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Before you apply, be sure to read the profile carefully and provide what we're looking for, or you'll be wasting your time making a request. We host for about six months each year from mid-April to mid October, usually only single travelers, and for only two weeks out of each month.
Please don't apply if you have no references of any sort. If you are a new helper and have no previous reviews, be sure to complete an extensive and informative profile, with photos, that gives us a sense of your interests and personality. Some helpers without previous hosts have provided previous employer references, some have provided letters from teachers or volunteer co-ordinators, a few have provided Airbnb reviews, some have invited us to view their Facebook page or a personal website or travel blog, and others have written a long, detailed self-description. If you have previous hosts who haven't written a review, tell us who they are so that we can contact them ourselves. We strongly prefer requests from people who've put as much effort into their helper profile as we have put into our host profile.
You should know that we get many requests from travelers that don't include their dates of travel, or enough detail to convince us to take a complete stranger to live in our home for an extended visit. Your initial request may be only a first step; to be successful, you will have to impress us with your thoughtful travel plans, your well-written profile and good references. Think of it this way: would you want your own parents to accept a total stranger into their home? Try to fill your profile with enough detail that you would like to see from someone who would come and stay with your own parents or grandparents.
If you could see our own helper profile, you would understand that we practice what we preach. We have been accepted by many hosts because we tell them so much about ourselves in advance. Your goal should be to make us feel as though we already know you even though we've never met. We need to feel confident that you will be friendly, hard-working, quiet and easy to live with, that you will live up to your work hours agreement, and that you will exchange positive reviews with us when you leave.
If you apply, be sure to respond quickly to our questions, because there are many requests and we can't wait for two days to know your intentions. Others will be waiting to hear from us.
We will need to know your travel arrival details, to be confident that you're actually coming - since we have only room for one helper at a time, we want to be certain that the person who requested to come is actually going to arrive. And we will want to know your onward travel plans as well.
Helpers must be non-smokers. We rarely accept younger couples. We host foreign visitors of any age who are here to explore Canada, and we enjoy older travelers. We've been helpers ourselves with multiple hosts in Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador and Peru.
This is not a remote farm adventure for young people, and not a "bunkhouse and pasta meals" kind of experience. It is a small urban property with a garden, a comfortable living space in a city full of interesting diversions.
We expect 2 hours of daily work in return for your private room each night, which allows you most of each day to be a tourist in Toronto. When you are working, we will expect you to leave your phone in your room, so you are actually at work during those two hours.
Meals are not included. There are restaurants and grocery stores close to our house, where you can buy your own food. We will give you a small amount of refrigerator space and a shelf in the kitchen for your groceries.
Our kitchen is limited to basic use for guests - they only have very simple meals in our house, and have their gastronomic adventures in Toronto restaurants instead. You will have access to a microwave and a toaster, but not a stove - because of stove problems with previous helpers.
Staying here will be the same as a private room in a hostel but much quieter, of course cheaper, and more pleasant. The price of a private room in a youth hostel in Toronto is equivalent to four hours of general labour at the current Ontario minimum wage. You'll only be working two hours in exchange for each night if you stay in our house. As in youth hostels, there is a midnight curfew. We expect to be told before midnight if you will stay somewhere else for a night; if you return after midnight, you may find the doors locked until 6 a.m., and we may tell you that you will have to find somewhere else to stay.
We are within the city of Toronto, Canada's largest city. We have many cultural attractions which are accessible by public transit, and it is a hub for transportation to other cities and tourist destinations in Canada.
Our home is a small bungalow in a suburb close to the lake, about half an hour by the bus/subway system from the downtown centre, with easy public transit access to Pearson International Airport. We have driveway parking for someone arriving in a rental car, and the bus stop is only a five minute walk to the end of our street.
There are some lovely parks in our immediate area, including the Scarborough Bluffs. If the winds are favourable, we might be able to take you out for a sail on Lake Ontario, and we can certainly advise you on what to see and do in Toronto and across Canada, and how to get around in the city and across the country. We've traveled from coast to coast on this continent many times, north-south as well as east-west, in addition to extensive international travel (sixty countries, six continents).
Help in the house
That's very much up to the traveller. We've had helpers who've shared languages, cultural foods and meals, stories and music. Many helpers have attended our musical groups (vintage jazz, Sing Along, multi-instrument Play Along). Some have played tennis with me, or come to our yacht club to meet other sailors, play darts and enjoy a beer. Other helpers have spent all their free time away from our house exploring this city or taking free language classes, which is fine with us. We had one who only wanted to hide in his room and surf the wifi. This is something we strongly discourage - why pay for airfare to visit Canada only to connect with the world through the internet?
Your duties will consist of organic gardening and yard work, light home maintenance and cleaning, light painting or repair work, sailboat cleaning and varnishing, and cleaning vehicles. When it is hot in the summer we will ask you to complete your work hours early in the morning while it is still cool, and then go to be a tourist for the rest of the day; in the spring or fall we may ask you to work in the late afternoon or early evening when it will be warmer, and after the dew has dried from the grass. We don't sell our garden produce; if you help us grow it, you can help us eat it, for free. We donate excess produce to a local food bank where Deborah works as a volunteer.
English, French, Spanish, and a smattering of German
Accommodation for helpers is a small private room (see photo), a shared bathroom and dining room, and limited use of the shared kitchen. You will enjoy privacy, hot showers, wifi (which could be turned off between midnight and 6 a.m.) and a fully furnished home and garden. Deborah might volunteer to do your laundry for you once a week or so, and you might sometimes get a ride to the subway station, the bus station, or to the grocery store. There are bicycles, guitars and pianos (several of each), garden furniture to lounge on, and books to read.
If you wish, we will swap hours of formal ESL instruction for extra work time, so there's no need for you to spend your limited travel budget on commercial classes; and you will be in an English language immersion environment, in any case. We are qualified teachers, experienced at ESL, music and academic subjects. We can provide advice and help with Canadian telephone sim cards, Canadian bank accounts, work visa activation without having to go back to the border, school registration, résumé writing in the style of the Canadian job market, job searches and Social Insurance Number applications (you need a SIN to work legally in Canada, even if you have obtained a work visa in advance.)
The cultural and economic capital of Canada is at your doorstep if you stay here, so you'll be able to do anything that you google about attractions in Toronto, or southern Ontario, including camping or spending a day seeing Niagara Falls.
There are some lovely parks in our immediate area, and the Scarborough Bluffs are a dramatic spot to visit. If the winds are favourable, we might be able to take you out for a sail on Lake Ontario. We can certainly advise you on what to see and do in Toronto and across Canada, and how to get around in the city and across the country. We've travelled from coast to coast on this continent many times, north-south as well as east-west, in addition to international travel to more than fifty countries on six continents. We've kept travel diaries and photos which we can share with you.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Two hours per day for each night of your stay
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