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Solo Traveler Jackpot: Free Four Star Accommodation & Meals in Europe in Exchange for Speaking English
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?
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!’
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.
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.
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (Brooke) and tell me how it went!