This has been a summer of travel for me. After leaving Korea back in February I started travelling, meeting people, and learning through experiences in countries such as India, Greece, Poland, Czechia, and now Canada. I’ve been able to do so through a network called Help-X which you can read more about right here. One of my favorite stops in all of my travels and all of my Help-X past experiences has, by far, been at Re-Green in Greece.
Now before I get started and carried away, typing out hundreds of words on the wonders that I found at Re-Green, I’d better reign in my thoughts right here and right now. To make things easy on both of us, I’ll narrow down my thoughts to just four simple bullet points. And before I do so, let me also explain that I hope that this write-up can stand as a review for those considering trying to volunteer through a work exchange network there, or those who may attend one of their many workshops (including yoga and PDC.) More than a review, maybe it will open your eyes and mind to some cool new ideas that they’re doing over there. If nothing else, may Re-Green inspire you on your path to sustainability, whichever route it is you are taking to get there.
Why Re-Green is Magical
- Their View on Life – The people over at Re-Green have called their homestead-retreat center/little-piece-of-paradise Re-Green for a reason. The name stands for a conscious lifestyle that is about living a sustainably by doing more than recycling and buying energy-efficient light bulbs. To Re-Green is to work with each other and nature in order to live harmoniously with the surrounding environment, which is exactly what they strive to do at their home. You can read more on their website about what Re-Green stands for. A real life example of Re-greening that they have there is turning an old trunk into a solar oven to bake your potatoes in for dinner. It was so cool.
- The People – From the first time that Ben and I were picked up on a cold cloudy day in April by a big white, windowless van (I know that sounds more scary than magical, but it turned out just fine in the end – don’t let the media scare you out of having adventures!) The friendly people in the van were of course the owners and stewards of Re-Green. It’s not always that you meet new people and instantly click, but that’s what happened. During the weeks that we stayed there were a handful of other volunteers from all over Europe and they too we jived with straight away. Lots of late nights sharing stories and laughing. It was easy and obvious why so many new friends were made there, it was because people were drawn there who believe in a philosophy of bettering the world by enhancing nature.
- Surrounded by Beauty – Stunning mountain peeks surround the valley that the retreat center nestles in and almost every day I found myself wondering how I’d ended up at such a majestic place on earth. Looking closer to the ground you’ll see wildflowers and abundant gardens blossoming all around. Cuteness overload with puppies, ducklings, and little baby chicks added to the happiness. On clear days you can see down to the Gulf of Corinth; the view of the sea from the middle compost toilet is especially lovely. At night-time the stars take over and during rain or cold, it’s the natural buildings that inspire.
- Experiences Not Things – Going to a retreat center that hosts events from yoga, to learning about detoxing herbs, to preserving the gardens gifts, means that you are bound to learn loads. Sharing ideas and ways with other volunteers and guest teachers will also translate to learning and as a volunteer the learning will be hands on and practical. If working on your vacation sounds like torture then check out their events on Facebook and visit as a guest. The rooms alone are reason enough to spend a weekend there, they are housed in an old, stone farm house with so much attention to detail in the remodel (they’ve been Re-Greened you might say!) While I was there I was in heaven doing yoga, teaching yoga, learning about vegetation, hiking, natural building, cuddling dogs, reading books, pulling weeds, and the list could go on.
This post is not so much a review as it is a gush of a place that I absolutely fell in love with. They had me at their description of their purpose and I hoped, and prayed, and crossed my fingers back in January 2016 when I applied for my boyfriend and I to volunteer there that they would take us, and then I jumped for joy when I got an email that they would. Our six weeks there were so absolutely astounding that we never wanted to leave. Maybe one day we’ll do as so many others who have visited there have done – move our lives there. Previous volunteers have fallen in love with the place and the people so much so that they bought land to become part of the Re-Green community. Moving to the mountains of Greece may just be a day dream of mine for now, but I can still day dream. If you likewise find yourself daydreaming about living life in a real-life-sustainable-fantasy-land, then make it a reality and get yourself to Re-Green.
