Tag Archives: helpx.net

Settling In

3 Nov

I had my first taste of the mountain fog this morning.  I ran an early morning errand for my current host and found myself driving cautiously through the curvy, shadowy streets.  Slowly I am finding my way in, around and near Asheville, still blindly following the persistent and mostly reliable voice of my GPS navigator.

It’s hard to believe that I have been in Asheville for about a month now.  In truth it’s been a bit of an adjustment for me being here, navigating new space and relationships. Drifting again in uncertainty while life rearranges itself around me.

I am currently sharing a house with two lovely travellers, a youngish couple, themselves making their way via helpx.  They are here for the short-term caring for the home and dogs of the owners while they are away.  And me, well, while I am living here, I am doing an exchange with the homeowner’s daughter and family who live not far down the street.

If you don’t know, helpx.net is an international network that connects hosts willing to offer room and/or board in exchange for some needed work with travellers looking for a creative and affordable way to travel.  Helpx has been an important link for me on this mega-journey.  It offered a way to stay longer in Europe opening doors to working and living in France.  It afforded me a way to connect with and see a bit more of Germany when I was watching every dime that I spent. And it was a bridge when I needed to come back to the United States for just a few months to apply for and get my visa to teach English in South Korea.  And now, here I am in Asheville!

My helpx trade here is a pretty simple one.  If you read my blog, you know by now that I pay special attention to my diet, something that doesn’t work in all households.  So, for this trade I am doing a modest amount of work in exchange for my place to stay and handling my food and meal needs on my own.  It’s a start and a great way to land and get to know Asheville.

This past month has slid by as I have been preoccupied with finding my own rhythm in new circumstances, exploring Asheville a bit, making an effort to connect with and meet new people, and of course looking for work. Along the way I have managed to explore and see some pretty great things. Here are a few highlights…

 

A Sunday Ride Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Wow, I truly love this.  The Blue Ridge Parkway is literally just up the road from where I am staying.  A few weeks ago I took a longer drive up the Parkway and was bombarded turn after turn with breathtaking scenery.  I couldn’t take the smile off my face.  As the Parkway noodles through town, it’s a road I can hop on to go almost any ol’ place…  Just yesterday I was heading to a meeting about ten miles from here and lucky me, four miles of my journey was spent on the Parkway.  A remarkable diversion in the ins and outs of everyday life.

 

Getting Out in Nature

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This is one of the things I have truly been longing for – to live someplace with easy access to nature.  What a wonderful treat!  This little trail here is just a few miles from where I stay and meanders along the Swannanoa river.  It’s beautiful, pristine and literally a breath of fresh air. (Trailhead is located at Charles D. Owen Park, 875 Warren Wilson Road in Swannanoa, NC. )

 

Meeting the Neighbors

meet the neighbors

My current residence is part breathtakingly rural part small town/suburb.  Meet some of my new neighbors!   Just on the outskirts of Asheville, it takes only ten minutes to get to town with access to healthy stores, eclectic restaurants and shopping.  While Asheville is the heart of much of the attraction and activity here, it is surrounded by an assortment of little towns and communities many thriving in their own way.  So far it seems an interesting combination of folks from new age transplant to conservative native.

 

The Serious Business of Finding a Job

View Grove Park Inn

It’s not everyplace that you can go for a job interview and end up here.  This is the view from the Grove Park Inn, one of the grandest hotels in Asheville with, as you can see, a spectacular view.  It was a real treat to go there, meet and connect with folks who had worked there for decades, and also get the window seat in an elegant meeting room with a million dollar view.

 

Out and About Town

Asheville Flea Market

Little by little I am finding my way around town and slowly connecting the dots of the flavor and color that is the Asheville area. Last Sunday I stopped by the monthly flea market at Salvage Station, pictured above, filled with original crafts and flea market treasures. Much to my surprise I even ran into a “familiar face,” an unexpected treat when living in new territory.

 

ashevillecommunityyoga

Yoga!

And yes I simply can’t forget YOGA! Tonight I went to a class at a studio called Asheville Community Yoga. Don’t let it’s simple unassuming appearance deceive you – the vibe and energy of the place simply blew me away.  It felt like coming home to the mother ship.  After many years of travel often without a yoga studio that felt like home, or access to yoga at all (other than my own personal practice) it was a relief on so many levels to enter into this warm inviting yoga space.  I look forward to spending more time there.

 

It’s been surprisingly warm here in the mountains of Asheville, with fall brimming in the trees but misleading almost summer-like temperatures.  My new-to-me Honda CR-V and I are prepared for the coming winter as I am almost longing for the break that winter affords after my recent hot-hot year in Thailand.

Good-bye for now as my journey and “settling in” continue in the quiet, summer-like fall in the hills of Swannanoa.

