Traveling the world on a shoe-string budget can be a challenge. If your lodging and food were free, it would make that budget go a lot further! Many places around the world are happy to host you in exchange for building ovens, baking sourdough bread, or teaching either of these skills. This is exactly what my wife and I have done in the past! This exchange is only fair if you have the skills to provide a quality service, so get skilled-up by subscribing to Ovens DIY Newsletter and Blog!
Who Will Host You for Free?
Ok, it isn’t exactly free. You are having to work for it, but there are many benefits to this trade that money can’t buy, which we will cover later in the post. Who are the most likely candidates to take you up on your offer? Non-profit organizations and Ecological Communities are at the top of my recommendations. You could also potentially look for a host on a work-away site, though I can’t recommend any, because I have never tried them.
First, decide where you want to travel and then start searching for the perfect host! The image above was in 2005 at a Non-profit school called Trinity Yard in Ghana, West Africa. It was where I first cultured a sourdough starter and learned to bake sourdough bread in a wood-fired oven. Non-profits are a great resource for this type of thing because; they are typically looking for volunteers, they usually can host you, and they are always looking for ways to improve their project. A new oven will bring a wealth of new abilities to their kitchen and give them something to tell their followers and funders about.
Prepare for your Host
If you don’t know someone in the organization, you will need a way of gaining their trust. To gain their trust it is good if you have something to show them. Social Media is a great tool in this regard. If you have skills, use your social media to display them. The more content and connectivity you can build around your skills the better chance that an organization will have faith and take on your project.
The images above are from the oven my wife and I built at Mae Win Guest House in Thailand. I found this project through a friend. That is another good way you can find hosts, be vocal about your desire to trade your services for hosting with your community. Once you have a few prospect places lined up take your time and draft your proposal. You will want it to be short and to the point. Be professional and add links where they can see your work, and hopefully reviews of satisfied clients. Once they are on board with your project you will want to communicate all the project logistics, including the materials and tools you will need. You will most likely not find all the tools or materials you are used to using in your home country, this is the challenging part of building ovens abroad. You will need to do some research on what is available, and be resourceful.
Spread the knowledge and Learn
Hopefully, you have arrived on-site and the host has been very accommodating. Be upfront with how you work and your needs, this will prevent any misunderstandings. Having a project like this is a great time to get others involved, so you can spread your knowledge and learn new techniques from others. The images above are from a private residence in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. This was an amazing experience because I was working with three Mayan natives. It was fascinating to see how quickly they took to building with cob (they were cement workers) and how appreciative they were to gain this new skill. The hearth of this oven and the Thai oven were insulated with local pumice. The dome of this oven was insulated with wood-planer shavings. The Thai oven dome was insulated with straw-slip (see our post on Earthen Materials), and the plaster was made with local elephant dung! It is a joy to work with local people and local materials!
The Benefits Beyond Saving Money
Not only do you get free lodging and food but you get to meet and live with local people! There is no better way to experience a foreign country than to live and work with the locals. There are many potential fringe benefits from these types of projects. In Thailand our hosts were so generous, you wouldn’t believe it. We got free Thai massages, special meals, a private bungalow, transport to the city, and they even took us around to see local tourist sites! The potential of being generous is infinite! Always look to give more than you receive and you will be pleasantly surprised! The other great benefit is the expansion of your community, after sharing this experience there is a good chance you and your host will be life-long friends!
I hope you enjoyed this post! Please share it out if you did. If you have any similar experiences with traveling and building ovens please feel free to post about them in our forum. If you want a recommendation from us for a potential host please get in touch. Click the bell icon to be notified when we have a new post.