Travelling by volunteering. Workaway and Helpx

Travelling by volunteering.

How to Travel with little or no money?

It is not universally known that it is possible to travel for long periods of time with very little money by volunteering. Until about 2005 the main way of volunteering (except for working on a Kibbutz in Israel) was called WOOFing or Working on Organic Farms. WOOFing existed pre-internet. Each country had a list of organic farms and both hosts and volunteers could find each other by subscribing to the newsletter or list of hosts. The information provided by the hosts was very basic and contained just a short description and contact details. Here is a link to the modern woofing site
The original idea was to get free board and lodging in return for a few hours work on the farm.

The volunteers Making Pizzas on a Farm
The volunteers Making Pizzas on a Farm

Around the year 2002 two new sites appeared which offered a much more modern user friendly system of putting volunteers and hosts together. They still exist and here are links. and (workaway is by far the most popular)

The emphasis was no longer just on farm work, a host could offer any kind of work including childcare, hostal and hotel work, construction, house sitting, office work etc. Workaway suggests that there should be around 5 hours of work per day, five days per week in return to board and lodging. This is very flexible and the host can offer any combination of requirements.

Girls digging a pond.
Girls working hard.

By the way. Another thing to take into account is that volunteering could be an excellent way of learning a language. If you spend two months on a farm in France where there are no English speakers your French is going to improve a lot more than if you had spent a lot of money on a French course.

I have spoken to lots of people who have done this type of volunteer work all around the world. These sites offer a really good way of having interesting experiences without spending much or any money but it is not for everyone.

There are a very wide range of possibilities. On the one hand some places are commercial companies using volunteers as cheap labour in a cynical exploitation where they really ought to be paying people to the other extreme where the volunteers are pampered, given gourmet food and treated like welcome guests. Don’t get me wrong, I am not dividing them up into goodies and baddies. I have spoken to people have had a wonderful time being cynically exploited, for example, working in a backpacker’s hostal in a city centre or working in a large group on a farm where there is a good social life.

The moment people hear about workaway they immediately realise that they can get work done for free. This can attract the wrong people. The worst form of exploitation I have heard about is probably childcare, the minimum form of remuneration for childcare is aupairing where the child carer is guaranteed at least a separate bedroom from the child and some time off. There are plenty of workaway hosts looking for gullible suckers to look after their children for free where it is necessary to share a bedroom with the child.

Collecting Goat manure
Collecting Goat manure

One thing to be aware of is that if you are doing volunteer work you have to take responsibility for your own safety. Make sure that all ladders are in good condition, you wear safety glasses and don’t take any risks with machinery. Many people don’t know that concrete is very corrosive and if any gets into you boots it can cause serious burns.

A volunteering experience should be about a symbiosis between the host and the volunteer with both sides believing that they are getting a good deal. Many of the volunteer hosts are involved in some sort  of alternative lifestyle and you will often hear words such as permaculture, gardening, yoga, vegetarian, alternative building methods, spiritual, house renovation, solar power etc. There are also a lot of places offering accommodation such as bed and breakfasts who need help with the chores.

All of the websites showing host information show feedback left by previous workers so bad places will quickly be rooted out. If you are thinking of doing volunteer work this is the advice I would give. Read the information very thoroughly. Make sure that if you are a facebook  or social media junkie that the host has a good internet connection. If you don’t like being in the middle of nowhere choose a place near a town. Be very honest when you write your profile. Make sure you understand exactly how many hours per day and how many days per week you are expected to work and if you don’t agree don’t go there. Ask what you need to bring. If you are lazy and hate working don’t volunteer as a worker.

If you like the idea and have a go at volunteering . Good Luck

Interesting Facts about Wine

Wine press
Sam And Heather pressing wine

The earliest known traces of wine are from China (c. 7000 BC). Mead, also called honey wine, is created by fermenting honey with water. The French are the biggest wine drinkers in the world. They drink 53 litres per person per year.  (this fact is disputed because it is said that the Vatican drinks 73 litres per capita)  People who are scared of wine have “oenophobia”.

Alcoholic beverages, including wine, are forbidden under most interpretations of Islamic law.  Within ten years of the death of  Mohammed in A.D. 632, wine was largely banned from muslim countries. Top sommeliers think that smell is by far the most important sense when it comes to drinking wine.

The custom of raising a glass to one another and saying “cheers” before drinking originated with the Romans and the Greeks, who used to offer wine to their gods before celebrations. The world’s oldest bottle of wine is over 1600 years old and can be found at a museum in Germany. It was buried nearby in 350 CE and was found again in 1867.

There is scientific evidence that moderate, regular wine drinking can reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and gum disease. Heir to the British  throne, Prince Charles,  drives an Aston Martin DB5 that’s powered almost entirely by wine derived bioethanol. It is a convertible and the wine powered car  averages 300 miles per year.

It takes about 4 or 5 years for a newly planted grape vine to get to full production. A single celled organism called yeast converts the sugar in grapes into alcohol and carbon dioxide, and also release heat in the process.  70% of the alcohol is produced in the first 7 days of fermentation. This is called primary fermentation.  At the start the wine can ferment so fast that it appears to be boiling.  If the yeast converts all the sugar into alcohol it is a dry wine.  Wine ferments fastest at 21C.  Yeast will die at 37C.

The pomace left over after pressing wine.

Pomace is the solid remains of grapes, olives, or other fruit after pressing for juice or oil. It contains the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems of the fruit. Wine fermenting at high temperatures creates more acetaldehyde which is a chemical which can produce hangovers so it is best if the wine does not ferment too fast.  The  largest wine producers in the world are France, Italy, and Spain.  Michael Jackson used to order his wine served in diet coke cans during flights, due to being a ‘private drinker’ and not wanting his kids to see him drinking alcohol.

In a blind tasting it is very difficult for most people to differentiate between red wine and white wine (try this at home if you don’t believe it) .  The Romans added lead to wine in order to give it a sweet taste and pleasant texture.  Some people believe that the decline of the Roman empire was due to lead poisoning. For purists wine glasses should always be held by the stem and not the bowl because the heat of the hand will raise the temperature of the wine.

Enologists are wine chemists who analyze samples of wine and advise winemakers. In the late 19th century most of the vinyards in Europe were destroyed by the  phylloxera epidemic because some infected vine cuttings were intoduced from America.  Phylloxera is a type of aphid which sucks the sap of the vine. American vines have adapted  a defence mechanism against phylloxera.  Nowadays, most vines in Europe have American roots and the top of the vines are grafted onto the rootstock.

Vineyards buy ready grafted dormant plants and plant them in the ground in winter. It takes at least 4 years before many grapes can be picked.  The color for red wine comes from the skins.  Hardly any varietys of grapes have red flesh.  Grapes contain all the necesary ingredients to make wine, the yeast is found on the skin  and all the sugar and nutrients are found in the grape.  A high concentration of alcohol will kill the yeast so the maximum  strength of normal wine is  generally around 15% alcohol by volume, but the exact amount will depend on the type of yeast.

Here are 3 videos of very small scale wine production in Spain showing the process of pressing the wine.