From the Series How to Travel on a Social Worker’s Budget
Belief 1) I am Not Poor
Belief 3) Look for Exchange Opportunities
We all know that interacting with the locals is the best way to see a new country. Of course, discount approaching locals for meaningful conversation can be as intimidating as asking a stranger on the street for a first date! Here are a couple of ways to allow new friendships to develop naturally with locals while you explore everyday living…
Work exchange programs are growing in popularity. WWOOF is for anyone who is interested in learning about organic farming. There are WWOOF sites all over the world. In return for working on the farm, online WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles. Jenni and I are hoping to do a WWOOF exchange this year. Not only is it good for our travel budget, but we’re hoping to pick up some skills so that we can have our own thriving garden someday. Our friend Camile worked for four months on an organic farm in Ibiza, Spain and loved his experience. Another friend Linda made it through one week on a farm in Bolivia, but clearly farming in a developing country with minimal tools is a whole lot more work!
Couchsurfing is the new way to backpack with rapidly growing numbers of participants around the world. You can search for locals who have a “couch” or room for you to stay on as well as for locals who are just interested in having coffee with you. Couchsurfing’s mission is to create “Inspiring Experiences” around the world. All subscribers have a Yelp-like rating where other travels rate their dependability, references, and response percentages. I used the keywords “gay” and “lesbian” in my search and found many listings that looked welcoming – though I must say some of the ones from gay men implied that they wanted to share a bed, not a couch. Those aside, I did find some great people including a retired gay couple in Southern Australia and a social worker in Mexico who I would love to stay with.
Exchange opportunities are some of the best ways to set yourself apart from tourists to develop friendships with locals that can last. Best yet, they are free and make the budget!