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I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about how I’m funding my travels so I thought I’d address the biggest way that I’m able to travel longer for less: Workaway.info.

What is Workaway?

In their own words, “Workaway.info is a site set up to promote fair exchange between budget travelers, language learners or culture seekers and families, individuals or organizations who are looking for help with a range of varied and interesting activities. A few hours honest help per day in exchange for food and accommodation and an opportunity to learn about the local lifestyle and community, with friendly hosts in varying situations and surroundings.”

It costs €22 for a 2 year membership. You set up a profile highlighting your skills, personality, where you want to travel to and the things you’re interested in learning. From there you are able to contact hosts (or have them contact you) from all over the world.

So, why travel through Workaway?

1. Save money

Let’s start with the most obvious benefit. I have saved an enormous amount of money not having to pay for meals or accommodation. Sure, there are budget hostels but even €10-15 a night adds up. Not to mention food and drinks. I tend to succumb to peer pressure more easily when I stay in hostels, which leads to more drinking and more money spent.

Hill of Tara

Searching for the ancient hill of Tara

2. Get to know the local culture

There is no better way to really immerse yourself in a destination’s culture than to travel slowly and get involved in the community. You learn about different lifestyles in a way that you never could spending only a day or two walking around taking photos. The hosts that I’ve stayed with have been amazing, showing me around the area & teaching me the stories, politics, and historical significance of different places. It’s like having a personal tour guide that doesn’t cost a thing.

3. Make lasting connections

Anyone who’s stayed in a hostel knows the deal. You drink with your new “best friends” during happy hour, vow to stay in touch, and then never talk to each other again except for the occasional Facebook update. When you live with people for weeks, you really get to know what makes them tick, not just how long they’ve been on the road or how many countries they’ve been to. I have been lucky enough to enjoy quite a few late night, wine-fueled conversations about life, relationships, dreams & love. I will definitely keep in contact with my hosts, and I hope to visit some of them again some day.

4. Learn new skills (and brush up on old ones)

Some hosts require certain experience, especially if you will be helping with a specific technical project. However, in most cases all you need is a positive attitude and a willingness to learn. Even though I had never tried stand up paddleboarding, because of my background in various water sports I was contacted to help out with a new paddleboarding business on a beautiful Greek island for a month. Not only can you learn totally new skills, it’s a great chance to develop a talent you may not have used in years.

Mandie Paddleboarding

Learning to stand up paddleboard

5. Experience life in someone else’s shoes

It’s always a good idea to step out of your own life every now and then. It gives you a fresh perspective and helps you appreciate things you may have taken for granted (like your own bathroom!) You might learn something about a different way of life that you’d like to incorporate into your own when returning home. For example, my host in Greece is a professionally trained chef. I never thought vegetarian cooking would appeal to me but I have learned some delicious new recipes that I can’t wait to try out at home. Camping out on top of a mountain has been simply incredible, but I will never again underestimate the sheer paradise of a comfortable bed.

6. Discover the unexpected value of your own talents

I’ve always been bad about undervaluing myself. I will promote the hell out of anyone else, but when it comes to tooting my own horn I’m pretty meek. In America it feels like every third person is a “web designer.” I’m pretty sure there are 12 year-olds who can code these days. Things that I take for granted like knowing how to use social media or simple Photoshop techniques are wildly sought-after in other parts of the world. I’ve also been editing the English on flyers and web pages, which is something that I never even thought of as a particular skill. Getting to help people in so many ways has made me realize how much I have to offer. It has given me so much more confidence in myself and my abilities.

7. Help out great causes

Few things are more rewarding than the feeling that you’ve truly made a difference in someone’s life. Whether it’s working in an organic garden or getting a start-up business off the ground, your help matters. When I was working in my corporate job I felt empty and soulless. I hated the way that the company didn’t really care about their customers; it was all about the bottom line. Nothing feels good about making money for a company like that. But helping someone research and document stories about their lineage? Or helping a man who’s dream is to build a business that allows him to spend more time with his daughter? Yeah, these are causes I can get behind. There are thousands of opportunities to use your unique skill set to help out with something worthwhile.