This has been the longest gap between posts for me since karabemisyoga was started back in 2014. I have been busy relocating (temporarily or permanently – )not quite sure) back into American life after living abroad for 4+ years. My trip in India and through Europe has sadly come to an end, but it has inspired posts such as this one, a comparison of two popular working holiday/work exchange networks. There will be more posts by me inspired by my travels, my practice, and my “new” life here in the U.S. Now for the article:
Why Help-X is Better Than Wwoofing
A previous post written was about Help-X, a network for hosts and helpers to find each other world-wide; hosts find helpers to do all sorts of work on their land and helpers find hosts in all corners of the globe to stay with and learn from while on their working holiday. As mentioned in that article, there are two other popular online networks out there: Wwoof and Workaway. You can have a look through all three and make your own decision, but having used both Help-X and Wwoof before (I’ve never used Workaway but met volunteers that have with success) my preference is Help-X. Here’s how Help-X and Wwoof compare.
Help-X vs Wwoof
Location, Location, Location
- Help-X One word – international. When you join the Help-X network you get access to farms, hostels, home-stays, etc. in cities and rural sites all over the world. You can search for a host in the Americas (North, Central, and South;) Europe, Australia, Asia, and pretty much everywhere else. As long as a host exists in a country then you can find a place to work with Help-X.
- Wwoof On the other hand, in order to search for hosts using Wwoof you must join each individual country at a cost that would add up if you were planning to wwoof your way around multiple countries. You can bundle small, neighboring countries together which helps save on cost, but still if you compare the three countries of one said bundle: Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Belize for $33 to getting access to hosts around the world with Help-X for only $22, then the choice is pretty simple.
- Help-X Membership comes in two types for helpers. You can join for free by creating a profile with your details. With a Free membership you will be able to browse partial profiles of hosts, leaving out the contact information which is how you start communication to organize a stay. However, hosts can contact you if you are a desirable helper. The second membership is Premier membership which gives you more power to view hosts’ full information, photos, reviews, maps, and more. It costs 20 euro ($22 USD) to upgrade to Premier membership. Membership lasts for two years and covers all continents. You can also join Help-X as a couple. Couple membership costs $29 USD for two people for two years.
- Wwoof To be clear, I’ve only wwoofed once in Korea and have never joined the network in another country. The reason why I didn’t use it more is the cost. Wwoof membership in Korea is 50,000 won ($42 USD)/per person/per year. When my boyfriend joined and messaged a host he received acceptance; in the contact email he explained that it would be him and his girlfriend (yours truly, of course) coming to help for a week. A few days later he received two more emails, one from the host explaining that he had to cancel the arrangement on orders from Wwoof Korea and one directly from Wwoof Korea which canceled his membership and explained that he could not contact a host on behalf of two people without the second joining Wwoof Korea independently. Basically, they wanted me to pay 50,000 won and send a separate email although we were coming and volunteering together as a unit. It makes sense business wise for Wwoof, but it left a bad taste in my mouth about the organization which is clearly after money. In the end my boyfriend smoothed it over and we were able to volunteer without me creating my own profile. One point for the little guys!
- Help-X Reviews can be written for hosts by helpers and for helpers by hosts. This is useful for all involved because as a host it’s important to find reliable, friendly, hard-working helpers. Likewise as a helper it’s wise to choose carefully where and with whom you want to spend a few weeks with living and working together. When it comes time to choose where to volunteer, be sure to browse multiple profiles, take a look at supplemental websites or Facebook pages, and write thoughtful initial contact emails to each individual host you are interested in rather than copy and pasting a generic message to multiples.
- Wwoof Again, I must state that I have not myself used Wwoof’s online network being put off by the price, but I have heard that their review section leaves you wanting more. I can’t say much here due to lack of real experience, but I will state that I overheard two veteran hosts complaining about the Wwoof system for an array of reasons, one of them being the lack of reviews.
Wwoofing is a similar network to Help-X and is something that my boyfriend and I were considering doing back in 2011 until we opted for Help-X, a decision that I very happy to have made. Others are equally happy with Workaway. Hosts that I have stayed with recently have had profiles on all three networks, so odds are that you won’t miss out whichever service you choose, but I would argue that you will miss out if you go with Wwoof if having a variety of hosts in countries all over the world is what you’re looking for.
By no means do I wish to bash the organization or write with hate. I have had only the one negative interaction in the past and can’t use that to judge other international Wwoof networks not associated with the Korean network. To clarify, this piece is to help travelers out there making a decision about which network to go with and I hope that it helps in that decision.
