Do you dream of travelling the world?


Help Exchange helps students pursue adventure while saving money.

The website,, offers an online listing of places around the world, including backpacker hostels, B&Bs, ranches, home stays and even sailing boats, that offer free meals and accommodation in exchange for a few hours of work per day.

Rob Prince, a 43-year-old web designer and traveller from England, launched Help Exchange, primarily known as HelpX, in April 2001 as a way to help travellers find work abroad in exchange for rooming.

“HelpX can benefit students by allowing them to find opportunities for real life experiences with minimal costs,” Prince said via email.

Vincent Vaughan Hagen, 22, went backpacking on Kangaroo Island, Australia, during his four-month stay in 2012.

Vincent Vaughan Hagen, 22, went backpacking on Kangaroo Island, Australia, during his four-month stay in 2012.

Vincent Vaughan Hagen, a 22-year-old traveller from Michigan, is an avid fan of the work exchange program.

“I feel like it’s one of the greatest and most underutilized tools in the world,” Hagen said via Skype during a trip to Italy.

“It’s good for people to live out their comfort zone and see how others live their lives. You can see and do so much.”

Hagen first used HelpX in December 2012 to visit Australia.

He spent four months abroad, spending a little less than $2,000, a fraction of what it would normally cost, thanks to the work exchange program.

“When the essentials are taken care of, you’re practically travelling for free,” he said.
“You can see so much on so little when your only costs are transportation and extra stuff. I wouldn’t have been able to do the trip otherwise.”

Hagen first journeyed to Kangaroo Island, an island southwest of Adelaide off Australia’s southern coast, where he worked and stayed on a honey farm for the holidays.

He immediately felt at home and was included in all the Christmas festivities.

“The guy was nice and accommodating. He was really cool about going out of his way to show me around and brought me and any other helpers along to meet his friends for drinks and such,” said Hagen.

“The kind of people who host are the kind who welcome you with open arms and make you feel like part of the family. You get privacy, but if you want to be involved I found most were eager to learn about you.”

Hagen discovered HelpX while searching the Web for international work exchange programs.

Travellers can view all host listings free but cannot contact them directly without upgrading to a premier membership.

It costs 20 euros, about $30, for a two-year premier membership, which gives you access to all host details and reviews.

“It’s really easy,” said Hagen. “The review system helps narrow it down, and when you want to talk to them, you contact the number or email they provide and wait for a reply.”

Helpers can choose to register as a single male, single female, couple or two friends.

Eliott Shams, a first-year Performing Arts Preparation student at Sheridan, is interested in giving HelpX a try in the future.

“I’d definitely use it if I was backpacking across a country,” said Shams.

“I’ve always thought about backpacking across New Zealand and I would do this for a week here and there just to experience new things.”

Although Shams wouldn’t use HelpX for a short vacation, he said that it would be a great way to save some cash if he was staying somewhere for a long time.

“I think it’s a good idea. It’s innovative, it’s a great way to get to know the local area and geography of a place, to experience a new job and a great way to meet new people,” Shams added.

Hosts offer a variety of jobs, from woodworking to web design.

“It makes your experience richer,” said Hagen.

“There’s so much variety that I feel no matter what somebody’s major is in school, they could find one that directly benefits them in their studies,” he said. “I also think it’s good to do something completely different. Perhaps you’ll fall in love and change majors, or perhaps you’ll thankful to be doing this instead.”