First off, If you’re unsure what Workaway is, start here first and then come back… I’ll wait.
Ready? Ok, great!
In my prior post I spoke about what workaway is and how it works, but there are obviously many variables as to what accounts for a ‘good’ workaway placement. We are currently in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico at a guesthouse workaway placement and feel like we have really struck gold. We work up to 3 hours in the morning, Monday to Friday, in exchange for accommodation and use of all the facilities. Our days are often working 9-12 before I go for a swim in the pool and read my kindle while floating on a rubber ring. We then have time to our own work online in the afternoon before having dinner and relaxing/going out for food in the evening. When done right, workaway can be a truly fulfilling experience, and we are meeting some amazing people along the way.
Our work is quite basic and easy, usually just cleaning the rooms or areas we share such as the kitchen, and sometimes there are other projects that our host asks us to help with. Come 12pm, and often earlier, we are finished and have free reign to seize the day as we wish, as mentioned above.
So, what makes a good workaway host, and how can you be a good ‘workawayer’? These are some of the basic principles which, although they seem simple, can often be overlooked or forgotten.
Choosing the right Workaway for both you and your host
Now, this should be obvious, but bear with me. When looking for a workaway placement, in my mind you should be looking for three things;
Where do you want to do a workaway placement?
If you don’t like cold temperatures, then maybe don’t go to Finland in the winter. Once you’ve chosen your location, make sure it’s somewhere you can get to. Don’t arrange a trip in Japan, but then realise you can’t afford the flight prices, or you can’t get a visa to enter a country such as the USA. Do your research on the country first, and make sure that, most importantly, you can get there, and secondly, that you will have things to do in your free time.
2. What type of work are you willing to do?
This is important, as you don’t want to be waking up depressed every morning, knowing you have to do work that you hate! If you don’t like children, don’t apply for a workaway with children, even if it’s in a location you really like. The host will always put on their listing the type of work they are requiring help with. It will help no one if you’re evidently hating the work you’re doing, or alternatively, if you’re not physically able to do the work requested. I couldn’t do a job that required someone with knowledge of horses and the ability to ride. If you’re being asked to clean rooms, expect to clean toilets, and if you’re not ok with that then you could either contact the host for more information (see point 2) or don’t apply and look for something else that suits your requirements. It’s good to be picky about what you’re going to do as you want something you can enjoy and put your full energy into!
3. How long can you workaway for?
Often you will see workaway hosts requesting that people stay for a minimum amount of time, whether it be two weeks or six months. Respect this. If you can’t commit to the minimum time then don’t apply, even if you really like the look of the placement. It’s not fair on the host, who then has to train someone new to continue the job you’ve now left. On the flip side, maybe they would be happy if you went for a pre-agreed shorter time frame with the possibility to extend if both parties agree.
So, these are three quite important aspects to take in to consideration before you even contact a potential host. They may seem obvious, but nonetheless, I feel they are three important unwritten rules that are worth sticking to.
Communication is key
So, you’ve found your dream workaway placement and they are showing that they have available space on their profile. This next point is not just important at the start when arranging a placement, but throughout the whole arrangement. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your host if you are ever unsure about anything or have any concerns. This is meant to be an enjoyable and beneficial agreement for both parties. Where possible, I would recommend that you try to arrange a rough working schedule, obviously with some flexibility when necessary, before starting. This can avoid any confusion about working times between you both, and in turn avoid any underlying tension or potential disagreements further down the line.
Another important point to remember about communication – don’t forget that the language that you are using might not be the native tongue for your host; yet even if it is, sometimes there can be communication errors. For example, Anthea and I were asked by our friends at the guesthouse if we wanted to have dinner with them there that night – great! We arranged to eat at ‘half six’, and then thought nothing further of it for the afternoon. At 17:40, we were told our dinner was going cold and to hurry up downstairs. Our initial confusion was rectified when we realised our error – in England, we refer to 6:30 as ‘half six’, whereas our Turkish friend thought that ‘half six’ meant ‘half to six’ – i.e. 5:30!
An innocent and fairly innocuous misunderstanding, but you can see how the ramifications could be worse if this meant that you missed a train, a collection time, or were late to start work on the first day!
Having a clear and open communication with your host can save many problems further down the road. Even if you might feel a bit uncomfortable to speak about your concern at the start, it will only get worse, and potentially turn to resentment, if you sit and say nothing. Anthea and I both stated to our currents hosts that we are quite open and honest, and asked that they be the same with us. If they have any problems with anything to just tell us how to change and improve, rather than say nothing or, maybe worse, just try to make subtle hints; one half of this travelling relationship (*cough* not me *cough*) doesn’t pick up subtle hints very well at all! Thankfully, our current hosts are two very laid back, open and direct Germans who we work amazingly well with (we think…)!
Read the reviews on the Workaway website
They’re there for a reason folks, so make use of them. Reading the reviews of other workawayers can give you a good sense of the work type and schedule that you would be expected to complete, as well as giving you a sense of the personality of the host themselves. Maybe they prefer to keep themselves to themselves after the work time is finished, or maybe they like to take you out and about to show you the local attractions.
The reviews can give you a good scope of what potentially lays ahead, and you might read things that you want to ask the host about – ‘Is the hot water fixed? Are there still noisy neighbours? Do they have any pets?’ Etc.
Stay safe, be prepared, and be respectful
Finally, and maybe the most important of all, is that you must always feel safe and secure. Don’t use workaway as a last gasp attempt to keep travelling because you can’t afford even one night anywhere else. You should always keep some money aside so that if there’s any problems such as not being able to contact the host or find the hosts location, or worst-case scenario, you just don’t feel safe alone with another workawayer or the host, you can always go and get a room somewhere last minute at a hostel, hotel or Airbnb.
Give someone the address and contact number of where you are staying, and vice versa give an emergency contact number to your host, so if there are any accidents or emergencies, someone else knows how to contact you or someone for you. Similarly, make sure you note the address and number of local services, such as a doctor’s surgery and hospital.
Last of all, this person is inviting you into their home and/or place of work. Respect it as such and treat it as you would your own – unless you live like a stereotype student, obviously! Helping with small tasks, even outside of your agreed ‘work hours’ can make a huge difference. Emptying a bin, refilling water, washing up or vacuuming a room for example, are all small tasks that will mean a lot to the host, and really help establish a rapport and relationship. Go that extra mile for them, and you’ll get it back in return, I promise.
Hopefully this has answered some questions you may have had, or maybe even some you didn’t realise you were going to ask. Above all, remember that workaway offers a fantastic opportunity that will more likely than not result in you creating fantastic memories and building friendships for life, so enjoy it!
Have you ever done a Workaway? Would you consider doing one? Tell us in the comments below….