Jemma McIntosh discovered a whole new life when she exchanged work on one farm or another for food, shelter, and a picturesque view of the New Zealand countryside. Leaving behind the traditional world, she found one in which she couldn’t feel more fulfilled.
Growing up in Australia, Jemma had followed a conventional path. But in her early twenties, she felt an urge to press reset; to escape the habitual lifestyle of modern society and give back to others in some way. When she discovered Help Exchange – a program that connects travelers with farms, hostels, boats, and other places where they exchange work for short-term stay – she found the escape she craved. Her life quickly transitioned from one of tangible goals to one of living in the moment. She learned firsthand a wide variety of outdoor work; from that work, she found a gateway to a more natural way of life lived at a gentler pace. What started as a drive to “give back” through volunteering transitioned into a deep love of New Zealand farming: “I realized this is somewhere I could see myself living,” she shares. “It made me want to slow down — it wasn’t about a holiday anymore.”