For more on the subject, have a look at this article by our very own Amy Steele, written about Voluntourism for Busan HAPS magazine’s June 2016 issue.
Back in 2011 my boyfriend and I were scratching our heads at a little coffee shop in South Korea as we prepared to leave our teaching jobs there to travel the world and gain experiences on the way. At the cozy little cafe, drinking hot chocolate late at night, I stumbled upon a website that satisfied what we were looking for: Help-X. Since that winter in 2011, we have left Korea (and returned and left again,) and have traveled the world, hitting multiple countries and Help-Xing whenever possible.
What Exactly is Help-X?
Help-x stands for Help Exchange and explained simply, is a network of both hosts and helpers who join the website (by paying a nominal fee and creating a profile) and then search for one or the other – host or helper, to begin contact via the network.
For example, my boyfriend and I are helpers, we listed our skills and explained who we are in our profile. Then we searched the network for a host that had what we were looking for: yoga, building, permaculture, heat (just kidding, but no, for real, I need heat in a cold place and hot water is a must,) and dogs are a bonus. To find a host we search by country, depending on where we’ll be and then we start sending out initial contacts. (You can checkout Help-X and have a look around at hosts, but details and contact information can’t be viewed or made without membership.)
On the host’s end, they likewise create a profile with photos of their accommodation, land, family, etc. Related websites and Facebook profiles are included so that helpers can learn more. A long or short description of open availability and work expected is listed. Work that is common includes basic gardening, helping with construction, and sometimes even teaching English, or yoga!
Below is a photo of a host’s home in the French Pyrenees where one of my primary tasks was collecting donkey doo, shown in the first photo above. The other two pictures are from a recent Help-x at Re-Green in Greece where I happily upgraded to yoga teaching. *The photo to the right, below showcases a beautiful natural structure at Re-Green, made of a variety of natural building techniques, you might recognize the back wall full of wine bottles. Beautiful. Many hosts and helpers are like-minded in their respect and care for nature and the environment.
So, What’s so Great About Work Exchanges?
- Exchanges of Ideas & Skills – Whether you’ve never heard of permaculture or spent much time with your fingers in the soil, or you’ve done multiple PDCs (Permaculture Design Courses,) most hosts will take you on and teach you the skills that they require of you. Being that Help-X is part of the sharing economy, just like Couchsurfing or Freecycle, as a helper you are likewise expected to share any skills or ideas that you have, that could be cleaning or helping in the kitchen, construction, or painting. Sharing and learning go hand in hand and it’s a wonderful thing that we can share and learn with each other around the world.
- Perfect for Budget Travelers – In general, the arrangement is that in exchange for four, five, or six hours of work per-day for five or six days per-week, your host will provide you with accommodation and meals. To break it down, this means that after paying travel expenses to get to your host you will essentially have zero costs while there. For example, in one of my most recent stays with a host, my boyfriend and I stayed for about two and a half weeks and in that time we spent a total of 25 euro ($28 USD.) That’s not much for two people in two weeks while traveling. Compare that to how much would have been spent on lodging and food while traveling, a huge savings. Yes, we had to earn our keep, but working in the sun for a few hours while gaining skills and making friends isn’t a bad trade-off.
Not exactly in the sun. My boyfriend and his Help-X friends in France.
- Learn from Locals – It’s not always easy to get a real feel of a city or region unless you can chew the fat with a local while traveling. You can do just that while Help-Xing. A unique opportunity to ask a native of the area about the state of the region and country: economically, socially, environmentally, etc. It’s common that your host will share meals with you from time to time (or always, hopefully) and may even take you to their favorite local spots for food and drink, or to a cultural outing. In France our hosts took us to a local, ancient church; in Greece we ate at a ridiculously delicious Taverna. Travel memories to last a lifetime.
Local food, puppies, yoga, laughs, and sun – I’d say I’ve done a pretty good job of selling Help-X as a way to travel, work, and share. As posted in The Future – What’s Coming Up Page of KaraBemisYoga I am returning for a second Help-X stint at Re-Green in Greece. I loved it so much there that I can’t stay away.
Have you tried your hand at a work exchange or working holiday?