That Magical Experience Called HelpX.net - Fusing Agritourism and Backpacking
|Picture of Virginia's Garden by Stacey|
It's been a year since we've joined HelpX.net. We were among the first four hosts here in the Philippines - and I would think, the first All-Filipino hosts to take on this amazing phenomenon. To date, there are now 10 Philippine HelpX hosts hosting people from around the world. There are now hundreds in other countries such as New Zealand, Australia, France, the US, Thailand - everywhere!
What is HelpX.net?
HelpX is more than just a website, it's a revolutionary fusion of travel, backpacking, volunteering, culture, agriculture and friendship. In exchange for food and accommodation, travelers get to help around the garden, farm, house, ship or actually practically any place. Travelers get to save on accommodation and food expenses by helping hosts with whatever needs doing in the venue.
Usually, work is done 2 to 4 hours each day - although there's no strict rule here as long as you're having fun!
Beyond Philippine Agritourism
At this juncture and with more HelpX hosts in the Philippines, I think it's high time to write about the many, many profound experiences both hosts and helpers have experienced thus far. Fortunately, we are extremely lucky to have hosted amazing HelpXers.
One general thing about us Filipinos is that we seem to have developed a bias and a certain pre-disposition against manual labor, particularly those related to agriculture. After all, it's always nice to stay in air-conditioned offices, with fancy executive titles, important sounding terms and not to mention high-paying salaries.
Those are all nice of course (I could really use some of that last part!), but if we think about it really hard - it makes one stop for a moment and try to foresee the future.
Zeee Future is Here:
We would all be connected to a centralized information system (something .net) and would live and breathe to cater to that system. It's nice, convenient and all but I foresee people who pay more attention to their phone/computer screens updating facebook or twitter rather than what's around them. And that may be for good reason. With an exploding world population - I see a future of concrete and electronics! How would you pay more attention to your surroundings if you are surrounded by concrete with a sea of people in your midst!
Traveling would be about working like a donkey and saving enough money so you can spend it in 3 days in an overcrowded hotel, so you could swim in a crowded beach with people who are always selling you overpriced stuff and served with overcharged services!
That's why to me, HelpX is also an interesting ongoing experiment. The question has always been, will this be self sustaining enough that we can continue to live beyond the ambit of 'modern civilization' and its trappings?
Now agriculture in the Philippines is an extremely hard field to work on. It's hard on your body, it's even harder for your pocket! Moreover, the culture in agriculture is rife with very, very difficult erm, "peculiarities" that not everyone is suited for it. Most of the time, it's a job that nobody really wants to take on.
HelpX can change that because of its impetus.
When our farm volunteers help in the garden, it's about the experience of something removed from modern life. Sure we have wifi and a hot tub , but that's the bonus part. Our HelpXers have helped us with things very few people have. From planting 500 pineapples, vegetables, weeding the greenhouse, resurrecting the pool, fixing our electricals, walking the dog, watching over the children and my favorite part - cooking exciting meals!
The great part about all the hard work? My wife gets to practice her culinary skills with an International audience! But that's not all - we also get to learn from our guests - dishes that we've never experienced or tried before.
|Seb and Lucie (France and Czech Republic)|
|Maria and Rodrigo (Chile)|
|Byron and Stacey (UK)|
"Mom, we have a French chef in our house!"
When I go to Manila and meet new people (kapwa Pinoys), most of the time, I get to hear about their new cars, houses, doctorates and gadgets.
I still don't have a car and my phone is not to be proud of. But man, when we had a French chef as a guest in our house - that was certainly unique!
It truly is an amazing experience such that some of our neighbors would always cast suspicious and raised eyes and ask,
"Anong ginagawa niyan dito?" (What are they doing here?)
To which I would give them the truth they can't believe.
"They're helping me with our farm for free!"
To which I'd be greeted by raised eyebrows, or at worst - more intriguing and privacy bashing questions.
But that's for another blog post. For now, as I publish this post close to midnight, I will await our next HelpX volunteers and look forward to another amazing experience!