You find yourself in a that country that you have always wanted to see more of. But now instead of being the tourist looking at your Google Maps to find your way around the place, you are hanging out in the coffee shops and restaurants with the locals and eating the traditional foods they eat. You are joyfully partaking in the customs that they have always followed and observing their daily way of living. You are soaking in the new culture, learning new skills and sharing the ones you already have all the while developing connections that will turn into friendships.
There is a way to experience all or some of these things through work and cultural exchanges.
People from all over the world that need help with a wide range of tasks are looking for volunteers that will help them out a few hours a day in exchange for a place to stay. There are a few different websites that bring together these volunteers and hosts. But Workaway has become one of the more popular ones and now has listings from over 39,000 hosts from 177 countries.
If you have thought about traveling in such a way, it is very likely that you can find hosts that need help in the country or region that you wish to visit.
Workaway can offer both the opportunity to travel on a budget while also creating immense value for both the hosts and the volunteers through the cultural exchange, friendships formed, memories created, and horizons broadened.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” -Henry Miller
What is Workaway?
It is a website that connects hosts who need help with a variety of tasks to volunteers who wish to help out while they are traveling. The tasks that hosts may need help with are very diverse and range from things such as housework and gardening to teaching languages, babysitting, taking care of animals and everything in between.
How much work is involved?
Generally most hosts will offer a place to stay and food in exchange for roughly 20-25 hours per week of work. Each listing on Workaway provides the specifics of how much working time is expected but it almost seems to be a standard that many hosts ask for about 5 hours a day/5 days a week with 2 days off. You may come across hosts who only need 2 hrs a day of help and some that prefer to have 7 hours a day but only during 3 days a week for example - it is all based on what the host needs help with so make sure you read the details on the hosts' profile.
There are some hosts that offer paid positions. After reading through many of their profiles, the common theme seems to be that the pay is either minimum wage in that country or tips (if in service industry). In some instances the host may ask you to pitch in on the cost of accommodation and/or food since you are getting paid. Again, read the profile for specifics and ensure you communicate clearly with the host to avoid any misunderstandings.
Accommodation and food
As far as accommodation, this also varies based on the host and there are no preset guidelines.
Some hosts offer a private bedroom and bathroom, some a private bedroom with all other areas of the house shared, some have shared bedrooms and dormitories, and you may also come across some that offer a nice tent in their garden so you can stargaze every night before bed. :-)
Many hosts are seeking cultural exchange as much as the volunteers and so they are willing to have volunteers join them during mealtimes. Some may specify in their profile that they may cook one meal a day and allow the volunteer to make their own food the rest of the day and some hosts may provide an allowance so the volunteer can buy and make their own food.
What costs is the volunteer responsible for? The volunteer is responsible for all travel costs to and from their Workaway as well as any activities during their time off. This is where the roads may diverge as some volunteers will have money saved up to be able to venture out and explore the area in their free time and some may wish to be a lot more budget-conscious and choose low-cost ways of entertaining themselves or even using the free time to work online.
Considering doing a Workaway? A GUIDE TO USING WORKAWAY FOR FIRST-TIMERS
Explore the Host List on the Workaway website (www.workaway.info) Where do you want to go? You can filter out the list of hosts on the Workaway website based on countries and regions. If there is a specific area you want to travel to such as "Alps" or "Tuscany" you can also type those keywords into the search bar to narrow down the results. Do you have a preference on the type of work that you want to (or don't want to) do? You can filter out "Types of Help" under "More Search Options" in the host search. Are you interested in doing something more specific such as olive harvesting in Italy? Helping out at a ski resort in the Swiss Alps? Working on a vineyard in France? Assisting at a place that teaches yoga and meditation in the mountains? Then try putting in keywords such as "olive harvesting, "ski resort," "vineyard," or "yoga" along with selecting the country and region where you wish to go.
Skim through the search results and start creating your list of favorites Add the Workaways that sound interesting to your "Host List." You will need to register to save this list but you will not need to pay until you actually wish to message one of the hosts. As you narrow the list down to hosts that really spark your interest, make sure to read their profile thoroughly. This is where you will find details of what the position may entail, what type of accommodation and food you should expect, reviews from other volunteers, and most importantly a description of the host and their background, preferences, needs, lifestyle, and values. When you read a host's profile, you can often get a feel for whether you will be able to relate to them and how you can be of most value to them.
Message the hosts that you are interested in volunteering with Create your profile and contact the host that you want to volunteer with. Registration on the website is free but when you are actually ready to message a host and inquire about being able to volunteer with them, the cost for a Workaway membership is $36 per a single person or $48 per couple for a year.
When you start communicating with a potential host about an opportunity to volunteer, you may also want to set up a phone call or video chat session to get to know them better and ensure that both parties have clear expectations.
Be aware that wherever you travel, you may need a visa or a permit to stay in that area.
For example, most Americans aren't aware that they may only stay in Europe (in particular the 26 countries that make up the Schengen area) for 90 days every 180 days.
If you find a paid Workaway, it is also important to consider the legal implications of working in another country - do your research to ensure that you have the correct visa or work permit before applying for a paid position.
What if the road ahead that you've been afraid to take is even more beautiful than you could imagine in your wildest dreams?
We can experience each moment as a miracle, full of wonder and awe, or we can keep living in our heads with the stories we've been telling ourselves for years. Life is beaming full of possibilities, opportunities, and thousands of new chances to be more joyful, compassionate, kind, and loving each and every day. Could the first ingredient in the recipe for happiness be as simple as shifting our perceptions? ❤SO