The joys of fair share travel

Jasmine Irving has been travelling around France for the last three months, discovering a meaningful and cost-effective way to see the world by exchanging work for food and board

Three years of study was over – voila! My degree was done and dusted – and I stared in wonder at the big open space in front of me. I was itching to get out and see the world but I didn’t want to travel without a purpose, spending money on expensive accommodation and food. I needed a project I could believe in and a way to dive into a new country headfirst.

I signed up to three work exchange websites, WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), Workaway and Helpx. Most of the projects available have a strong focus on ecology, sustainability and permaculture – activities that seek to positively impact the world. But the variety of specific opportunities is almost unlimited: from working for organic market gardens and eco construction to learning massage and natural horsemanship skills. Live-in volunteers provide the time; the hosts provide food, board and the chance to learn new skills.

“With fair share travel you never know where you’ll end up and every place is full of surprises with different lessons to learn.”

And it’s fun: over the last three months I’ve used a ‘toilet telephone box’ that was converted to a compost toilet by anarchists, danced on the beach naked and harvested enough pumpkins to build a giant pumpkin castle. With fair share travel you never know where you’ll end up and every place is full of surprises with different lessons to learn.

Most recently I’ve been volunteering at Trouz Ar Mor, a beautiful bed and breakfast overlooking the ocean in Brittany, France. We eat organic food every day, take free yoga lessons and, after long hikes on the coast, enjoy their in-house sauna. Unemployed and weighed down by debt from my student loan, this is something I couldn’t pay for with money. But it’s not just the volunteers that benefit. “It brings so much life into the house,” owners Fréderic, Karen and Sylvie say. “It benefits everybody who comes here: the owners, the helpers and the guests.”

But travelling fair share workers, and their hosts, have something more valuable to give than money. The fair share philosophy is based on an exchange that is mutually beneficial, having a positive impact on everyone involved, which in turn has a ripple effect that benefits communities and society as a whole. Strong communities are built and cultural gaps bridged. Fair share challenges, and resists, the constant push for growth that is typical in a capitalist economy.

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Working and travelling in exchange for food and board can be the perfect way to see the world. What’s more, if someone isn’t able to travel they can still benefit from the skill-share philosophy. Prioritising people above profit, fair exchanges can be used in everyday life, from swapping language tutoring for babysitting to cooking a meal in return for couch surfing.

The focus shifts from money to how we can best support each other in our communities. Fair exchange is an active way to make a difference, whether in our own backyard or on the other side of the world.

Positive Travel is edited by Aaron Millar. He writes about adventure travel, and personal development through exploring the world, at The Blue Dot Perspective.