Our plan to travel around the world is structured around a creative use of the Workaway and Helpx websites, which are both comprised of profiles of hosts and volunteers from around the world. The hosts offer free accommodation and meals in exchange for volunteer work, which can range from gardening, building and animal care in rural areas to serving and entertaining tourists at hostels and B&Bs. This arrangement drastically reduces travel costs for the volunteers, and also provides an opportunity for the volunteers to learn new skills from the host families, as well as have the unique of experience of living completely immersed in a country’s culture by living among the locals.
Most volunteers pick a country they would like to travel to and stay with a host family for 2 or 3 weeks. Yet, Brent and I thought, why not live with different hosts back to back over a long period of time? We could literally travel across the entire world, all while only needing to put money aside for flights and other transportation.
As newbie globe-trotters, we were under the impression that visa regulations only applied to paid workers, thus we imagined that we would volunteer in each chosen country for 3 or 4 months, perhaps deciding to stay even longer if we found a particularly lovely place. But after a quick scan of the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada website, we learned that most countries only allow 90 day stays – even for tourists.
We also discovered the “Schengen area”, a cluster of 25 countries, comprising pretty much all of Europe, which share common entry/exit requirements. Basically this means that after 90 days in France, for example, you have to get out of not just France, but Europe entirely, and cannot re-enter any Schengen country for another 90 days. It seemed like we would have to break any sort of European tour up into 90 day chunks, zigzagging in and out of Europe and across the globe and racking up far more transportation costs in the process.
Fortunately, a little more research revealed that the UK is not part of the Schengen area, which opened up Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England as nearby areas to visit in between stints in Europe.
Our first stop will be in France, and thus satisfy my trite girlish dream to see Paris. We’re staying with a lovely retired British couple who own a small piece of farmland in southern France. We’ll help with gardening, small building projects, caring for ducks and chickens, and dog walking. Although the couple, obviously based on their aforementioned heritage, speak English, all of their neighbours are exclusive francophones. It’s a beautiful rural area that is perfect for long bike rides and a proper French country life experience.
We’ve both resigned from our current jobs, our lease is terminated at the end of August, and our families and friends have been informed. We’re committed to return by December 2012, because Brent has agreed to be part of a cousin’s wedding party. This gives us 15 months to travel around the world and see…literally everything. September 5th is launch day.