While it’s nice to be on holidays, working or volunteering while on the road can be a great way to experience a place and get to know it in a different light, as well as being good for the bank balance. It allows you to meet different people, to become part of a community, develop a real sense of a place, learn new skills, make your cash last longer and, if you’re lucky, make some extra spending money to continue your travels!
There are plenty of ways to put your knowledge, expertise and experience to work on the road, so let’s look at some of the options.
Many jobs these days lend themselves to working remotely – often all you need is your computer, an internet connection and a comfy place to set up shop! For those people lucky enough to have understanding employers or who are self-employed, taking your work out on the road with you can be a relatively easy way to see the countryside while still earning a buck. Of course, you’ll just need to allow for those times and places where internet and phone reception is scarce – as is the case with much of remote Australia – and plan ahead to ensure you don’t miss important deadlines.
TAKE YOUR SKILLS TO THE ROAD
For those with a practical profession, opportunities often exist to either trade your skills with others for things you need done, or to do a little business as you travel around. We’ve heard of hairdressers, carpenters and mechanics working out of their vans as they travel, and even of mobile accountants sorting out tax returns in the campgrounds and communities they stop in! These skills are often in demand by others and it’s a great way to make the most of your existing skill set.
WORK YOUR WAY AROUND
While some people take their work wherever they go, others seek it out and let work opportunities dictate where they travel. While you can use your existing skills as a basis, if you’re open to opportunities there are plenty of different types of work available – some you might never have considered.
Country pubs and hotels often have short-term work available, as do caravan parks and other seasonal tourist operators. Jobs are often advertised online and a quick Google search brings up a range of opportunities for nomads – from truck driving to caretaking, food service and cleaning.
While fruit picking may be a bit energetic for some, we’ve met people on the road who’ve done everything from picking apples to packing broccoli, and say it’s a great way to meet new people, and allows you to make somewhere your base for awhile so you can explore on your days off. For those who are fit and healthy, seasonal work such as this allows you to make the most of Australia’s varied climate, with different fruits and veggies coming into season at different times of year.
GIVE YOUR TIME
For nomads who are happy to give their time in exchange for accommodation, meals, or tickets to an event or festival, or just out of the goodness of their own hearts, there are plenty of volunteering opportunities around the country. While you may not be getting cash in your hand, the benefits of staying put, often with accommodation costs covered, can certainly help stretch your funds, plus you get the feel-good benefit of contributing in some way.
Volunteer gigs range can range from manning stalls or ticket booths at regional events and festivals, to doing charity work or helping out in community-run organisations. The list is endless and there are often opportunities in places you least expect.
In outback South Australia, we came across the tiny historical town of Farina, where the Farina Restoration Group, with the help of volunteers, has been busily restoring some of the old buildings to ensure the town’s history isn’t lost. Chimneys and ruins pop up out of the red dust and the ruins were busy with wandering tourists and volunteers. Central to this project is the old bakery, established in 1888, where the traditional scotch oven is now churning out tasty pasties, pies, bread and sweet scrolls to hungry tourists on this isolated stretch of road. Volunteers man the bakery and shop, taking donations and selling souvenirs from the marquee, set up for eight weeks each year while restoration work continues on site. Volunteers are often travellers, we were told, who mostly do two-week rotations and are set up in a nearby campsite.
Another popular way to give your time in exchange for accommodation and meals is through WWOOFING (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). In exchange for four to six hours of work a day – often doing varied tasks, such as helping out in the garden, or doing general maintenance around the property – WWOOFers get meals and accommodation provided by their host farm. It’s a great way to experience a different kind of lifestyle and no prior experience is required. Membership is $70 and joining up gives you access to over 1800 host farms around the country, which you can peruse to find likeminded hosts to stay with.
VOLUNTEER IN NATIONAL PARKS
National parks around the country offer opportunities for nature lovers to get out and enjoy the environment while helping to conserve these special places. Work is mostly done in exchange for park entry and accommodation, although varies from state to state and depending on the park facilities.
Campground hosting is particularly popular with vanners, often involving assisting rangers during peak periods with tasks such as greeting guests, providing information and answering questions. While many positions are short term, there are also longer caretaker host positions in some places, with a bit more responsibility thrown in.
Other positions can involve helping out with general park maintenance, weed control, fencing, painting, walking track patrols, and doing flora and fauna surveys.
STATION AND FARM WORK
Another popular option for travellers is working on stations or farms. Work opportunities are diverse and can range from caretaking to maintenance and repairs, mustering cattle, fencing, cooking, cleaning and yard work.
While prior experience helps and there are plenty of opportunities for those with relevant skills, there are also opportunities for people without experience, provided you’re willing to have a go and are not adverse to a bit of hard work!
Some larger cattle stations recruit using major recruiters, but you can also find positions on sites like Gumtree, or if you’re after volunteer work, by signing up to become a WWOOFer.
WHERE TO LOOK
Local papers and magazines
Town or regional Facebook pages
National parks websites
Chat with fellow campers
Hit the local pub!