Tag Archives: Travel Tips

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.

Save Money on Flights

12 Mar

Another few weeks have slipped by in Paju, South Korea.  Mostly it’s life as usual in the unusual world of Gyeonggi English Village. This week the ROK Military joins us for a break in their busy routine and a big dip in the pools of the English language.

The winter freeze is slowly melting away no thanks to an unexpected snow shower earlier this week. Nevertheless, Spring is still on the horizon.  As many of us are finding our way out of winter hibernation, it seems like an appropriate time to share some money saving travel tips.

Let’s begin with the basics for any good journey – an affordable flight.  Finding the cheapest rate and best flight schedule is paramount for me in creating my trip itinerary.  Tenacity is often your best friend when looking for the most suitable rate and flight.  But here are a few shortcuts I’ve discovered to save you some time and money.

Flight Search Engines
Not all search engines are created equal.  In the mission to find the best flight, I find it never hurts to peruse the gamut.  There are, however, a few search engines that are my go-to sites in the adventures of flight finding.  Let’s begin.

kayak

Kayak.  Kayak is a reliable search engine and a great starting point for a flight inquiry.  They offer a wide array of airlines with a good selection of budget-friendly flights.  You can choose a three-day date flexibility in their searching parameters allowing you to see rates and times on a variety of days.  This is a great way to find the best prices as they can vary daily.

whichbudget

Which Budget.  I learned of this search engine while living in Europe.  If you are on the hunt for the lowest price ticket, you should definitely check this out.  On Which Budget you can glimpse prices for a wide range of dates and easily investigate the cheapest flights over a period of time.  They include a broad spectrum of budget airlines making it a good source for finding the best priced flights. (Note:  For some reason, I have had less success using this search engine in Asia.)

cheapflights

Insanely Cheap Flights.   I think the name says it all.  I used this search engine to purchase my flight from the US to South Korea.  On several occasions I have found them to offer the cheapest flight I could find.  My flight to Korea was purchased and redeemed with no problems.  I easily bought the ticket, was able to speak to a real customer service person when I had a question, and arrived in South Korea at a price I could afford.

More Good Ideas

condor

Cheap Flights from Europe.  If you are in Europe looking to purchase a flight for the next leg of your journey, you must check out Condor Airline’s listing of their Longhaul Flights.   Condor is a German-based airline with a regular listing of discounted flights leaving from Frankfurt International to all over the world.  Cancun, Chiang Mai, San Jose, Lima… just to name a few.  No matter where you are in Europe, you can easily catch a cheap flight to Frankfurt and then save big bucks on your long distance flight.  I purchased my ticket from Europe to the States from Condor.  I saved some money and was happy with the flight and service.

travelzoo

Travelzoo.  Have you subscribed to Travelzoo?  If you haven’t you should!  They provide regular emails with travel deals for destinations all over the world and their offers often include flight sales.  I bought my first ticket from US to Europe through a flight deal I discovered through Travelzoo.  Worth checking out!

No matter where your next adventure may take you, some persistence and these resources will help you save some money and find that flight that best meets your needs.  Happy travels… wherever you are going!

Do you have any great flight finding tips to share?  It’s always good to hear from you!

Featured image a Spring snow shower at Gyeonggi English Village.