[Hpn] National - Will work for room - Forget singing for your supper. Were talking labor - MSNBC News - November 16, 2003
Sun, 16 Nov 2003 16:57:18 -0500
Cape May's Chalfonte has plenty of work to be done
Will work for room
Forget singing for your supper. We’re talking labor
for lodging: A number of inns will give you a
bed—if you put in some elbow grease
By Greg Tasker - MSNBC News - November 16, 2003
December/January Issue — Every spring, Donn Stowe vacations on
the shores of Lake Superior at the Big Bay Point Lighthouse Bed
& Breakfast, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—and it doesn’t cost
him a dime.
In exchange for room and board, Stowe sharpens his handyman
skills, renovating rooms and repairing odds and ends. Other
guests stay three to six nights in exchange for helping with
spring cleaning, remodeling, and assorted projects.
“IT’S A VACATION, even though I’m working,” says Stowe, a
firefighter. “I work 8 or 10 hours a day, but it’s very
It’s not slave labor—it’s something I enjoy. You can take a
break and have coffee, talk to people, look at the scenery. And
when you leave, you feel a sense of accomplishment.”
Like Stowe, you can trade your handyman, culinary, or
professional skills for accommodations (and sometimes meals) at
small hotels from the shores of Lake Superior to the mountains
of Tennessee, from a Kansas farm to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Here are nine small inns and resorts that offer formal weekend
or weeklong work-exchange programs.
If none of the destinations meet your fancy, call an inn and
make an offer. Don’t be surprised if the innkeeper takes you up
Cape May, NJ:
At the Chalfonte, a nearly 130-year-old seaside inn, work
weekends have been spring and fall traditions for years.
Cleaning, painting, landscaping, gardening, and repairs are
needed as the 70-room inn prepares to open or close for the
season. Ten hours of labor (six hours on Saturday and four on
Sunday) buys you room and board.
The southern fare alone may be worth the sweat. “The meals are
absolutely delicious,” says Carolyn Brock, who, along with her
husband, Andrew, has tended gardens there since the early 1990s.
$25 registration fee; 609/884-8409, www.chalfonte.com
Guests at the mountaintop Iron Mountain Inn Bed and Breakfast &
Creekside Chalet have built ponds, posted fencing, developed
hiking trails, helped in the kitchen, and weeded the garden.
On innkeeper Vikki Woods’ to-do list: stenciling and more trail
work. “I prepare a mean meal and offer a cool beer after a hard
day’s work—and suggestions are always welcome,” says Woods.
Susan Eidam, owner of Blue Moon Farm, has bartered everything
from brochures, business cards, stationery, artwork, gardening,
home-building projects, and house-sitting for “the whole
experience” in a three-room cottage with panoramic views of the
Tennessee hills. Eidam prefers to host work-exchange guests
during the week. 800/493-4518, www.bluemoonfarmbb.com.
Big Bay, MI:
Plumbing, repairs, renovations, cleaning—-and even painting the
60-foot, square lighthouse—have topped the list of spring chores
during Sleep for Free and Work Like a Dog Week at the seven-room
Big Bay Point Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast. “There’s plenty of
time for hiking and sightseeing,” says owner Jeff Gamble. “Even
though everyone’s working, it’s really a vacation. It’s not like
sitting at a desk and tabulating numbers all day.” 906/345-9957,
Chimney sweepers, reupholsterers, and piano tuners, have traded
their skills for accommodations at the Thorwood and Rosewood
Inns, Victorian-era inns 25 miles southeast of the Twin Cities.
Innkeeper Pam Thorsen maintains an active file of prospective
work-exchange guests. She’s also traded rooms for yard work,
landscaping, and tub refinishing. 888/846-7966,
“We’re a small farm by Kansas standards, but there’s always
something to do,” says Lynn Kaufman, who eagerly awaits
work-exchange guests at his 250-acre deer and elk farm. The long
list of chores at Underhill Farms includes harvesting, truck
driving, baling hay, and feeding the chickens, turkeys, deer,
and elk. 888/361-3261, www.underhillfarms.com.
Hot Springs, MT:
“I’m absolutely open to offers,” says Leslie Smith, owner of the
Symes Hot Springs Hotel and Mineral Baths. Smith tends to
exchange room (and meal discounts) to entertainers at her 1930s
mission-style hotel in western Montana. African-American,
Mexican, Cuban, Native American, classical, and folk artists
have put on shows. 888/305-3106, www.symeshotsprings.com.
Salt Lake City, UT:
Judy Savage runs an informal work-exchange program at the
Armstrong Mansion, her Queen Anne-style inn. In the past she has
swapped room and board for carpet cleaning and window washing.
“We are always looking for interesting things to trade for,” she
says. 800/708-1333, www.armstrongmansion.com.
St. John, USVI:
Housekeeping, maintenance, food, and guest-services positions
are available at the ecologically minded Maho Bay Camps on St.
John. From May through November, guests can work four hours a
day for a month in exchange for free lodging and meal discounts.
You can even work longer days and accumulate time to explore the
islands. Apply early because positions fill quickly. A word of
warning: Caribbean summers are hot and humid. 340/776-6226,
After bartering farmwork for room and meals while hiking in
Australia and New Zealand, English backpacker Rob Prince
launched the Help Exchange ( www.helpx.net), a Web site where
innkeepers and farmers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and
Europe post their needs.
For example, the owners of La Cour Aux Bourgeois, a
seventeenth-century farmhouse in Normandy, were recently
searching for help in “decorating, gardening, building a Web
site, entertaining the children, or cooking” in exchange for
room and board. Registration is required, but using the site is
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