8. Discover your passions

If you’re anything like me, your attention span goes a little like “ooh, this sounds awesome, I’d be really good at this, wow, I’d love to learn that, maybe I could try this, yep, I’m totally going back to school to study this, right after I do this-SQUIRREL!” While learning so many new and different things, you might surprise yourself and discover something that you keep going back to again and again. For me, that something has been building websites. Every time I get to put together a site for someone I get to experience the joy of creating something new; of expressing that person’s voice and vision in a way they might not have been able to. Even though it’s a similar process every time, each project is something totally different which allows me to fully indulge my ADD. 🙂

9. Learn a new language

The best way to learn any new language is to be immersed in it. Even someone as thick-headed as myself when it comes to languages will be able to speak a few simple phrases after living in an area for awhile. The good thing is that most people don’t care that your accent is terrible and you’re mispronouncing half the things you’re trying to say. They care that you’re trying. It took me about a week before I got brave enough to try some Greek phrases (I had never spoken a word of Greek before) but now it’s becoming easy to greet someone with “yassas” or “kali̱méra.”

10. Stay on the road longer

Traveling slowly is such a great way to travel. When you’re not spending money on meals & accommodation you can afford to travel so much further! My main expense has been transportation, and so far I’ve managed to get cheap bus tickets or pick up €20 Ryanair flights. Yes, traveling around Europe in the summer can be expensive, but with Workaway you can see much more for less.

Sunset tour in Skopelos

Helping out with a sunset tour in Skopelos, Greece

There are a few other sites that you can use to volunteer in exchange for room and board. Two other popular options are HelpX, which is similar to Workaway, and WWOOF, where the focus is primarily on organic farming. I chose Workaway over HelpX simply because I found it a little more user-friendly, and while I think WWOOF is a fantastic cause, personally I don’t have much interest in organic farming or gardening. I don’t think I’d be much use to anyone because I can’t tell a plant from a weed. Also, there is no global WWOOF signup. You have to pay to join each country’s organization, and that can get pricey for someone looking to backpack around, like me. I like the fact that you can really do anything you want through Workaway, and the emphasis is on a cultural exchange.

Learn more about Workaway.info here.

Have you ever traveled through a volunteer program? What was your experience like?

Author

Mandie

Mandie is a writer, rebel & web design junkie. In her spare time she enjoys drinking wine, traveling & working on her perpetually unfinished novel. She was a nerd before it was cool.

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Comments

  1. Ashley @ A Southern Gypsy    

    Great reasons to use Workaway – this is something I plan on using as well as WWOOF and HelpX 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      I just signed up for HelpX as well, because it seems to be really popular in Europe and people have told me it’s the best way to get festival work. I really want to bartend a festival. 🙂 Let me know how your WWOOF-ing goes! I’m too afraid that I would kill someone’s garden with my black thumb. Lol

  2. Sally    

    Lovely article! I’m using HelpX at the moment and with every bullet point, I was thinking YEP YEP YEP. I don’t think I’ll ever travel the same. Faced with planning this trip over again, I’d have chosen 5-8 different placements throughout Europe instead of just 2 and doing the rest backpacker style… it really is a dream!

    I have one more to add: it takes you to locations you may not have visited otherwise. I’m in Albania because of HelpX and have very much fallen in love with the country, a place I’d never have thought to visit otherwise. I love work for accommodation!

    1. Mandie    

      YES!! So true! It definitely takes you to unexpected places. And I agree with you, I wish I had planned for more, but I do think it’s nice to take a few days’ break in between placements to just be lazy and have some me time. 🙂

  3. Chris    

    Hi Mandie,

    We loved your article about Workaway and would love to republish it on the official Workaway blog, let us know if you are OK with that and if so tell us what you’d like us to say about you/your site. Really glad that the site has helped you to travel and discover interesting people & places.

    Chris
    http://www.workaway.info

    1. Mandie    

      Hey Chris, that would be totally fine! I’ll shoot you an email with my author bio. 🙂

  4. Rob McNelis    

    Never heard of workaway before. Definitely going to check it out.

    P.S. Im always looking for new growth tactics to feature on my site. Would be curious to hear more about your strategy. hit me up sometime.

