Workaway: What it is & Other FAQ:
- First things first, this isn’t an affiliated post, and the thoughts and opinions you read here are all my own, uninfluenced by anyone except maybe Anthea!
People often ask Anthea and I about our current plans, and how we manage to travel as we do. We’ve spoken previously about working online for income as we go, but we often get blank looks whenever we mention our use of the website, www.workaway.info.
We sometimes get people who’ve vaguely heard of the concept, but often they’ve not, and replies range among the following:
‘What on earth is workaway?’
‘What are the benefits of it? Isn’t it just free labour for nothing?’
‘Oh, I’ve heard bad things about that. Is it safe? It sounds dangerous to stay with a stranger.’
So, to help those who are interested and are considering using the website themselves in the future, let me answer a few frequently asked questions.
What is it?
To start at the beginning, workaway is a cultural exchange program in which workers (workawayers) work an agreed amount of time each day/week in exchange for accommodation and sometimes food as well. The great thing about workaway is that there is such a variety of possibilities. This isn’t just working on a farm like WWOOF programs, and the chances are that whatever your skillset, there is somebody somewhere in the world who would benefit from them.
What can I do?
Almost literally whatever you want to do, and many places accept couples or friends together too.
Good with kids? There’s plenty of au-pair/babysitting possibilities in every city around the world.
Good at DIY? Help people design and build their dream homes in exotic jungles or help to build a school or housing for those in less wealthy countries.
Native English Speaker? Any country that isn’t native English speaking has people desperate to either teach them and family members, or to teach at a local school. From Buenos Aires to Madrid, choose your dream location and away you go.
Proficient at designing websites? Good with animals? Wanting a party lifestyle in a hostel? The next Monty Don* in the garden? Happy to get down and dirty doing laundry and cleaning rooms?
You get the idea; Whatever you want to do, there’s likely to be someone, somewhere that needs your help. We’ve both used it to good effect now, and estimate that by the end of May, we’ll have saved ourselves at least between £1700 to £2,000 in accommodation costs going by average Airbnb costs we usually look for (£15-£30), and what’s available in the areas we’ve been (often upwards of £50 a night in Sayulita for example).
*Anthea’s informed me that Alan Titchmarsh isn’t the relevant modern-day gardening guru anymore. Sad times indeed.
How many hours a week? What’s the accommodation like?
The requested hours for working are usually 3-5 hours a day, 5 days a week. This can obviously vary quite a lot, but personally I don’t think you should ever do more than 25 hours a week. Accommodation can vary from a private room or studio, to shared hostel dorms or even a tree house or tents! Information on accommodation will always be made clear on the listing when you are messaging to contact the host.
Are you not just free labour?
Ideally no, although undoubtedly there are some postings on the site which are aiming to secure just that. Workaway is meant to be a cultural and skills exchange; it’s not just about securing a free place to sleep, it’s meant to give you the opportunity to experience places that you wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to explore, with a local showing you around and teaching you about the culture and the language where required. The work that you do is intended to ‘give back’ to the host in exchange for them giving up a room for free.
Why not just get an Airbnb?
As I mentioned above, there is so much to learn from doing a good workaway placement. You get to see an area at ground level as a local, you get to meet those locals and develop relationships which in turn can lead to other advice and opportunities. Sure, it can be great to have an apartment to ourselves, but by doing this current workaway in Mexico, we’ve met so many incredible people with inspiring stories to tell – as well as being able to get advice from people who’ve already travelled to places we are planning to go to! It can be difficult to meet new people if you are in an area for a short amount of time and renting a whole apartment, whereas workaway placements can often have the opposite problem of so many people passing through.
Is it safe?
It’s easy to forget that the trust has to extend both ways; people are inviting you into their home or place of work and hoping that you don’t destroy or steal anything. There will always be the odd horror story in any walk of life, but I’ve found that the hosts are often people who’ve been travelling themselves and have a very similar outlook on life. As I said though, read the reviews and don’t forget that if you don’t feel safe or comfortable, you can always leave.
Obviously, the same social sensibilities apply; don’t go leaving your laptop alone in a hostel lounge for 30 minutes, wonder why it’s been taken and then blame the workaway placement!
How do I make sure I can get a good workaway placement?
Well, it’s funny you should ask that, as I have another post to answer just that question…