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Solo Traveler Jackpot: Free Four Star Accommodation & Meals in Europe in Exchange for Speaking English

Updated on March 8, 2016
Puerto de Gredos, Our Luxury Lodging For My First Week in Vaughan Town, out in a tiny little town called Barco di Avila
Puerto de Gredos, Our Luxury Lodging For My First Week in Vaughan Town, out in a tiny little town called Barco di Avila

Travel Europe in First Class Style on an Economy Budget

Love Traveling to Europe, staying in nice hotels, eating in restaurants & meeting amazing people? Think you can only afford a hostel and brown bag lunch? What if I told you how you can afford better?

I’ve been traveling Europe on and off for the past 15 months since I quit my job to pursue building my own business (and part of this required re-educating myself on a lot of stuff). I’ve made my life savings, which was enough to live on for maybe one year comfortably in California, last this whole time and I’ve still got enough left for the next six months.

I haven’t given up the luxuries that are most important to me: staying in nice places, drinking wine regularly, and going out for coffees more than once per day somewhere I can sit and people watch. But I’ve only been able to maintain the lifestyle that I enjoy, by doing a ton of research and work (literally hours per day) on all the opportunities out there for a long term traveler such as myself, to take advantage of.

I’ve found a lot of resources since I’ve been traveling, and because I’ve been on the road much longer than a typical vacationer I’ve been able to hang out and take advantage of opportunities as I find them. This is key. If you only have two weeks to one month of vacation there’s no way you could figure all this stuff out, try it, and know it works with your limited time. But fear not! I’ve done the research for you.

I won’t go into ALL of the ways I’ve found to travel and stay in first class accommodations on an economy (or broke backpacker’s) budget but I’ll tell you about one of the most exciting and least known opportunities.



Chojnik Hotel in Poland

Solo Travel and Volunteering Abroad

Have you Ever Volunteered While Traveling Solo?

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My Introduction to 'English Immersion Programs'

A few months ago, I decided on a whim, to apply for a volunteer position in what is called an ‘Immersion English Program’. An ‘Immersion English Program’ is basically a program designed to teach English in an environment where participants are fully immersed in the English language (speaking, listening, and socializing).

I came across a listing on a work exchange site (a site where people exchange work for lodging while traveling) that talked about staying for a week for free in a nice hotel, with meals included in exchange for simply conversing in English with a group of professionals. The listing said the volunteer gig was available in Hungary, Romania, or Poland. Well, of course my interest was peaked! Free hotel with meals for simply speaking English with adult professionals? I would already do that anyways, for free!

But, I couldn’t get the contact info for the company, on the work exchange site because I wasn’t a paid member (and didn’t want to be it turned out as the site was geared towards those who want to work on farms and do actual labor in exchange for quite basic accommodation… not for me!).

So, I plugged the details from the listing into good old Google (how many free hotel and meal English volunteer programs could there be in these countries? My guess? Only one) and found the organization, Angloville’s website pretty much immediately.

I submitted an application and a few weeks later got an email offering me a place in a one week program in Wroclaw, Poland the next month. I asked the company if I could do two weeks in a row since the travel costs were too much to justify otherwise. They said they had a program the week after but it was in a different city (Warsaw) and I’d have to get there myself I said ‘no problem!’



The Castle Ruins near our resort in Poland (about 10 miles from Czech border!). Our morning hike!
The Castle Ruins near our resort in Poland (about 10 miles from Czech border!). Our morning hike!

Finding More Opportunities..in Spain!

I like my experience so much during my two weeks in Poland with Angloville, that I researched to see whether there were similar programs elsewhere in Europe.

I found two....In Spain!

I immediately applied (through a company called Vaughan) and was accepted for a program a month later.

Since that time I’ve done two programs in Spain, and have another week long program coming up in Spain this next week. I also volunteered for a last minute volunteer spot in a day time program (one intense 12 hour day where participants come to get a quick and brutal English immersion refresher course) in exchange for which I was offered a night in a posh hotel, a credit for dinner, and a spa treatment.

The three programs with the different companies are structured very similarly but do have some differences worth pointing out:

1) Angloville: Programs are located in Poland, Hungary, and Romania. Volunteers are almost always expected to share rooms. No Alcohol is included with meals.

