Category Archives: Help Exchange

Working for lodging and food and staying with local people makes travel so affordable!

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Amazon eBook: Beth of Fresh Air: New Zealand

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Beth eBook Cover

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derring-do.

[der-ing-doo] noun

  1. daring deeds.

If you are to go walking, hiking, adventuring on your own in Estes Park, CO, you have to have a slice of derring-do. Over a foot of snow fell this weekend and it’s been serene. I’ve watched about19 episodes of Hart of Dixie on Netflix, I’ve enjoyed about 12 cups of coffee. I’ve heated about 3 cups of frozen soup. A girl can’t live on TV, caffeine, and soup alone.

I strapped on my derring-do along with my cousin’s snow shoes and set off to explore.

First, I set up my hammock and sat in it for about four minutes. The snow was falling as I took it all in. The colors looked lovely against the white bright snow.

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Then, I walked to the coffee shop. I saw this fella and his ears. He just stared. I stared back.

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Then that evening, I decided to hike to the sunset and this guy was only about twenty feet away when I looked up:

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The derring-do was lacking a bit here. Or common sense kicked in, and I turned around and took the long route to the sunset.

Then I saw deer prancing through the foot of snow. Colorado is wild and I love it.2015-04-17 19.38.52-1

And then a day later on another walk:

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I call this one “Greg, John, and Beth”

And then when I was back home watching my cousin’s dog, he started whimpering at the front window. When I went to look:

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And now after four days inside, I can get out after shoveling this driveway. I’ll need a massage ASAP.

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And with my new found freedom, I took a drive to Rocky Mountain National Park and saw these fellas!!

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Wild. I can’t imagine what I’ll see tomorrow. May I have the derring-do to set out to explore some more.

Three months traveling with help exchange vs. one week in Vail

On my drive from Moab, UT to Estes Park, CO, I saw a sign for Vail. I had seen photos of this town and had heard about the famous people who frequent it; I almost expected “Vail” to be written in diamonds on the road sign. I bipped my blinker and decided to use a fancy lodge’s restroom instead of a gas station’s.

Vail is nicely surrounded by huge mountains and they were covered in snow, pleasing the skiers zipping down. I drove past lodge after fancy lodge after extravagant lodge. I felt very less than. I felt dirty, like I hadn’t showered in days. I hadn’t brushed my hair in at least a week, because my brush was in my broken down car for the week in Grand Junction. I was wearing the same boots that hiked over forty miles in the desert and they were filthy. I got out of the car and scooped up some snow to put in my cooler so I wouldn’t have to buy a bag of 99 cent ice to cool down my v8s.

In this moment, I was struck with how different my way of traveling was from the family crossing the street with their skis and Louis Vitton bags. I wondered how much a week at a lodge here would cost, so once to Estes Park, I looked it up:

5-star hotel averages $330

3-star hotel averages $230

To stay one week at a 3-star hotel in Vail, CO, it would cost $1610. Of course, you’d have to add the cost of activities like touring castles and riding in horse-drawn carriages and ice skating and skiing; and then food and beverages. I imagine it’d easily be between $3000-5000 for a week long trip, depending on taste in wine and frequency of room service matched with said wine.

The adventures I’ve taken, New Zealand and this US road trip, have been much different. I learned about help exchange and working a few hours a day for food and lodging, and it opened up a whole new outlook on traveling for me. I can make $2,000 last well over three months (with gas for 11,000 miles, the occasional local amber ale, the not-just-occasional Americano, and a meal out every once in a while). I know not everybody can spend months away from their homes and jobs. I chose to leave my job and I moved out of my apartment, so it has become a lifestyle instead of a vacation. If you are not thrilled with your current situation, I encourage you to look into help exchange here.

Here are pros and cons of help exchange for three months vs. one week in Vail, in my humble opinion:

Help exchange/staying with friends and family and friends of friends or family

PROS

Free housing.

Free food. And it’s so nice to try new things and expand your “go to” food list, like roasted beets with rosemary or pickled mussels.

More destinations. (This four month trip has taken me from FL to NC, OK, NM, AZ, CA, OR, WA, Orcas Island, ID, MT, UT, and CO!)

An extended adventure! So many possibilities. New people to meet. New mountains to climb.

Satisfaction of earning your keep for a few hours of work a day.

An average of a 15 hour work week instead of a 40 hour work week.

Variety. This is a huge bonus for me. Mondays are all different and that is thrilling.

Learning new skills. I never knew how to poach an egg! Or use an electric drill.

Sometimes you’re staying in a really stunning place, on a mountaintop or with a view like this:

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Staying with local people perhaps provides more of a “genuine” experience while exploring a new town.

You get to stay a while and enjoy and not feel bad about taking a nap if you’re exhausted. You’re not wasting $230, you’re resting after working hard for three hours.

CONS

Sometimes you don’t want to pull weeds or clean gutters.

Living out of a suitcase for months at a time.

Being on somebody’s else schedule for part of the day (this can actually be a good thing as well).

Your $2000 will be gone in three months and you will most likely not be saving for retirement as you go. I have a couple part time jobs I can do on the road, but I am definitely not contributing to a 401(k) like I should.

Sometimes you’re staying in a place called “The Gorilla Hut” and the septic tank overflows:

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Staying a week at a 3-star lodge in Vail

PROS

Being able to leave your shampoo and soap in the shower. Seriously, packing everything up after every shower is almost worth the $230.

Nice, comfortable things like bath robes.

Extravagance is downright extravagant.

Control. Freedom. A completely open itinerary.

