Cultivating a Symbiotic Work Exchange

Cultivating a Symbiotic Work Exchange


How to find your fit in work and travel trade

As humans, we crave fulfillment. It’s an innate shared motivator that we need a reason for doing. Traveling enriches life simply by moving beyond self-imposed borders and routine mundanity, growing our world and mind with exploration and culture. Still, for some, the sheer appeal of moving from place to place eventually fades, and our intuition nags at us for something more – purpose, reaffirming the fundamental root of yoga – balance. This is why Yoga Trade believes in symbiotic work exchange.

Travel work trades exchange food and accommodation for time. While conventional 9-5 work occupies most waking hours in return for money (often spent on food and rent or mortgage), work exchanges are traditionally unpaid, compensating with exploration, energy, living costs, and personal growth. If you value experience over expenses, these opportunities offer a sustainable way to live comfortably and enjoy working. If money is your love language, search our job board for paid yoga and wellness positions.

I love the subjectivity of traveling; the rewards are intimate to each person and always significant. For me, travel has largely influenced identity and developed inherent values. My travel type is slow and local. I prefer visiting obscure areas over Lonely Planet landmarks and learning language and etiquette. I value a routine that establishes belonging, like knowing people’s names and having a favorite place to eat and drink coffee. Like anything, I found my stride over time and decided that what I give to a place is far better than what I get.

I visited Hawaii for two months in 2018, stretching my savings and investing in the islands’ magic and abundant nature. I camped across Kauai and stayed mostly on the Big Island, trekking across lava rock to remote beaches and surfing new breaks. The familiar ache for community and contribution returned, and I perused Yoga Trade for instructor gigs. A meditation retreat 10 minutes from me was seeking volunteers to help restore the grounds after the devastation of the Kīlauea volcano eruption. I received a comfortable private room surrounded by native flora and fauna and three daily vegan home-cooked meals for four hours of relief support. I filled these hours by teaching yoga and helping in the gardens or kitchen. I adjusted to a circadian rhythm, starting and finishing my days with the sun. I’d wake up at sunrise and typically lead an early class for guests and volunteers. Following class was breakfast. The healthy meals were communal and conversational, and solitude was always optional. What I remember most from my time at the retreat was how much time I had. The work was hugely gratifying, returning abandoned land into a thriving ecosystem. I explored the island, ritually attended the Wednesday evening market, and watched live music at the local kava bar.

Four steps for a successful work exchange

Yoga Trade opportunities are endless, and diverse offerings mean something for everyone. To cultivate your travel work exchange, start here. 

1. Identify intentions 

What do you want to gain? Routine flexibility, living abroad, a new lifestyle, learning a language, or integrating into a new culture, etc. Make it your own. 

2. Set boundaries

Work trades are not one-size-fits-all, and what works for you is distinct. Yoga Trade opportunities are global, so it’s wise to consider your physical boundaries and location preferences. Are you a spin-the-globe-close-your-eyes-and-choose type, homebody, or both? We appreciate changing circumstances and life cycles and meet you where you are.

3. Be open

Work trades typically compensate with experience, not money. Reworking our brains and engrained social construct to accept this type of ‘payment’ develops us as sentient beings. While we ensure organizers are genuine, not every opportunity and personality will gel. Trust intuitive and overt signals to show what is and is not meant for you, and find comfort in a change of course. 

4. Be kind

It’s not easy trading creature comforts for the unknown, and even the initial stages of consideration and research are worth celebrating. You’re trying something new, and starting is arguably the most challenging. You’re not alone. Yoga Trade’s community and team are here to support and uplift. Similarly, when navigating a new experience, be kind to your organizer and remember that healthy relationships take time, communication, and compromise.

Gratitude Attitude 

Establish and maintain the professionalism that best reflects you and the space. Refrain from defaulting to a ‘this is how we do it back home’ mentality, and remember that travel requires emotional intelligence and cultural awareness. ‘Trade’ connotes a mutual relationship. You get what you give. Patience, acceptance, and mutual respect go a long way.

Aloha Community 

Welcome! We’re so happy you’re here. Join now and browse new opportunities for your next adventure. Read stories from other members, and please reach out anytime for support and guidance.

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Amanda Bertucci
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