Travel, contrary to belief, does not have to be expensive. In fact, it can be free. Jamille Wallick gives us the details in Experiencing Corsica Like a Local through Help Exchange, a new work exchange program that pairs up people looking for room and board with those who want an extra hand. Similar to WOOFing but without the farm focus. Check at Jamille’s tales and get planning!
When I first heard of Corsica, it was from a friend who had just returned from a “work” trip, which was assisting a high-profile fashion photographer with a shoot on the island. Cliff-side towns overlooking gorgeous Mediterranean beaches, cuisine inspired by Italy, France, and the sea, local wine and cheese, models, swimming pools, sun and sand mixed with lush mountains; his trip sounded incredibly exotic.
I was green with envy and sure I would never be able to travel so extravagantly. Yet here I am, in Corsica, France, and the only thing I’ve paid for in two weeks is a crêpe that I bought while wandering around the cliff-side, haute village of Bonifacio just yesterday. No, I did not become a fashion photographer, and the only person around posing for pictures is the Corsican neighbor’s adorable little 2 year old baby, Theo, but I found a way to make it happen.
I am using a program called Help Exchange, and for the past week and a half I’ve been staying on a strawberry farm just east of Ajaccio.
Similar to WWOOF
The first program like this I heard about was a program called WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), which evolved out of England in the 70s as a way to learn about farming just outside the cities. It has since become global, and while it maintains the farm aspect, it is now more defined as an exchange of work done by the guest for room and board from the host.
An Internet search led me to a similar program called HelpX or Help Exchange, which I decided was perfect for me.
The website is a bit more user friendly than WWOOF’s, and it includes reviews of the hosts and locations written by previous visitors, lending an extra measure of security. It also has other work options, like babysitting or building, for those less interested in farming.
When I contacted my host, I was well prepared with lots of questions after reading as much as I could about the program. Each situation is as different as it is based on individuals, not a company, so it is important to learn what is expected as a guest and what to expect in return. My host informed me that work was about 20 hours a week, but that “no one will be counting hours.” I’m almost positive that I hit the jackpot of HelpX on my first try, as my host family provides me with all fresh, delicious food I can eat, a cabin of my own, and unbelievable warmth and hospitality.
Of course the work is hard, but it is enjoyable and rewarding, and getting in shape and a little tan are side effects no one would complain about. The farm is filled with characters I’ve quickly come to adore.