When preparing for an indefinite trip, there is never-ending research and moving pieces to juggle. You just book your ticket and schedule accommodations, and then you can do whatever you want, right? Honestly, I started out pretty naïve during the initial stages of planning. Although the information is all over the Internet, sometimes it takes awhile to discover it through your own planning process. For anyone thinking about taking a trip, hopefully what I am about to share will save some time and steps.
Initially, I wanted to spend at least 6 months in France to immerse myself in the culture. Honestly, I could probably stay there forever. I’ve always loved French, which is likely due to learning it in pre-school and grade school. But, the glorious Schengen laws created a little glitch in my plans.
What is Schengen?
The majority of European countries are within the Schengen zone. Countries excluded are the UK, Ireland, and eastern countries like the Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova, and Turkey. (Think of the Schengen countries like the states of the USA. The States are Schengen Countries, and the USA is the Schengen Zone.) You can travel freely between all of them for 90 days in a 180-day period. Once you have reached the 90-day mark, you have to exit for 90 days before re-entering.
While normally you can get a working or student visa, I didn’t want to limit my freedom, or spend the time applying for them. Instead, took it as blessing in disguise to motivate me to see more countries and diversify my time. Once I get there, I could change my mind and apply for a long-term visa with France. Both France and Italy have a long-term option that doesn’t require you to work, but, requires proof of financials to support yourself without being employed in the country. Canadian and Australian citizens have an amazing 120-day holiday visa option.
So, how am I spending an indefinite amount of time abroad without burning through my savings? It’s called workaway.info, and helpx.net. There are other options online, but those are the two most popular sites. In theory, you only need one, as some hosts have accounts with both. But, I wanted to maximize my options, and registered for both.
What is workaway.info & helpx.net?
Hosts provide workers with lodging and food in exchange for 20-25 hours of help/work per week, with 2 days off. Workaway standard is 25, Helpx standard is 20. Sometimes, hosts are flexible and allow you to work longer one day to give yourself an extra day to explore. Each host is unique. Most follow the standard amount of hours, but others ask for more, and some ask for less. It completely depends on the host. You can search through to find hosts that fit your skill interests, and the accommodations and offerings available.
Hosts & Main Themes
Hotel/B&B/Hostels – help with guests, cleaning, cooking, reception, changing bedding
Families – help with childcare, cooking, and light housekeeping, language practice
Farms – farming
Individuals/Homes – Building, Gardening, DIY, Painting, Decorating, and other specific needs. French Chateaus – Renovation projects
Yoga & Retreat Centers, and places in SE Asia have a lot of schools for teaching English
These vary greatly, from tents and caravans, to a shared room or personal room, some offer a pool house, or private apartment. You can stay in apartments, houses, and beautiful French chateaus, to anything under the sun (literally, see the mention of a tents?).
I’ve seen some hosts offer everything from spending money, a sim card, bus card, and car, plus accompanying them on holidays, to an elderly retiree on a government stipend that offered accommodation on a couch with no food.
I will add an upcoming blog post about the nuances of making the planning a smoother process based from my personal experience with trial and error.