A couple weeks ago, a friend in London introduced me to Workaway. Why didn’t I find this amazing site earlier? I’ve already arrived at my first Workaway project.
Workaway is a website which lists over 12,000 hosts around the world who are offering places to stay in exchange for volunteering. What type of help? Every type imaginable. Anything from training horses to building castles, teaching English to au pair. In exchange, you get lodging and some or all your meals. The bed could be anything from a cot in an unrenovated house, to a room in a spectacular B&B while you help care for other tourists and travelers. And the food…? Well!
For about $25, or $35 for a couple, you can sign up and start looking for hosts. Or you can simply post your profile and have hosts come looking for you. You simply select the countries you want to volunteer in and watch the offers come rolling in. Finding a place to volunteer at is extremely easy. Between the invitations that you will get as soon as you sign up, and your own requests to people and places you want to go to, you will have plenty of opportunities to choose from. In fact, that’s been the hardest part for me – choosing where to go next. Within two weeks of signing up I’ve had nearly a dozen offers from host all over Europe to come volunteer for them.
But the best part is since you are only volunteering about 25 hours a week (usually 3-5 hours, 5 days a week), that leaves the rest of the week, and usually the weekend, to explore or do whatever you want to do. For example, my host in Belgium is driving up to the Netherlands this weekend to couch surf. So I’m bumming a ride with her, finding another host for a couch and finally getting to explore the country my ancestors left half a century ago. Windmills and tulips, here I come!
Here’s what I’ve lined up so far:
Yesterday, I arrived at my first host in Brussels, Belgium. In a fantastic location just outside the city (with an actual castle behind the house), I am helping a wonderful lady and her daughter with all kinds of help around the house. She has a 200-year-old Tibetan trunk she wants to be reinforced, which I did for her today. I’ve cooked, helped with the laundry, cleaned the house, done the dishes and helped with her daughter. Altogether, it was only a few hours of assistance today and the rest of the day I was able to spend exercising, working on my TEFL certificate, writing in my blog and recuperating from my whirlwind, two-week tour through the UK. I have a room to myself and all the amenities of a full house. What I’ve actually enjoyed the most is cooking for her yesterday and today. She is vegetarian, and thus I am honing my meatless culinary skills. Yesterday was a savory cauliflower and mushroom curry, and today was scalloped potatoes. Both were great hits with her and her daughter. I’m finding that the vegetarian diet can be quite filling. Not that I’ll stick to it in the future…too many succulent street-food dishes awaiting me in my travels.
Then at the beginning of March, I head to the remote town of Touzac, high in the mountains of southwest France along the Le Lot river. The job description is: “Work will consist of various tasks from cleaning, to gardening and some hard landscaping, i.e; laying pathways, rendering retaining walls and some painting.” Just last month I was helping with laying paths and rendering retaining walls in Portland, Oregon, so I am quite suited for this job. Not to mention the thousands of hours of experience I have painting. And the location, well the photo here speaks for itself. Yeah, that estate with the pool in it…that’s where I will be staying next month for two weeks!
Then it’s off for two weeks to La Spezia, a port city halfway between Genoa and Pisa in Italy. Once again, general work in a gorgeous location. And lots of boating! And it’s Italy! The hardest part of this job is going to be deciding where to go on the weekends between the dozens of towns in Italy I’ve been dying to visit. Will it be Milan, Florence, Rome, Naples, Venice, Verona, Genoa, Parma, Pisa, Naples, Palermo, Turin…? Aarggg!
After that I have a host booked in Warsaw, Poland. The work needed? Teach English. That’s it. And I’ll have plenty of time to finish my TEFL certificate before I arrive, not that I will need it. Being an English speaker is all the qualification I need on WorkAway. In exchange, I’ll get to learn a little Italian and Polish. Oh, and did I mention they also have horses they need me to help take care of and ride?
After that, I have no idea. I have a potential booking for the number one hostel on the Isle of Skye in the summer. I plan to do that, not just to visit my namesake, but because I’ve been dreaming of running through the Scottish Highlands since Braveheart came out 20 years ago. And the pictures I’ve seen of the island are breathtaking. I also want to visit Scandinavia, Iceland, Spain…but why go on? I want to visit every country. And if I can’t find one to volunteer in, I can find another close by and take a weekend excursion.
CouchSurfing.com will always be my favorite way to visit a new city. But it’s a little difficult to find a new place to stay every couple of days. So now I use couch surfing for my weekend excursions or other short trips, and fill in the gaps with two-week volunteer jobs. My feet are already much happier, and you will probably be happier too with the additional content I will be able to add to my blog with my extra free time.
Now that I have started using it myself, I recommend WorkAway to every traveler I meet, and especially to non-travelers, i.e. future travelers. WorkAway actually makes long-term travel possible on a budget. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends, get introduced to new cultures and best of all, exchange some help to hosts for their wonderful assistance.
If you are simply in need of some help around your homestead, or want some help embarking on a new or incomplete project, I would definitely recommend putting up your own offer on WorkAway and hosting travelers yourself. If you feel any trepidation against this, feel free to read my post on Travelers Are Awesome!
Ps: Please note that the site is WorkAway.info, not .com or .org or any other extension.
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