Travel the World with Helpx

22 May

It’s a typical Thursday afternoon at English Village in Paju South Korea.  It is my “weekend” and I am busy sifting through plans and possibilities for myself and my life.  Spring is here and while it is finally lovely it is also a sad little season.  Here in Paju it seems bossy summer starts to fight its way in before Spring has even had a chance to settle.

Yesterday was a refreshing break from the land of Paju as I met with a young Korean friend from my SGI Buddhist group in the nearby city of Ilsan.  It is near by car I should say, as the meandering local bus is more than a short journey.  But it was worth it to connect with her and her friend visiting from Malaysia.  Both went to university in the States with very agreeable English and inspiring dreams and attitudes.  It is fun and fresh to spend time with both of them.

The highlight of our easy afternoon was a visit to Ilsan Lake Park featuring a stunning rose garden.  I had flashbacks of the many hours I spent in my favorite parks in New Orleans, playing among the live oaks dripping with spanish moss.  Ilsan’s park seems like a distant cousin to the parks of New Orleans as Korea does parks differently from the sultry ways of the South.  In Ilsan the park was open and spacious but complete with tidy boxes of flowers and neatly laid paths. The rose garden, however, was unexpected and off the charts.  To me it seemed like everything Korean.  Colorful.  Neat and tidy.  And utterly lovely in its never-ending patterns and displays of roses of all colors.

As I am poking away at my own travel plans, it has me thinking once again of helpful travel tips to pass on to you – tips that might open doors, ignite some excitement or stir up a dream or two.  In my past three years of unfolding international adventures, one of the best tips I received was being turned on to the website Helpx.net.

What is helpx.net?  Quite simply it is a network of people in locations around the world willing to provide travelers with room and board in exchange for work.  It is one of the best inventions in travel and can open up the world to people who have ruled it out because they “don’t have enough money.”  It can also be an economical way to “getaway” or have a change of scenery even in your own country.

Who are the hosts?  Helpx hosts are business owners, farmers and private people and families who want to open their doors to travelers.  Businesses may include bed and breakfasts, resorts, hotels, or farms.  I once stayed with a helpx family who ran their own business from home and were looking for a graphic designer.  You never know what you may find that is a match for your skills and interests!

How does it work?  It is quite simple really.  You can view the website without becoming a member, but if you want to contact a host you must pay the modest fee to join.  Once you are a member, contact a host or hosts that are interesting to you.  If they feel the same way, they will get back to you.  The length of stay can vary greatly.  Once an agreement is reached between you and the host, all you have to do is make your plans and show up!

How many hours do I work and what do I do?  This will vary by host.  Some hosts are laid back and are mostly interested in meeting people from other parts of the world.  Others really rely on the helpx work for the vitality of their business.  I would say average expectation is 5 hours a day, 5 days a week.  But some hosts will ask for 6 hours a day, 6 days a week with one day off.  And others may not set hours and just ask that you help as needed through out the day.

Work varies widely as well.  In my experience I have cooked, cleaned, mowed lawns, painted ceilings, chopped wood, taken care of children.  Some people need help with construction, caring for their farm in some way or teaching a language.  There are also unexpected little pockets or work needed that are best found through exploring the site.

How to choose a host.  I found it helps to be clear about what matters to you and screen hosts for those things.  How many hours do you want to work?  Do you want to be in a city or out in the country?  What kind of work are you willing to do?  Do you want to be around a lot of other people or do you like solitude.  Can you go with the flow with whatever your hosts cooks or do you have diet requirements?  How long do you want to stay?  Do you want to share a room with others or do you prefer privacy… the clearer you get, the easier it is to choose and shorten your list and start making contacts.

You will have more options if you plan at least a few months ahead of time as there is less “last-minute” availability. Additionally, I found it useful to contact more than one host for the same time period as some people don’t get back in touch or have changed plans.

Is it safe?  With all of my helpx experiences I always felt very safe.  There is a place for reviews on all helpx hosts and reading those is very helpful.  Once when I still had more questions, I contacted previous helpxers to get more information. If you’re still unsure if a host is right for you, its never a bad idea to get a second opinion from a wise and trusted friend.

Is it worth it?  Absolutely!  It provides intimate experience into a different life and sometimes different culture.  New experiences, new people, new skills.  Don’t get me wrong, sometimes there is some hard work to do or relationships to be managed.  But that is all the depth and color of the experience!

Daytime is melting away on this quiet almost summer day in Paju. I am listening to English Village top 40 leaking through my window from the speaker outside.  Ah the sounds of life at English Village.

If you have any questions about Helpx, feel free to write!  Always happy to share my experience!

Photo at top. A bright array of flowers neatly displayed at Ilsan Lake Park.

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