Work Exchange in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Work exchange has provided us an inexpensive and a fun way to travel and see new places, and it interrupts our usual travel routine for a while. We spent June-July in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica making a commercial film and a website for a local hostel. The surroundings were awesome: the beautiful beach of Playa Espadilla and the super green, hilly jungle around us, and all this for minimal costs.

Our Work Exchange Track Record

We tried work exchange for the first time in Borneo, Malaysia in a chilli farm in 2011. However, that was only half work exchange, half house-sitting in a family farmhouse. In Borneo, empty houses are an invitation to repossess whatever there is to take, and as none of the family members wanted to live in the countryside, we got the house. There wasn’t any rent but we paid for the utilities and for our groceries. We were happy with the solution because their organic farm wasn’t exactly what we expected: too much pesticides, growth hormones and chemical fertilizers.

Our first real work exchange was in India for Jaipur Inn hotel. Work included taking photos, making a commercial video, designing print works like brochures and business cards, and updating their website and programming them an Internet booking system. The assignment lasted a couple months and we enjoyed it fully.

In Manuel Antonio, we also did a commercial video, website, booking system and some print jobs for National Park Backpackers hostel. The atmosphere was relaxed, perhaps because of Costa Rica’s better economic situation compared to India. The country draws a steady influx of wealthy American tourists.

We have also done house-sitting and pet-sitting, and compared to these, the upside of work exchange is that food is paid, but the downside is that we don’t get to spend time with animals what we love the most. Next we are going to do two pet-sitting gigs.

Getting Involved

How does work exchange function? The principle is the same as with farm hands of old. The host provides food and lodging and the helper pays to the host by working. There is no money involved. There are diverse jobs available from farming to programming. Usually the exchange doesn’t require a full-time commitment so there is also time to explore the surroundings for those who like sightseeing. We enjoy the work itself and do our normal routines: jogging and cooking.

There are several websites selling work exchange information, however we have not joined any of them. They are paid services and don’t offer any added value. We search for work exchange places by first deciding where we want to travel, then figuring out what we would like to do, and finally contacting directly the businesses that might be able to offer suitable work for us. Sometimes these places are also listed in work exchange sites, which means that they are aware of how the system works.

Due to the lack of suitable services, we are thinking about programming a free system in future, as well as a free book exchange and a free house-sitting site. Let us know if you are interested in helping with these projects.

If you are looking for work exchange places, the two places we have been to might be interested in offering you work exchange. Just ask them. And if you know someone who is looking for professional web designers for work exchange, please let us know. We would love to hear have you tried work exchange and how did you like it?

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