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. 😉