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5 Vacations that Really ‘Work’


This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending an awesome workshop by JOURNEY TO YOU author Steve Olsher. The focus of the Reinvention Workshop was to help people who want to make a change in their careers figure out the next logical steps to getting where they want to be. I, like most bloggers, would like to transition from part-time poor blogger to full-time paid blogger someday and I found the workshop to be extremely helpful.

One of the things that Steve said during the exercise where he had us pinpoint the activities that we really love doing everyday was “if you’re avocation, can become your vocation then your life can be like a vacation”. I thought what a brilliant concept. I have been compling tons of research on organizations that offer the best opportunity for unique vocational vacations, for when the day finally comes that I can travel full-time. I thought I’d share what I’d consider to be my top five.

VocationVacations is a mentor-based program whereby you can hire a professional mentor to show you the ropes on a career that you’d like to try out. The vacations usually last any where from one to three days. You leave your normal life behind to travel to your mentor’s location (hopefully they live someplace tropical) and you follow them around getting hands on experience of daily life in that chosen career. Some of my personal favorites from the website are pastry chef, fashion designer and travel writer (for obvious reason). The fee for a Vocation Vacation varies by career choice and the experience of the mentor, but start at about a $900. Accommodations and food are extra. It’s a pricey program, but it’s so rare that a person would be willing to give you an inside scoop on any career that, I am sure, this would be an invaluable experience.

Pioneer Playhouse hosts a professional theater festival every summer starting around June. The stage crew, costumers, ushers and house staff are all manned almost entirely by volunteers who travel to Danville, Kentucky from all over the globe. For ten whole weeks you can see what it’s really like behind the velvet curtain or have the opportunity to revive your passion for the theater while working in one of these positions. In return for your hard work and dedication of roughly five hours a day, you are fed three daily meals, given free show tickets and have the opportunity to either camp on the 200-acre campground or bunk in one of the shared cabins. There is no fee for taking part in the fun, but positions are limited and fill fairly quickly throughout the year.

You can spend a month working and living in paradise at eco resort Camp Maho Bay in Saint John, US Virgin Islands. Free housing in one of the tent cottages is provided in exchange for working five, six-hour days with two days off each week. You’ll experience the joys of running an eco-resort by performing duties like; painting, cleaning, pruning, filing, pressure spraying, cashiering, data entry, cooking and overall guest services. If lingering in paradise isn’t a big enough perk for you, your work exchange also earns you discounts on activities like snorkeling, water skiing and boat rentals. Food is also offered at a discounted rate.

Mariposario Montezuma Gardens in Costa Rica has hosted a four-week work program in their butterfly sanctuary since January 2007. In exchange for co-ed housing and two meals a day, you will spend your days caring for and feeding butterflies and caterpillars, cleaning caterpillar pens, collecting butterfly eggs, monitoring pupa activity and even guiding tours for visitors. The cost per person is $225 along an additional eighty hours of work (twenty hours per week). While in residence you will also be introduced to the world of permaculture, organic farming, sustainable development and applied ecology. The staff at Mariposario will provide all the training needed and they promise that every day in the garden will be anything but boring. You can also expect to learn more than you ever anticipated, your input and creativity are encouraged and onsite wifi and coin laundry are provided.

Get a glimpse of life as a full-time writer or artist by taking part in the bartering program at one of La Muse Inn’s three-week retreat in the South of France. You will live and work alongside the retreat’s founding directors who both happen to be real life professional writers and artist themselves. For three weeks of work improving and maintaining the grounds, researching grants or office assisting you will receive a complimentary room in a 12th century farmhouse located in the old world village of Labastide Esparbairenque. With an exchange of only 24 hours of work per week, which can be done in four-hour daily sessions or in three full days, you’ll have plenty of time left over for ideation and creativity.

Other perks of this enviable assignment include the use of the kitchen, wifi, being in community with fellow creatives, a lovely garden, picturesque views of the surrounding village, and most of all, the time and space to create your masterpiece. La Muse Inn offers the kind of tranquil inspiration that would have made the likes of Matisse and Hemingway jealous, so you’ll want to apply early. There’s no barter available during the summer and applications are reviewed up to two months in advance.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 2012/03/31 5:35 am

    Wow!!! My mind is reeling right now! How did you find these places? What do I google? LOL

  2. 2012/03/31 11:18 am

    That so funny because that’s exactly how felt when I was writing this. The research that I complied was in binder that I put together in 2009 and have since misplaced. I had my favs quasi-catalogued in my mind but was unsure of the exact names so I’d did a quick google search and came up with nothing. I almost gave up. Until I remembered I had a book somewhere (it was hiding in my travel backpack) “100 best volunteer vacations to enrich your life” by Pam Grout. Which is an excellent starting point.

    The google search terms that worked best for me were“work exchange” or “work camps” and where ever it is that you might want to go, Hawaii, abroad, Reykjavik, etc.

    A couple good sites to start with are and (volunteers for peace) (worldwide friends in Iceland) both have cheap (under $500) program fees. Of course, there’s nearly the free but much more labor intensive (worldwide opportunities on organic farms) but I (being a bit lazy) prefer, and which are member organizations where individuals can list exchange situations that are usually free.

    When I find that binder, I will definitely have to post a comprehensive list. Good luck!

  3. 2012/03/31 5:53 pm

    Nice! Thanks for the great info! I will have to research this when I’m back home. Maybe sooner… LOL

  4. 2012/04/06 4:52 am

    That is some great information…thanks!!

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