If you don’t already know what Workaway is, it may be a strange concept to you. But it’s a concept that completely changed my life in a time when I didn’t know what I wanted to go, where I wanted to live, and I didn’t feel financially secure enough to travel around the world without having a job secured.
Workaway is a great way to immerse yourself in the countries you visit and meet interesting people — while not dipping into your savings.
There are lots of international job boards you can follow online, but if you’re able to connect with any of the job posters, they’ll usually tell you that they want to meet you in person. Securing a job without actually being in a place already is near impossible.
Sure, you can jump on a plane, stay in a hostel, and apply until the cows come home, but sometimes you just need that peace of mind and security before taking off. This is where Workaway comes into play.
How it Works
Workaway.info is a site set up to promote a unique exchange between budget travelers, language learners or culture seekers and families, individuals or organizations who are looking for help with a range of varied and interesting activities.
It’s a cultural exchange where you offer a few hours of help every day (usually 5 days a week) in exchange of food and accommodation, as well as an opportunity to learn about the local lifestyle and community with friendly hosts in varying situations and surroundings.
The type of work needed varies extensively, from projects around the house, babysitting, teaching English, to helping with a business. Some hosts may give a paid allowance to ensure they are offering at least the minimum wage in their country.
The conditions can vary, so it’s important you communicate as much as possible beforehand with your host so that you both know each other’s expectations.
The cool thing is, you don’t have to pay to be a member until you actually want to contact a host. I spent months “scrolling” through jobs before I actually payed the $39 annual membership fee.
- You can search for a specific place, or you can select “anywhere” and sift through hosts from all over the world. It’s like spinning a globe and blindly putting your finger on what it lands on. It’s a very freeing feeling for those that are looking for a change or adventure in their lives.
- You can narrow your search not only by country or specific location, but also by what kind of “work” you want to do. For instance, I searched the keywords “yoga teacher” because that’s what I wanted to do. This narrowed down my search results from about 20,000 to 800.
- You can plug in specific dates, or you can search on an open calendar. Typically, most hosts want you stay for at least two weeks, but sometimes this can be negotiated depending on the type of work.
What are the Benefits?
What I consider to be the biggest advantage of Workaway is the ability to meet up with amazing people around the world and to get the experience of living and volunteering in their country. Many times, it’s individual families looking for volunteers. Other times, it’s hostels or large establishments who will have lots of travelers passing through and people to meet.
Receiving free accommodation and food in exchange for work is another major perk. This will allow you to travel the world and live in a foreign country, even if you don’t have any money saved up. If you don’t plan on traveling while you’re there, you could get by with only spending money on your transportation to get there and back!
You’ll also get to receive an insight into a country that most travelers will never experience. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at how businesses are run and feel good that you’re helping them out and facilitating their success.
You’ll likely pick up some new language skills, too! If you choose to WorkAway in a foreign language country, you’ll be exposed to a brand new language. Regular exposure and practice is one of the best ways to pick up a language, saving you tons of money on language lessons.
My Experience With Workaway
I spent a few months perusing Workaway opportunities posted from all over the world before even signing up for a membership. I was primarily searching for yoga teaching opportunities, and finally found one that caught my eye.
For my first experience with Workaway, I committed to a yoga teaching gig in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua at a hostel in a small beach town. The host required a minimum of one month commitment, in exchange for accommodation in a dorm bed, breakfast, lunch, free laundry once a week, and free shuttles to and from any of the beaches in the surrounding area.
For me, it was perfect. I taught yoga 5 days a week at 8 am and at 4:30 pm. The classes were an hour long each, but I usually got to class about 15 mins early, and stayed at the end to clean up the space. This totaled to approximately 12 hours a week.
Another Workaway experience I did was in the mountains of Italy, 3 hours north of Venice bordering Slovenia. This job was a little different. The hosts needed house/pet sitters while they went away on vacation. This meant that my partner and I had the entire house to ourselves, in exchange for feeding and taking care of their (6) animals. Four loving Greek cats and two playful dogs.
We had complete and total privacy in a remote location, and had the opportunity to recharge, hike, explore the mountains, and befriend their Argentinian neighbors who invited us over for lunch and dinner a handful of times and even took us on a day trip to Slovenia.
As you can see, both of my experiences are VERY different, and that’s the beauty of Workaway. You can find such a wide range of “jobs” – basically whatever the host needs.
Most Workaway opportunities that you see will require 4-5 hours per day of work. This kind of work can be working as a receptionist, checking people into hostels, doing bookkeeping, cleaning up after guests, fixing up a house or working on a project, the list goes on.
I have found that if you are staying in a family’s house doing work, they’ll usually provide you with a private sleeping space and three meals a day.
Cons of Workaway
As you may find, there are pros and cons with most things in life. You don’t always know exactly what you’re signing up for unless you’re able to see photos and hear testimonials.
A few negative aspects of Workaway could be:
- Not seeing eye to eye with your host. Sometimes this is due to a language barrier, miscommunication or even just a personality clash.
- Your duties at the Workaway aren’t how you expected them to be or they are different from what was listed in the profile.
- You don’t like the duties you are doing.
- You don’t get as much time to explore the area as you had imagined.
- In some remote areas, you can feel ‘stuck’. Not having a car or a way to get around might make exploring impossible.
- The food you are given may be basic or not what you are used to.
- Hosts can be flakey or unorganized.
- You don’t get paid; so you will need enough savings to get the basics.
Tips & Advice
In a situation where you may work less, you may have to sleep in a room with strangers and pay for dinner for yourself every night. Or, you may work 5 hours a day and have a private room to yourself, but be burnt out and not have enough time to explore the area.
The decision is yours on what you want your experience to be like.
One thing that’s for sure, is whether you’re working in a hostel, or helping a family on their property, you’ll be sure to learn a different language if you’re in a foreign country.
Obviously the hostel will be a much more social scene between the two options, but in both situations you’ll have the opportunity to learn and practice.
I personally enjoyed my experience teaching yoga at a hostel in San Juan del Sur, but I absolutely lucked out with the pet sitting in the mountains of Italy. My “work” every day was walking the dogs and feeding/cleaning up after all the animals, in exchange for a private house and food for my stay.
I strongly recommend you to read through reviews of the host you’re interested in, be clear on what they’re expecting and how long they expect you for, and then set up a Skype call with them to discuss the details further. This way you can see them face-to-face, and ask them important questions.
You’ll want to clarify what they need you to do, how many hours per day, how many days off, and what they’re offering in exchange for your help.
Alternatives to Workaway
Some alternatives to Workaway that focus more on eco projects include Helpx.net and WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), and Worldpackers.
Choosing Workaway or any of these programs will obviously mean that you have to work. Some people prefer their travel experiences to be relaxing and a rest from day-to-day life.
If you’re going to be working every single day, you’ll have less chance for relaxation, which may not be what you’re looking for. Look through all of your options and be realistic if what you’re choosing is something that you want to commit to.
You won’t know for sure how the experience will go until you try (unless you’re able to contact a previous Workawayer), but that’s all part of he adventure!
The Traveling Yogi