The Unofficial Help Exchange: Win Win Win via Simply Intentional - Intentional Travelers

18 Jul The Unofficial Help Exchange: Win Win Win via Simply Intentional

This post originally appeared on our personal blog here: The Unofficial Help Exchange: Win Win Win

I share this at Intentional Travelers because it’s a good example of getting creative to have great experiences (and save money) while you travel. In this case, we were able to help out some friends, get free use of camping gear in return, learn more about things we’re interested in (like growing native plants and using solar energy), and extend our life on the road with very little cost.

We have essentially started our month-long road trip, and we’re off to a great start in the state of Washington!

Back in January, we announced to family and friends that we’d be continuing our “mid-life sabbatical” for the year. We actually created a SoKind Registry with some of the creative ways people could help us out (like lending us camping gear or recommending us for house-sitting gigs).

We were really excited when our friends, Stephanie and Jon, proposed an “unofficial help exchange.” Help Exchange is a network of hosts around the world who accept traveling helpers at their farms, B&B’s, or households for various periods of time in exchange for room and board and the chance to explore a new place. Our friends’ suggestion involved hosting us for a week and letting us borrow their camping gear in exchange for some help in their backyard. It’s an unofficial help exchange! And, since we also get to spend quality time with our friends, it’s a win-win-win!

Before and After backyard | Intentional Travelers

Here’s some of the work we accomplished in just a few days

Simply Intentional: Home Edition

Stephanie and Jon are great examples of intentional living. Three years ago they purchased a house near Mt. Rainier. Minimizing their environmental impact is a high priority to them, and they have aligned  with this value as much as possible through their purchase decisions. They have found that although these can seem like larger investments up front, they are worth it not just because of the environmental pay-off but also the benefits to their health and even financial stability in the long run.

“People might think ‘Oh, that’s so much effort,’ but we decided that was important to us.” -Stephanie

Here are just a few of the ways our friends brought intentionality to their home:

  • They installed solar panels on their roof. By selling the electricity the solar panels produce to their local energy company, Stephanie and Jon receive back about 150% of the cost of energy they use. That’s a check for at least $3,000 in the mail every year.
  • They are committed to planting only native species in the backyard. Although they’re currently keeping some of the non-native grass, they don’t bother expending resources to water it.
  • Both drive hybrid vehicles to save on gas cost and carbon emissions.
  • They use non-toxic, no VOC paint. You can actually lick it! (Apparently this type of paint was discontinued due to lack of popularity.)
  • Their fire alarms are photoelectric instead of using the standard radioactive material.

  • The couch, from West Elm, is made from recycled steel, reclaimed wood, and cushions from recycled bottles
  • They made sure to recycle the old carpet that they had to take out of the house when they first moved in.
  • The new carpet is made from recycled bottles.
  • Stephanie “upcycled” a cheap role of carpet she found at a garage sale into an area rug for the livingroom.
  • All lights in their home are LED.
  • They have made some of their own furniture (like the ottoman below) and all their curtains.

  • They use a non-toxic stain on the wood furnishings. Did you know that shellac is an excretion of the female Coccus Lacca beetle? Now that’s organic.
  • Their bed is made from botanical latex (a highly sustainable material from rubber trees).
  • After moving in, they replaced their windows for energy savings.
  • They built their own fish pond where native wildlife, like tiny Pacific tree frogs, can live and reproduce.

Intentional Living comes in many different forms because it’s really about aligning your life choices with your values. It’s about consciously prioritizing some things over others, based on what you care about. For us, it has meant choosing flexibility and autonomy over stability, which has led us to a life of travel. For others, it will look completely different. The important thing is to know what matters most to you- to put your money, time, and energy where your mouth is.

What intentional choices have you made in your life? We’d love to hear from you either in the public comments below.


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  • Kathy @ SMART Living
    Posted at 14:18h, 18 July

    Good for your friends for making so many Intentional Living choices (I call it SMART living but it’s all the same thing!) My husband and I did something similar about 4 years ago and it was the best thing we did. We too have solar but we our local energy company will only allow us to exchange what we use–so we have no electric bill but don’t get any money back from it. We did EXTRA insulation everywhere. Have LED lights EVERYWHERE. All energy saving appliances, no VOC paints, used environmentally sensitive companies for our new cabinets, carpet and much of the the furniture. We have one hybrid car and the other one still runs great at 10+ years so not ready to go. We also have both a raised bed garden to grow vegetables AND a “garden tower” hyroponic gardening system. As you say, “The important thing is to know what matters most to you- to put your money, time, and energy where your mouth is.” Thanks for more inspiration! ~Kathy

    • intentionalmc
      Posted at 15:25h, 18 July

      Kathy, that’s awesome! I will let my friends know that they have a kindred spirit out there. I was surprised that with the solar panels, they still pay their bill on a monthly basis- but of course, what they get back from the electric company at the end of each year more than covers that cost.
      Thanks for staying tuned. Take care!

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