Helpers stories of HelpXing...
I came to New Zealand from England 14 months ago. I was intending to be out here 5 months (my job in England had given me 5 months off to travel).
I had a working holiday visa and a job to go to but after 2 weeks the job hadn't worked out. I met someone in a backpackers in Kaikoura (in the South Island) who told me about helpx. I rang a lady in Akaroa advertising for a helper to start immediately and I was on the bus the next day!
Since then I've spent 14 months travelling around NZ doing a combination of paid work and helpx work.
The range of different places to go on the helpx site is huge and I've been to a lot of them and had so many amazing different experiences (farms, smallholdings, people's homes, B&B's, backpackers).
To name a few I've:
HelpXed with lots of families with boats (Akaroa, Great Barrier Island, Stewart Island, Kaikoura, Marlborough Sounds) which has meant I've had the opportunity to fish for my own dinner, see dolphins, whales and albatross for free and generally have a great time.
Had a go at sheep shearing on a sheep farm and got quite good at herding various animals from the back of a quad bike)
Collected ostrich eggs and watched them hatch.
Seen plenty of penguins (in people's houses, gardens and coming in on the beach at night!)
Been hunting and eaten great food, fresh off the land.
Learnt a tonne of new skills (who would have thought I'd be fixing someone's roof, sanding down tables, painting peoples houses, learning how to trim flax, working in sheep shearing sheds, laying out lobster pots, learning how to cook new dishes.
Spending time with the locals doing what the locals do. Getting off the beaten track with places that only have 1 boat a week access, eating hangi with maori (and no other tourists around).
I don't have a car so I couldn't get everywhere but I'm inventive, I'm good at hitchhiking and the people have been great at picking me up from nearby towns.
Different jobs vary hugely, working in backpackers is usually 2-3 hours work in exchange of a bed, in peoples homes it can vary 3-8 hours in exchange of a bed and food. Don't get me wrong the work isn't always exotic and interesting, you have to be prepared to work! Pretty much every host has had me clean the windows, do the weeding and the washing up!
I used to be shy and not ask questions before I got to a host but I've discovered it's important to know what your going to. You get a good impression of a person over the phone, more than you do over email so I'd really advise you ask questions such as how rural they are (can you cope being 50kms from a shop?). What they expect you to do? If you hate gardening and that's their main requirement you might not like it! Ask who lives where you will be staying, is it a couple or a single person? It's good for them to be able to speak to you too as they are letting a stranger into their home.
Its good to get it clear how many hours of work you are expected to do so there is no confusion! A wide range of people are on helpx, you may not get on with them all and vice versa but on those occasions I am able to still be polite and work hard, but then stay the minimum required time.
People usually have a minimum required amount of time, which may be anything from 3 days to 1 month but I've found they have all wanted me to stay longer which I take as a great complement! I still keep in touch with many of the families I have worked for and will miss many of the kids I have looked after (as I have a childcare background I have been doing a lot of babysitting during my helpx work!).
Doing helpx work has been great for my confidence. I'll give anything a go. Love meeting new people and have really changed in the process of going from job to job. HelpX work has also been great for my CV, apart from all the new experiences, my first helpx job was cleaning a backpackers, I got more and more experience in backpackers around NZ through helpx and paid work, which has resulted in me being sole manager of a backpackers now. Having never worked in the tourist industry before NZ I never would have thought it was possible but I truly believe if you put your mind to it, give anything a go, and keep an open mind then anything is possible!
Thank you to all those people who have been great hosts and given me such amazing experiences and including me in their every day lives. And thank you HelpX for making this all possible.
EDIT: After New Zealand, Melissa carried on HelpXing in Australia and she kindly sent us another story about how that went. So feel free to read about Melissa in Australia.