A few months ago, I wrote about WWOOFing (find that article here), a site that connects volunteers with organic farmers throughout the world. Workaway organizes the same volunteer-host exchange, but offers opportunities beyond agriculture. From house painting, gardening, babysitting, cooking, general maintenance, construction, language lessons, and shopping, Workaway has enough variety to satisfy even the pickiest person.
All contact and negotiations are done directly between the volunteer and the host. Hosts can be families, individuals or organizations who have registered with the site, and each host has their own specifications. Since Workaway doesn’t impose a minimum or maximum stay time, you can stay as long as you and your host agree upon (provided your visa doesn’t expire). Your host should welcome you as a member of the family, and in return you’ll want to help out around the house, keep tidy, help with clearing off the table and cooking meals.
Benefits: integration into a foreign culture, learn or practice a language, acquire new skills, contribute to a cause and meet open-minded individuals. Workaway also provides a contact list of other workawayers in your area.
Available countries: over 100 countries on six continents
Cost: 22€, or $30, for a two-year volunteer subscription, and a free subscription for hosts
Compensation: the normal is 5 hours per day, 5 days per week in exchange for room and board, though work schedules vary by host. Accommodations can be anything from tents to bedrooms to couches to caravans, so know your comfort zone and discuss details before committing to a host.
Further reading on Workaway:
As we all know, there’s an app for pretty much everything but some are exponentially more helpful than others. Don’t clutter your storage space. Instead, load these eight multi-functional and thorough applications and relax knowing you have everything you need.
Also known as Wunderground, this app has a network of more than 30,000 worldwide neighborhood weather stations to provide the most accurate weather updates possible. View an hourly forecast with the current and “feels like” temperature, wind speed/direction, humidity and precipitation. Weekly previews and sunrise and sunset times are included on the home screen. The map view shows a temperature overview of your current state or country.
OANDA Currency Converter
OANDA provides current exchange rates and factors in the typical ATM or Interbank deduction rates, letting you know exactly how much money you’ll end up with.
Toshl – Your Personal Accountant
While not the most advanced budgeting and financing app, Toshl is the best choice for those like myself who aren’t that great with numbers. Track expenses and incomes, create budgets, set bill and loan reminders, and later export these reports into PDF, Excel, Google Docs and/or CSV.
Fodor’s City Guides – Never Seem like a Tourist Again
Download the city guides and view them without Internet access to avoid data-roaming charges. Having city and metro maps available off-line on your phone means you’ll never have to pull out a paper map again, allowing you to be an undercover tourist. Fodor’s attention to detail and superiority eliminates much of the nonsense found on review websites such as Yelp; they’ve done their research and only recommend restaurants and attractions they consider worthy. Thanks to their partnerships with Expedia, OpenTable, Viator and Seatwave, all reservations can be made from the app.
A great alternative to Fodor’s app, if a city guide isn’t available for the city you’re traveling to. Unlike Fodor’s map, Google Earth has 3D imagery, terrain and buildings that can be viewed from practically any angle. Metro stops are indicated on the map, as are little Wikipedia links that hover over important landmarks.
GateGuru – Your Flight Manager
GateGuru covers over 204 airports across the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. The home screen lists your current and future journeys. Click on one of these, and see your continuously updated itinerary, listing security wait times, flight delays, gate changes or layover time changes. Clicking on an airport code shows airport maps, tips and amenities, which can be filtered by terminal and advises which amenities are pre- or post-security. GateGuru’s partnership with Avis provides car rental discounts up to 35%, and all reservations can be done from the app.
Repair Pal – A Roadtrip Necessity
With the Repair Pal app, you only pay when you actually need help, instead of forking out an annual roadside assistance membership fee. For repairs, they provide the average price for your current region and car type, help locate a reputable local mechanic, and track all your maintenance. At the moment it covers US locations and models.
Kayak – Your Personal Assistant
Before you step out the door, double check your packing lists stored on the app, and browse through their suggestions as well. Forward all booking receipts for hotels, car rentals, flights, trains or whatever to firstname.lastname@example.org, and the app will automatically organize and store this information. They have airline contact numbers, websites and baggage costs, but I would switch to the GateGuru app if you’re looking for specific flight information.
Shortly before my nineteenth birthday, I joined my then-boyfriend and his family on an eight-day vacation boating through Burgundy. The boat coasted the winding waterways at less than five miles per hour, cruising the contours of the countryside and providing an ever-changing panorama of the French landscape. We stopped at small villages to eat lunch, collected wildflowers and picnicked alongside the canal, visited abandoned castles, played pétanque and giggled at baby ducklings and grazing cows (okay, that was just me). On warmer days, we tied an inner tube to the back of the boat. One person would float lazily along while the others dipped their toes in the water, satisfied by the sunlight bronzing their cheeks. At night we rested on the boat decks, marveling at a sky unbothered by light pollution.
Boating reminded me of an elevated form of camping. We enjoyed all aspects of nature while still having access to comfortable amenities and the landscape was always refreshed. Similar to a road trip as well, though not nearly as cramped and certainly more relaxing. Drifting down the canals is great for anyone who needs a calming vacation but still wants to indulge in the culture of a foreign region or country.
Available countries: France, England, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Germany
Benefits: no experience or license required; the rental companies provide all necessary training and maps.
Restrictions: operating the locks and bridges requires moderate strength and mobility.
Cost: the research I’ve done suggests that a ten-person boat averages about 2500€ a week for the rental, fuel and lock fees. A fully equipped kitchen and linen is generally provided as well.
After passing a sticky morning ducking into air-conditioned souvenir shops and drinking iced coffee in the shade of a crowded terrace, my friend Robyn and I decided to escape Cyprus’ landlocked capital city Nicosia and head towards the Mediterranean. We rented a car without a GPS, hoping our generic map would get us to our destination. Lucky for us, Cyprus is about the same size as New Jersey; if we got lost we’d reach water sooner or later and could follow the coast home.
Within two hours we made it to Pissouri’s beaches, arriving just as visitors and the relentless heat dispersed with the sinking sun. My toes brushed the shell-less sea floor of Aphrodite’s rumored birthplace, and somehow the water felt purer than any I had touched before, more fluid and buoyant as if it were just as alive as the small fish that came to nibble my ankles. Our hair heavy with salt and sand still stuck to our feet, we continued on to Paphos for a satisfying seafood meze (and to feed every stray cat I came across), before returning home to sleep the deep sleep that comes only after the exhaustion of a hot summer’s day.
The next day we finished our expedition in theoccupied Turkish territory of the north, climbing the cliffs of Cape Apostolos Andreas and relaxing at an adorable restaurant attached to an old couple’s house. We ate fresh olives and tender meats, the Mediterranean blue and soft on the rocks beside us, as our chef snuck a cigarette out the back window, pressing a finger to his lips so that we didn’t reveal his digression to his wife.
Essentially, the quaintness of Cyprus allows for the perfect road trip: the inability to get really lost, cheap fuel, easily rentable cars and plenty to see in any direction. Apart from the mythical island, poor road trip planning can lead to emergency hotel stops, extra fuel, unplanned for meals and other costly expenses.