The pros and cons of a working holiday

smilehy face and an unhappy face

My recent posts about working holidays have inspired others to do the same, which is great. But there are a number of things that need to be considered before jumping in; although jumping in is always a great way to learn, albeit the hard way.:)

The advantages of a working holiday

Travel on the cheap

With youth hostels asking for between £40 and £60 per night for a private room, a working holiday or camping may be the only alternative if you’re strapped for cash.

Learn new skills

You’ll learn a range of skills if you work on an organic/non-organic farm, but it probably helps if you have a genuine interest in gardening, or it’s just a chore. I’ve learnt some really useful stuff, such as using the herb plantain on bee stings and using comfrey as a nitrogen feed for tomatoes. My son taught himself to skim stones on a day trip to Bourton-on-the-water.

Meet new people

We tend to hang around with people like us. But on working holiday you can be thrown way out of your comfort zone.It’s great for blitzing stereotypes and forming some really great friendships. When we were in Wales drivers regularly waved as they passed us. (And I wondered if they would be happy with a couple of brown skinned people walking around the hills.)

Get off the beaten track

When you’re a tourist you tend to go to all the typical touristy places, which is great. But when you’re on a working holiday you are staying with someone who knows the area well( usually) and they can reveal some hidden gems.

Can give you a little break from your kids

If you get a host who’s good with children this can give you some respite from the daily grind of child-rearing, especially if you are parenting on your own. One of my hosts took a liking to my son and spent time teaching him how to make a bow and arrow as well as finding simple tasks for him to do.

Okay, that’s the good stuff, and for disadvantages…

The work can be physically demanding

It is important to be in good physical shape as you may find yourself bending quite a lot to do weeding. Though it really depends on the host. You need to go through their profile quite extensively and determine whether you’re prepared to do what they require.

Accommodation not up to scratch

shack house

If you’re applying to work on a farm, don’t expect luxury. Many people who are trying to be self-sufficient will often have more basic facilities such as caravans and yurts for sleeping and compost toilets( usually in an out-building); they may have their own water supply, so showers could be limited if the area is prone to droughts. So, be prepared to do things quite differently and keep an open mind. However, some places are absolutely atrocious and sadly, pics may not always be a true representation of the current state of the living area if they were taken years ago. It’s a good idea to ask about this in your communications to the host, in a sensitive manner of course.

General requirement to work around 30 hours a week for WWOOF

Different hosts have different policies but they generally require around 5/6 hours work a day( with one day off, with WWOOF and Helpx is similar). You work less if you help towards food. Bear in mind that having to work leaves less time to actually have a holiday. When I came back from Wales I was exhausted. But when I came back from Dewsbury last year, I felt refreshed and excited.So it really depends on where you go.

The work can be pretty dull and laborious

If you’re unskilled you tend to get all the unskilled tasks, such as weeding, watering, lawn cutting, etc.

Location too remote

Do your homework and think about exactly what you want to experience. Some place are so remote you have to walk 2 miles to the nearest shop, and that may be the only shop.

Boredom for the kids

If you’re going with children, you’ll have to consider what they will do while your working. If there are two adults, then this may not be such an issue. I’m a single mum, so my son has to find ways to occupy himself when i’m working. My son loves animals so I generally look for hosts with animals and this helps a great deal. Not all hosts will have the time to find things for your children to do, so it may be an idea to consider hosts with children or another feature that will attract your child.

Dealing with prejudice or discrimination

I’ve been on three working holidays so far and I have never experienced racism, thank God. However, my last host did seem to have a problem with Christians.

Note to self:

• Avoid hosts that live in remote areas and don’t offer bikes
• Only apply to hosts whose profiles genuinely interest you
• Be careful about booking advance tickets…we had to come home early from Wales and I booked an advance ticket home and ended up losing half the money( Virgin trains charge £10 admin for each ticket, and then refund the difference if you are eligible. You only get a refund on certain advance tickets.)


About SJ

A mother, writer and free-spirited home-educator with a passion for challenging the norm.
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