More and more people are now traveling further and longer, with less money. You might be picturing a dirty and smelly backpacker who has holes in his shirts and an empty stomach, and you might think I’m about to tell you to lower your standards if you want to travel. However, traveling on a budget is no longer restricted to the ones willing to live an ultra-minimalist lifestyle.
What if I told you, you could sail the Caribbean for free? How about spend a month on a luscious vineyard in France? Or maybe stroll through an olive grove in Italy? Or meditate on a beach in Costa Rica? In reality, the options are endless.
Traveling through work exchanges is becoming more prevalent. No, you don’t have to spend 40+ hours a week sweating on a farm to get free accommodation either.
Using Workaway, or a similar work exchange website, you can connect with hosts who are looking for volunteers to help with anything from building a new pizza oven, feeding and walking their dogs, working on a sailboat, helping an animal conservation, cleaning up a beach, to harvesting the garden for your daily meals.
What is Workaway?
Workaway is a site connecting people who need help, with people who want to help. Tens of thousands of hosts are available throughout 170 countries. They are looking for people to spend 25 to 30 hours per week helping around the property or with a project. In exchange, the volunteer will receive a free place to sleep. Most often, three meals a day are also included, although that is dependent upon the host.
How do you use it?
The Workaway search engine has several filters you can use to sort through the 30,000+ hosts around the world. You can narrow it down by country, type of work, time of availability, or other keywords like “vineyard,” “dogs,” or “surfing.”
You can view the Host List before committing to making a profile, but once you have a profile, you can begin contacting hosts that pique your interest. It’s simple to make a profile on the Workaway website; you just need to write in some details about yourself, including what you’re good at, what languages you speak, where you want to travel, and a picture or two of what you look like. The more details you fill out, the more likely you are to have a host accept you as a volunteer.
Is it costly?
Unlike WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) where you cannot purchase an international membership, but pay per country or region instead, Workaway requires only one annual membership fee of $34.00 (as of January 2018). With that membership you can apply and travel to any host, in any country.
Is it safe?
Workaway hosts gain credibility through feedback left by previous volunteers. When hosts receive too many negative reviews or low ratings, their profile is withdrawn from the Workaway website. The hosts are also encouraged to post several pictures of their location and themselves.
In addition, if you ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable, you have full rights to leave at your own will. These work exchanges are not contractual and, since they are unpaid, it is as easy as getting a bus ride to leave an undesirable environment.
How do you start?
Step 1: Go to the Workaway website and begin scrolling through the countless hosts offering work exchanges across the globe. Play with the filters a bit and see all of the amazing possibilities.
Step 2: Buy membership and make a profile. You can buy the membership online using a credit card or Paypal. The more information you add to your profile, the better chance you will have of being accepted by a host.
Step 3: Contact your favorite hosts. You can bookmark your favorite hosts by adding them to your personal “Host List” accessible from your profile page. When writing your first message to the host, explain why you chose them. If they’re looking for someone to help with specific tasks, describe your experience and why you would be a big help with those tasks. Make it personal and refer to details in the host’s profile.
Step 4: Get accepted. You may need to apply to ten or more hosts before receiving a positive response back. Don’t be dismayed. You have unique qualities and character that will make you more suitable than others, but the hosts have to filter through many offers to find a volunteer that they want to invite into their home. However, when you get that message from the host who is happy to have you, then your journey begins.
Step 5: Book your ticket and go! Now you can--if you haven’t already--purchase that bus, train, or plane ticket to bring you to your work exchange destination. Be sure to keep in contact with the host right up until the beginning of your stay to make sure plans are still in place. Ask the host for local bus information or the best way to reach their home.
Feel free to contact me for more insight into my personal experience with Workaway, or watch this video addressing more details and common questions about Workaway.
Disclaimer: The links to Workaway are referral links and, while I receive benefits from them, there is no added cost to you. The opinions represented in this article are honest and my own.
Jacey began traveling fulltime in June 2017 when she decided a fearless approach to life was the only way to live the life she wanted. She documents her travels by creating and publishing videos 5 days a week on her YouTube channel, Fearless Jacey. In 2017, she traveled to nine countries in Europe, and in 2018 she plans to further explore Europe. Jacey is also a published author and freelance writer.