CONS

It’s only one week.

You no longer have $2,000.

It’s only one week.

Days are most likely packed and you might be exhausted when you return home from “vacation”.

It’s only one week.

You only see Vail.

four alarms.

I have four different alarms set for the morning because a shuttle is picking me up at 4:20am for my 7:00am flight. It’d be awesome if I could get coffee with each and every one of you, while we split some NZ Whitaker’s chocolate (milk or dark or peanut butter or coconut, oh my!) and I could personally thank you for reading the blog thus far. That might have to happen in September unless you’re my mother or Erica Young or something. Off to the US of A!

fake cheese.

I went to watch the oldest blonde boy’s tennis match today in the charming town of Lincoln. On the court next to his, there was a blonde girl wearing a bright blue hat, a red hoody, and yellow shoes. She was at least a foot shorter than everyone else playing, including her opponent. She hardly ever missed and was more impressive than any other player. I couldn’t stop watching her play.

After the games, I said to the boy’s mom, “Wow, that little blonde girl sure is something.”

“Oh, Eliza? Yeah. She’s really incredible.”

What a name. This was another reason to go by the first part of my full name rather than the last part.

 

I made some money tonight by eating dinner in a fort with cute boys, eating peanut butter swirled in our ice cream, and watching The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s a tough gig I’ve got here.

The boys wanted macaroni and cheese. I admitted to only making it out of a Kraft box and tonight I had to tackle the cheese sauce on my own. It was OK, but once we got our plates out to the fort, the macaroni was cold and it just didn’t taste cheesy enough, like the fake powder. I said, “Gosh guys, I hope this tastes OK. I think it’s lacking.”

And they are such polite boys, they acted like it was best thing ever. “Mmm, oh wow! This is so delicious!”

“Oooh, yeah. Wow. Mmm…”

I saw through it and appreciated their support. 

hugo.

The beautiful blonde boys piled on the couch with their sweet parents on this Friday evening after a quite nice green curry dish made by their blonde visitor. I sat on the neighboring couch and admired the sweet family moment. We watched Hugo. What a heartbreaking, yet equally inspiring movie. I’d highly recommend it.

Hugo: Monsieur Labisse gave me a book the other night.
Isabelle: He’s always doing that. Sending books to a good home, that’s what he calls it.
Hugo: He’s got real…purpose.
Isabelle: What do you mean?
Hugo: Everything has a purpose, even machines. Clocks tell the time, trains take you places. They do what they’re meant to do, like Monsieur Labisse. Maybe that’s why broken machines make me so sad, they can’t do what they’re meant to do. Maybe it’s the same with people. If you lose your purpose, it’s like you’re broken.

Hugo: Right after my father died, I would come up here a lot. I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason too.

What a powerful message. This trip has been an awful lot about finding my specific purpose (I think my overarching purpose is to love God and to love all others) and what it should look like. I like that it could be as simple as getting the right book to the right home. It could be to write a fantastical story for little ones all over the world. Ever since travelling to Liberia, I have felt a pull to spend time with orphans, simply loving on them and making sure they have food and shelter and comfortable beds. Perhaps I should be a foster parent and I will write books for the kids surrounding me daily. Or I’ll open a writer’s retreat center in the mountains somewhere with Mrs. Erica Young. I will serve pancakes and bacon and our favorite authors (like Mo Willems) will come speak. He will prefer to just be paid in pancakes, which will work out well.

Whew, good thing the trip isn’t over, I guess. Because I don’t know yet.

blondies.

The boys, ages 9 and 11, are impossibly cute. They look like mini surfer dudes. They love driving their dad’s tractor while pulling the other by a rope tied to his bike. I find the youngest one studying me often, over breakfast (“breakie” here) or while I’m weeding or while I’m grating some cheese. I just wink and he smiles. Pictures to come.

I fried some eggs from their chicken this morning. The chicken got loose and the youngest went out to grab him. Tucked under his arm, he carried the chicken to the dining room table where I sat. I patted him on the head and said, “Thank you for the eggs.” Maybe as local as local can be.

Today was a beautiful day. It started with bright sunshine through the gumnut baby curtains. Then we had my favorite coffee in NZ, Oopmh! by Hummingbird right here in Christchurch. It truly lives up to its name. I pulled weeds like a champ. The sun was perfectly combined with a slight breeze and the songs that came on Pandora were just right for my pensive mood. I am hooked on a new book and I followed the sunshine around their property reading and basking. Each time the mom or dad walked by, I was in a new spot. Like a wandering Waldo, but without the unflattering horizontal stripes.

Four hours of work earns me a comfortable bed in a hut about 50 yards from their house and three delicious vegetarian meals. I’m in charge of dinner tomorrow. I’ve definitely learned to be more creative in my culinary attempts while here. Kasey, Brittany, and I are going to serve our families some of our favorite dishes after they watch our PowerPoint presentation and hear our hakas and accept their souvenirs. Let’s go ahead and get this on the calendars, families: Feb. 15th. 5pm-10:05pm.

You just read my 100th blog post about NZ! That’s hard to believe. It’s been an exciting adventure full of new experiences, some that I anticipated and others that I couldn’t have ever imagined. I’m so glad I had Kasey and Britt with me for over four months (and I miss them dearly). I’m anxious to see what the next six months will be like. I know it’ll be very different, as I won’t be travelling around as much as before, and I’ll have to work and not just for housing and food but for cash money! Green Man Brewery will have more hours for me when I return in March. But I’ve also written several publishing companies here and hope to hear back soon.