I am just about to finish my second home stay Helpx. Helpx is a site where you find hosts to work for in exchange for accommodation and food. There are different types of Helpx including farms, hostels and home stay.
During home stay Helpx you are typically integrated into the hosts daily routine, in essence you become one of the family. On paper it sounds like the perfect situation for travellers. You help around their house or property and in exchange you receive delicious home cooked meals and a sense of family. For people like myself with social anxiety this type of Helpx can became a little stressful.
Social situations drain me. I love to be social and for the most part enjoy myself, but too much will make me irritable. The past two months, have been a slight struggle for me for the following reasons.
- Daily meals together– I do love to meet new people and spend the day together or get a beer. However, in France lunch and dinner are a long processes usually between 1-3 hours. Therefore, eating three meals with a new host family was hard to get used to. After spending a day together all I wanted to do was go to bed. Instead I’d be in for another 1-3 hours of conversations. Day after day of spending the day together with long meals time, meant only a couple hours to myself, which for me is not enough time to recharge. To be fair, you do start to get more comfortable with your host family, but two months in and some days I still struggle.
- Forced interaction– Recently I’ve realized what I’d compare home stay Helpx too-spending time with extended family. You know when you go to your Aunts or Grandmas for Christmas and you spend countless hours with people you know, but don’t usually spend time with. It consists of polite/forced conversation. I enjoy going to extended family’s for holidays, for about a week, anymore than that and I really, really want to go home.
- Unstructured – Another factor that really plays on my social anxiety is the format being a little unstructured. Life never goes as plans, especially in families. I am the type of person in work, that I like to do my work and go home. In this type of environment, it is very hard to do your 4 hours of required work and not feel obligated or guilty to not do more. I am completely aware that I do not have to, but imagine going to your room to rest, with a cousin screaming in the background, or an Aunt/Uncle cleaning or cooking, while your doing nothing. You feel like crap for sitting in your room watching Netflix.
- Living with the boss– I have always struggled with not being complete mess of social awkwardness in front of my bosses. Although, I know I am not supposed to think of my host family as my boss, it is very hard to do. They are still giving me work in exchange for something. So spending the whole day working with your someone who is in charge of you, then having to eat and spend down time with is a very new concept that I have yet to adapt to.
In contrast I have done an Accommodation business Helpx and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had a set amount of hours where I would clock in and out, therefore my boss knew how many hour I was doing. There were other Helpx people around, who since are just other workers, I felt comfortable around. I also could go sit in my room for as long as I wanted and didn’t have to worry about anything because I knew I had done my 4 hours and nothing else was expected of me.