help the world all over or stay close to home have chances to travel and offer aid anywhere. Besides for some costs for medical screenings and vaccinations to make sure applicants will not get sick on their excursions outside of the US there are no fees associated with anything and living allowances are given while preforming Peace Corps duties in said countries.
The only catch to Peace Corps is they are very limited on their opportunities for those that do not have a degree, though there are service opportunities for those with some schooling and work experience. However, some universities have programs that partner with the Peace Corps through the Coverdell Fellows Program. This program gives varying financial assistance and internship opportunities to serve in undeserved American communities, as well as a great resume booster that qualifies the applicant for noncompetitive eligibility status for federal jobs after the close of service. In AmeriCorps, members can join the Network, NCCC, or VISTA; all three programs assist directly in America and concentrate on many different things.
AmeriCorps Network serves with local and national organizations and addresses communities’ needs relating to disaster services, economics, education, environmental issues, medical services, and the supporting of veterans and their families, with full-time and part-time opportunities available. NCCC sends volunteers to strengthen communities, develop leadership skills and respond to disasters, requiring full-time service for 10 months to adequately respond to each community’s needs within two tracks: Traditional Corps and FEMA Corps. VISTA is dedicated towards members assisting communities out of poverty and requires members to commit themselves for a full year, full-time for the program in order to create the infrastructure in the community to help it stand on its own.
If a short time abroad sounds more appealing, then another option might be companies like Diverbo where almost anyone can volunteer to speak English at resorts around the world with the native speakers of said country so they can increase their English ability. The week-long programs that Diverbo orchestrates have a group of about 15-25 volunteers from any English-speaking country and are jam packed with conversation activities to assist with mainly Germans and Spaniards. The program is not so much about teaching English in a typical learning format, but to be there to converse with and encourage growth of language capabilities and for both the volunteers and the participants to learn and understand each other’s cultures. The main rules of the program are simple: only English, be on time to events, and no phones during activities. Some of the only costs of the program are flights to and from the place where the program is being held, as well as one night’s accommodation the night before the program commences, as well as extra food and money for extra excursions during allotted free time.
Using English to get abroad can also be used by becoming an Au Pair, or someone who helps with housework or child care in exchange for room and board. Families abroad want their children to be taken care of and for them to be engaged in speaking English to enhance their abilities.
Specifically, the company Au Pair World connects families in about 21 host countries with willing volunteers that receive free room and board and pocket change as payment for their services. Au Pair is available as a Gap Year for anyone wanting to take a break from their education to experience a completely different culture, but it can also be used for as little as a month stay all the way up to 2 years. Costs for this option include flights, medical needs, a visa and language courses in the country, but in some cases the host family will cover varying costs like classes, return flights and some other things.
Most au pairs are expected to be between 18 and 30 years old for the majority of countries. According to different countries’ rates and the family’s needs, au pairs can work from as little as 15 hours a week all the way up to an absolute maximum of 40. Au pairs usually talk with their host family and agree on terms with each other to be matched up in the best way possible, since they technically function as another family member in the house.
There are many options to travel abroad and these are just a few. Regardless, to travel abroad one needs to be dedicated to travel and benefit from it. Most programs do not offer an out and the applicant needs to be fully dedicated to the process for it to go without a hitch and to learn and enjoy the experience they are having.
The opportunities presented are not ever 100 percent free and usually require the applicant to perform a service, but nothing is ever free in this world. The experiences that will be had by the participants of these programs will have memories that will last forever and give them a professional leg up because of their cultural and language advances compared to those around them.