2) Vaughan Town: Programs are located in Spain. Volunteers get their own rooms. Wine is served with meals. Shorter Term Volunteer Opportunities exist if you're already in the country (1 Day programs for which they offer various incentives to volunteers for their time).

3) Diverbo/Pueblo Ingles: Programs are in located in Spain and Germany. Programs are longer (8 days versus 6). Wine is served with meals.

Of course the style of each program varies as well, but over all, all three of these programs are located out in the middle of nowhere ( you leave from major cities all together on buses), demanding time-wise (12 hours days), and a LOT of fun.




The Barco di Avila Castle
The Barco di Avila Castle

To Sum Up

The total savings for me so far, from volunteering in Immersion programs (when looking at what I’ve saved on lodging meals, entertainment, etc) is between $2000-$3000 (how much you save depends on how much you would have spent on other lodging, meals and entertainment).

Plus, I’ve gotten to spend many nights at hotels I’d never normally be able to book while traveling solo and eat many many more restaurant meals. And, I've had the privilege of making a ton of new international friends.

Volunteering in Immersion Programs is not something that only long term travelers can do. In fact, many people apply for programs months and months in advance and plan their trips and vacations around them. Once you’re accepted to a program there are no backsies (on the part of the program anyways). You're in.


Our awesome group in Spain
Our awesome group in Spain

How to Get in Touch With These Programs

Here are the Links to the Volunteer Description/Application pages for each of the three immersion programs:

Angloville: http://angloville.com/teach-english/

Vaughan Town: http://volunteers.grupovaughan.com/

Diverbo/Pueblo Ingles: http://www.diverbo.com/en/volunteer-abroad

Apply a few months ahead of when you are interested in volunteering. Each site will show you available dates and locations when you apply.

Take the opportunity to try one out on your next trip to Europe. You and your pocketbook won't regret it!

And, If you do end up trying out one of these programs please write to me at adifferentkindoftravel@gmail.com (Brooke) and tell me how it went!


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    • Brooke Herron profile image
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      Brooke Herron 17 months ago from Italy

      Ciao Sahar,

      thank you :) If you want any more details let me know!. I'll be doing another of these programs in Spain at La Alberca in April

    • profile image

      Sahar 18 months ago

      This is such an informative and interesting article! What a wonderful way to be able to travel the world! Thanks so much for your advice and great information.

    • Brooke Herron profile image
      Author

      Brooke Herron 18 months ago from Italy

      Ciao Beth! thank you! let me know if you want any more info :)

      Mara- I'm sure there are for other languages but I haven't found them!

    • profile image

      Beth Hoffman 18 months ago

      Brooke

      A lot of important information and helpful tips from an experienced professional. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Mara 18 months ago

      really interesting article! Immersion program is an amazing opportunity to meet people and different cultures besides to learn english for the students. Do you know if there is one to learn other languages?! Thanks!!

    • Brooke Herron profile image
      Author

      Brooke Herron 18 months ago from Italy

      Drew- do it! you won't regret it. I have stayed in contact with a group of Spanish women who I now count as close friends, in the months since i left. We've done dinners, drinks, and I've stayed in some of their homes around Spain.

      I can't recommend the experience highly enough :)

    • profile image

      Drew 18 months ago

      Love this! Such a good idea. Sounds like a great way to see parts of the countries that you normally wouldn't visit. Not to mention it sounds like you meet great people and really get a chance to really get to know their customs. I would absolutely look into this whenever I travel.

    • Brooke Herron profile image
      Author

      Brooke Herron 18 months ago from Italy

      Hi Milly,

      thanks :) There aren't any currently in Italy that I know of. But Diverbo used to do an Italy program. They would only allow veteran volunteers to participate though, as it was so popular. So it wasn't even advertised as they didn't have to try to fill it!

      I've searched and searched and can't find any there right now, but I bet there's something similar somewhere so I'll keep searching and will update this article if I find something

      Cheers

    • profile image

      Milly 18 months ago

      Really valuable information! I'd definitely be interested in the immersion programs. Are there any in Italy that you know of? Great article, thanks Brooke!

    • profile image

      Melly 18 months ago

      Very interesting

    • Brooke Herron profile image
      Author

      Brooke Herron 18 months ago from Italy

      Suzanne-yes definitely! thanks for the comment :)

    • profile image

      Suzanne Phillips 18 months ago

      Nice article. Immersion programs are a great way to meet people and see some great little out of the way places.