Travel for Pennies on the Dollar with Workaway

Workaway is the website that let me live in Ukraine for two and a half months, learn Russian, and spend about $400 in all. The concept is similar to Couchsurfing, except that you stay with your host longer, food may be included, and you’re expected to volunteer a certain number of hours every week. The best feature of Workaway is that you can find a host in most countries. For example, a quick search shows the number of hosts in some of the countries I’d like to visit,

  • Sweden – 304
  • Norway – 324
  • France – 3,088
  • Japan – 148
  • India – 418

Of course you might not get your first choice due to scheduling or a bad fit, but if you send out enough messages there’s a high chance you’ll find somewhere to stay. When I was looking for a host in Kiev there were only 8 choices and I was able to find a great place.

How Much Money Can you Save? 

A lot.. Especially if you’re traveling in an expensive country like Britain, Switzerland or Norway. In these countries a hostel can cost upwards of $50 a night, especially if you book it last minute. By staying with a Workaway host you can save all that money as accommodations are free. In some cases, not always, food is also included.

Is it Safe? 

In a majority of situations you’ll be staying in a group setting like a family or some kind of community, rarely will a host be living by themselves. Also, plenty of hosts will have multiple Workaway volunteers at the same time, giving you an even greater assurance of safety. Finally, you can read reviews left by past volunteers and (I believe?) even contact these past volunteers if you have specific questions. So I believe that it’s a very safe way to travel. In some situations it may even be the safest option because you’ll be living with a host who can tell you about local scams or unsavory areas.

How Hard is the Work? 

Every situation is unique. I talked to someone building a hostel in the jungle of Thailand. That would have been hot, hard work. On the other hand, in Ukraine all I had to do was teach an hour long English lesson every day. Ideally you volunteer with a host where the work is to you’re liking and so it’s no big deal. For example, I’ve talked about volunteering in hostels. Sometimes they’ll want you to do grunt work, but other times hostels want a native English speaker to check guests into their rooms or drink beer and take everyone out to the bar. Seriously, your volunteer work is to drink free beer and be social..

Is it Tough to Get My First Volunteering Job? 

When you sign up it can be harder to get your first volunteering position because you have no feedback. Any host who has been on Workaway long enough has had a problem with a volunteer at some point and all of them are eager to avoid that again. Some tips that can help you if you’re new.

  • Bring in feedback from other websites like Couchsurfing or Airbnb. In your profile mention that you’re new but you’ve had positive experiences in other places and then copy and past that feedback. Works like a charm.
  • Write a longer description. Hosts read these and they’re interested to learn more about you. Take an hour to write up a nice profile complete with good grammar and spelling. It shows attention to detail and that matters.
  • Personalize your message when you write a host. Tell them why you would be a good fit, what experience you have that will be helpful and why you’d like to stay with them. This takes more time than spam messaging half a dozen hosts but the rewards are worth it. You’re probably going to spend several weeks or a month with this host, it’s worth doing it right.

I really encourage you to check out Workaway. You can browse all of the available experiences for free and if you want to take the next step and write a host, a yearly membership costs $29. Have you had a positive Workaway experience in the past? Leave a comment below and share it with everyone else!

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