Travelling has its pros and cons. We’re all familiar with the pros: discovering new destinations, meeting new people, embracing different cultures and basically enjoying the great experiences that come in every travelers’ backpack. The cons tend to be related to a more delicate matter (and equally  more crucial) – money. Money is the great deal-breaker for most travel plans and, unfortunately, most of us just can’t afford that amazing bucket-list trip that we’ve been dreaming with for so long. But what if there were a way to minimize this unavoidable con to the extent of making it bearable – or perhaps, even a pro?

Volunteering while traveling is one of the best alternatives for low-budget travelers. Not only does this reduce drastically travel costs with accommodation and food, volunteering abroad is an opportunity to develop new skills, learn a new language and even add different experiences to your curriculum. It has definitely turned our budget problem into a long-term solution – and a pretty amazing one, to say the least.

Here are some of our volunteering experiences we did as Worldpackers during the last couple of months:

Pueblo Arriba Hostel, Punta del Diablo (Uruguay)

Uruguay was the first country we lured into (literally, for it so happens we got in illegally) after a 10-day journey making our way to Brazil’s southern border in Chuí. It’s also where we had the pleasure to have our first exchange program as Worldpackers. We volunteer at the charming, rustic-like and cultural Pueblo Arriba Hostel, and I must say – it was one of the best hostels I’ve ever been to. We joined a crew of about 6 other volunteers, all of which contributed with the hostel through different activities, such as cleaning, reception, painting and even providing entertainment for guests. I had to embrace a character I’m normally uncomfortable with: the hostel promoter. This meant I was responsible for meeting new travelers in the Punta’s bus terminal and inviting them to stay with us at Pueblo Arriba Hostel. Impressively, I’ve got a few “yes” in my endeavor, and by the end of the week, I had helped the hostel score 6 different guests.

Staff and friends of Pueblo Arriba Hostel, in Punta del Diablo, Uruguay

In just a week, I had seen my Spanish improve almost effortlessly. I had walked through Santa Teresa’s National Park and sunbathed at Playa Grande. I had seen the amazing star-lit sky while attempting (and succeding) to hitchhike back to the hostel after a full day enjoying the hippie-like-atmosphere of the spectacular Cabo Polonio. I had explored the nightlife of Punta’s bohemian town center. I had shared great stories with Julieta and Guillermina, laughed at Kary’s immitation of Modern Family’s Gloria, ate Massimo’s mouth-watering food, played card games with Ignacio and Martin, painted a sign for Tiago and listened to Maximo’s beautifully played Brazilian music.

Cabo Polonio, Uruguay

06 Central Hostel, Buenos Aires (Argentina)

After about a month travelling through Uruguay’s calm beaches and much hitchhiking, we arrived at the busy capital city of Argentina – Buenos Aires. And we stayed at the best spot we could dream of: Buenos Aires’ downtown area, near the historic Obelisk. We were in the heart of the city, at a walking distance from its most important political and cultural attractions. We volunteered at 06 Central Hostel, which proved itself a portal to other important neighborhoods of the city, such as La Boca, Recoleta, San Thelmo and Pallermo.

At 06 Hostel, we photographed the hostel in exchange for accommodation, breakfast and even a very alternative form of (human-powered) laundry. This was a great deal for us: Tiago and I are very passionate about photography and working with it as a means of travelling meant improving our skills while cutting down our expenses. It was the perfect fit.

06 Central Hostel, Buenos Aires

Everyday we had time to enjoy a little bit of the city. In San Thelmo, we enjoyed its weekend ‘feria’, a street filled with artists and craftsmen, and discovered the perk of mixing cheap wine with coke. We also visited La Boca’s El Caminito, a path of houses, bars and restaurants with a color pallet that goes beyond the blue and yellow stripes of the famous Boca Juniors’ soccer team. And we had a lovely Sunday morning at Pallermo, a neighborhood known for its green areas and parks.

Pallermo, Buenos Aires

Aureliano’s Camping site, Lujan de Cuyo (Argentina)

Another month of travelling (and a swift weather change) takes us to Mendoza, a province located on the far west of Argentina. We skipped the city and headed straight to our third Worldpackers experience: a week at Aureliano’s camping site, in Lujan de Cuyo, right under the Andes. This turned out to be a very unique volunteering experience. It was about time we got our hands dirty. While we both cleaned, sanded and painted wood for some of the new buildings of the camping site, Tiago also helped Aureliano build a hen house.

In our free time, we would enjoy the slow-paced life of the country-side: bathing in the river at Potrerillos, walking up the steep hills of the nearby area, drinking wine on rainy nights and even rock-climbing. Aureliano is very close to its community and introduced us to their local radio and to the Club El Plata – a community club in revitalization dedicated to sports, communication and other activities.

Club El Prata, Lujan de Cuyo

 

Rock climbing in Lujan de Cuyo

We were also pleased to find out that these friends and family were keen on bio-construction, recycling and permaculture. Aureliano’s camping project is completely based on bio-construction techniques and materials, providing its future guests with the opportunity of enjoying a genuine experience among nature.

Aureliano’s campingsite, Lujan de Cuyo

And now, once again, I find myself as a Worldpacker, this time at Mitico Hostel, in Valparaíso, Chile. It’s been two weeks already and we’re finding it hard to leave. But I guess that’s what happens when you find yourself at home, even when you’re more than 4.000km away from it.

 

I WANNA BE A WORLDPACKER JUST LIKE THEM

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