    Rob

  5. Tammy Chrzan    

    It was great reading about workaway!! I have never heard of it but have done much research on wwoofing. I wanted to work away this summer but every single farm that I contacted was completely booked by the spring time, I only applied in England as I found out quickly about each country having their own wwoof site and it not being world wide. So I will look into workaway and helpx now… I really appreciate you blogging about this. I will be volunteering with my children in tow and though they are older, it does limit what I can do and for whom I can do it for… but wwoof is one of those things I can do as many farmers allow families or moms with kids. I plan to work one more year here in the States and then I will take a year sabbatical to travel with my 2 kids and work my way around Europe! I travel a lot as it is, which I will calm down this year to save extra money, but I do have an idea of what life overseas is like.
    Anyway… that’s me rambling on… so nice to meet you and I look forward to following you on twitter and instagram now!
    Tammy x

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks for this awesome comment! We appreciate “rambling” around here! 🙂 Definitely look into Workaway. What I love about it is that there are so many different opportunities, not just farming. I think it’s AWESOME that you are bringing your kids to have that kind of experience. So many people use kids as an excuse not to travel, and while it may be more difficult, it really opens up the world to them in such a great way! Tons of postings on Workaway are looking for help in teaching their kids English and might be open to your whole family coming. I think you will definitely find opportunities!

  6. Kyle    

    Workaway sounds like a pretty good deal! Kind of like Couchsurfer but for travel jobs.

  7. Mary Ellen    

    I joined Workaway & Help-X at the same time and stayed with several hosts since April but they have all been with Help-X. Not sure why I’m more successful with that site rather than Workaway. So I think if one plans to travel often you do need to join both groups. I find both Workaway & Help-X both user-friendly. Help-X seems to have more hosts so perhaps that’s why I have not been as successful with this site.

    1. Mandie    

      I think in the European countries more people seem to be familiar with HelpX, where as most Americans know Workaway. Both are great resources!!

  8. Hanna    

    Nice blog and great article about Workaway! I’m dreaming of going to Italy in September/October and spend about three months there and Workaway seems like a fantastic opportunity to get to know the country better. I wanted to ask you (if that’s ok) if you think it’s difficult to find something available in such short notice and if you planned with the hosts long in advance of your stay?

    1. Mandie    

      Hi Hanna! I think, since you’re traveling in the shoulder season (wise choice) that you may still be able to find hosts with a shorter notice. You can actually filter by ‘last minute hosts’ as well, letting you search for people who need help immediately. I planned one of my experiences a few months in advance but the other one was only decided on last minute, so it just depends. Hope that helps and good luck! 🙂

      1. Hanna    

        Thank you so much Mandie! I’ve now signed up so let the adventures begin!

  9. Wesley Travels    

    That’s so cool I never heard about this before.. I am going to try it.. I think it would be a great experience

  10. Alwin    

    Hi Mandie,

    I really like your article. We as a family of four are listed as hosts on helpx and workaway.
    We started several years (2007) with couchsurfing and ended now on these two platforms.
    In my opinion workaway is growing much faster than helpx. This summer we got much more requests on workaway than on helpx.
    It is also interesting to see where the requests are from. This summer we had really many requests from Spain (bad economy) and from Asia (more freedom to travel).
    If you are open for new adventures and to see how the locals really live you should try this kind of travelling….

  11. nia    

    I agree with you on all the points. But I’m still choosing between workaway and helpx. Thanks for the wonderful article 🙂

    1. Michael    

      Helpx is the best. I’ve tried both workaway and helpx and helpx is much better, better quality of hosts, the website is better, workaway is tough to navigate, the people (admin) team of workaway are also difficult to talk to, as my friend was charged twice on her credit card, also helpx since is less expensive, more hosts and overall a better quality experience.

  12. Javier Bejerman    

    Hey, Great article!
    I’m travelling with my gf next winter, where should we go? What do u recommend us? Also I’d really like to know where did u go and what did u do.
    Thanks for the help!

  13. Maria Khan    

    Hi!
    I’ll be using Workaway in Europe soon, and I was wondering how much cash you usually keep on hand? How much of your own money do you tend to spend and how long does your initial amount last you, on average?
    Thanks,
    Maria

  14. Hazel Despain    

    I LOVE Workaway. Such an amazing way to travel, it’s surprising how many people don’t know about it! Great article, really enjoyed reading it! 🙂 we have our own little blog, so it’s fun reading yours and seeing how successful it is. :)!

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