Before leaving the US I knew I wanted to spend each week of my six-week Australian Adventure in a different city. I intended to have the first several weeks planned out before arriving but that didn’t happen, so I landed in Sydney only sure of where I was staying the first week and zero plans after that. I also knew I wanted to make my trip more affordable by doing some work exchange, in my case through a website called helpx.
I first heard about work exchange through my good friend Amy Boone (I told you I’d give you credit!). A few years ago, probably while working on a project at her or my place, I recall her saying something like “I’m thinking about going to work at a winery for a month in Italy. You just work a few hours per day and they give you a place to sleep and feed you.” At the time I thought- and probably said out loud- “You are out of your ever-livin’ mind. That sounds like a scam and you’re going to get killed.” Well, as I sit here typing this, 10,000 miles away from all I’ve ever known in the home of complete strangers, I can say that it’s not a scam and I haven’t been killed.
So what is it? Put simply, you work at someone’s farm, winery, home, ranch, whatever, and they give you a place to sleep and (usually) three square meals. Every host is unique in the type of work you’ll be doing, the number of hours required, whether or not meals are provided, accommodations, etc, so you have to do your homework to find a good fit. Great opportunities fill up fast so don’t procrastinate (like I did). Hosts like personable people and are happy to integrate you into their daily lives.
So where am I? I’m outside of a sleepy little town called Bellingen, population 2600, in an even sleepier little town (they call it a Shire but I’ve yet to see a hobbit) called Fernmount. When I say sleepy I’m not kidding. The main town has a police department… that’s active Monday through Friday. The courthouse is open only on Thursday. The mailman delivers mail on a motorcycle. It’s Mayberry and it’s adorable.
I’m staying with a wonderful couple out in the country who have the most amazing five-acre property full of native plants, trees, and critters. See that pic above? That’s the view off their deck toward free-roaming moo cows. I may have found the best work exchange opportunity in all of Australia. My hosts require four hours per day of work in exchange for my own private room, private bath, and all the food I can eat. When I get tired or famished from the heat I’m welcome to laze around by their salt water pool. Kevin is a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge about wildlife, flora, and the history of Bellingen. Both my hosts have decades of experience working with wildlife in zoos and conservation. I could go on and on. So far I’ve helped work on a deck, repaired a screen door, and done quite a bit of outdoor painting on the house. My hosts appreciate the quality of my work and it feels good to be doing honest labor for such a worthy reward. And they haven’t killed me.
Thanks Amy. 😉
Awesome trip you’re on! Edie and I loved all of the times we used HelpX (plus Workaway and WWOOF). Those farm stays were definitely some of the most rewarding parts of our trips. Enjoy yourself!
The photo of your location is now open and showing the beautiful green countryside. Perhaps it was just asleep earlier when I commented!
Nope, you were right. I had some technical difficulties.
Hey Hey, Scotty D.!
I’ve completely enjoyed all of your blog posts. I’ve smiled and laughed at all of them. For some reason I’ve been overlooking the comments sections. I’ve scanned the bottom of every post looking for a link to interact. Ha – I just now happened to see the Comments link at the top and to the left of each of your posts. I just went back again and read everyone’s comments from each section. I’ve been missing out!
So before I comment on this particular post I want to re-iterate that each of your posts have been very entertaining. You and I talked about blogging a number of times before you set off on your journey and I think you were initially a bit hesitant to commit. Now that you’ve published a number of entries I believe I detect a natural writing talent. You’re doing a great job bringing the rest of us along with you on your trip. Great work and please keep on writing!
So the photo in this post is absolutely awesome. I showed my daughter (five years old for others who may be reading) and she immediately said, “Wow! Scott’s working there? What are those? (the cows) Where is the shack? All farms have shacks, Daddy. That’s where they keep the chickens.” So I saw the photo as a far-off world traveling fantastic adventure experience. My daughter saw it is a chicken farm sans the chickens. Ha! I guess everyone maintains a different perspective. Mine is one of pride in your great adventure with a heavy dose of envy sprinkled atop for all that you’re experiencing.
Keep on exploring, my friend. And keep on sharing!
~ Shannon T.
Yo Shan Man! I’m glad you and Mad are enjoying the pics! There are so many unique things here to take photos of… you would have a field day with your camera. I’m hoping to post lots more pics of the area and the critters.
From a technical perspective, the Nexus 7 has been OK but something of a challenge when wanting to take more control of the blog. In hindsight I’d rather have a small, portable laptop. Now I know!
When do I get to start reading the Shan Man Gadget Blog?
Oh, and tell Mad that over here they call chickens “chooks”. 🙂
I have to agree with Shannon… you definitely have a knack for writing. I have enjoyed your blog as well and look forward to the next post and pics. Glad to see that this has been a great experience for you so far. Have fun with the rest of your adventure.
It looks so beautiful there! I’ve really been enjoying your posts – thanks for sharing your journey with us!
Abby! It would be so much better if you guys were here. Make that happen! 🙂
Yay! I am so happy this is working out for you! Funny how you thought I was the one out of my mind and yet I’m the one who hasn’t taken the trip!
So, how long are you staying in Bellingen? And what do you mean by “free roaming” cows? How far are they free to roam? Either they’re bound by a fence and some hipster dubbed it “free roaming,” or Bellingens are laid back folks who don’t mind large mounds of byproduct on their property. If it’s the latter, I hope you don’t get stuck with that job before you leave.
By the way, I saw a baby walker on your front porch today. That was weird.
Take care! 🙂
Haha about the baby walker! I bet that was weird. As for free roaming, I just mean not locked up in a factory somewhere. There’s definitely a fence. I’ve been here a week and will stay several more days. I think Melbourne is next on the list, but I’ll have to fly there.
I looked at this on a map, and there are maybe 4 roads other than the highway, completely surrounded by forest. You are going to have a wonderful time there!
At the end of my long day, you offered a breath of fresh air! I feel like we are trekking through Australia with you!..and you thought all of your home repairs were behind you.
What a gorgeous view to have off of one’s deck. It looks more like a view in the British Isles. And I really hope that working four hours per day is not too taxing on you; wouldn’t want you to get so worn out that you couldn’t manage any more adventures. The weather report this evening was predicting the possibility of a “wintery-mix” by later on this week. Hope you’re enjoying you summer. By the way, how has the weather been so far? Do you have any plans made once you get to Melbourne? Any other “tough” jobs lined up in order to have room and board. And how are you getting along with the indigenous foods of the region? If you are anywhere that you might spot a Harley shop, both myself and a friend would like to have a tee shirt. A large for me, and an extra large for him. If you don’t have the space to pack them around, I totally understand, and I think it would be far to expensive to mail or ship them. There seem to be thousands of Harley dealerships along the East coast. Your site is such a joy to see and read! Please take lots of pictures that you can show everyone when you get back here. I’m off to bed, so continue with your great adventure, continue with your excellent blog, have fun, and we’ll see sooner than you wish. Peace Unc
Yo Unc! It is quite the view. I will miss having breakfast out there each morning. The weather here has been fantastic. The climate near Bellingen is somewhat tropical so you might get a brief shower but then the sun will come out. It certainly beats the many days of rain I dealt with in Sydney. I will definitely look for a Harley shop in Melbourne! I’m still working out the details of the next leg of the journey but I’m flying into Melbourne on Saturday, planning to explore for about four days, then spend another week with a family doing work exchange. Still searching for an opportunity that fits my skills/interests. I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog!