We are members of a couple of network travel organizations that allow us to both welcome visitors from all over the world to our home as well as travel ourselves and stay for free at other members homes.
There are some different forms for these organizations. Some of them require that you help out with things a few hours a day in exchange for free food and a place to sleep. It can be all kinds of work, farm work, garden work, building, cooking, baby sitting, helping children with homework, you name it. These places usually allow you, and want you to stay for a bit longer – weeks or even months. A couple of examples of these organizations are WWOOF and Helpx.
We have mostly traveled through WWOOF – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms – in Europe and especially Spain. We have many great memories from these visits but one special place comes to our minds, Los Arenalejos in the mountains above Marbella, Southern Spain. The family who has this huge farm is now dear friends to us and we have been staying there several times, helping out with various things. Since they grow absolutely everything on their land, there’s always something to do. Some of the things that grow there are olives (lots and lots of old trees), avocados (almost as much), oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruits, apricots, peaches, apples, pears, pecans, almonds to name a few.
We have also had visitors come to us through WWOOF. We remember the man who came on his bike (!) from England. He didn’t take the quickest way though but made a small detour around France and Italy first. He was a great help with repairing things around the house.
Another time we had a young man from New York coming to spend time with our kids and to “teach” them English. It did very much turn out the other way around though, they taught him things like harvesting honey and chopping wood.
We’ve also had a family staying at our home for a winter when we were traveling ourselves. They were a Finnish-English couple with a son. They had actually been WWOOFing themselves around the world for 5 years as a family!
Travel with the help of an organization like this really helps you to learn a lot about the people and the customs and the culture of the country. You feel much more like a local than like a tourist and also you don’t have any costs for accommodation and usually not even for food.
We really think you should have a look here to get some more ideas about this great way to travel!