What is Workaway?
A Complete Guide to Travel Volunteering with Workaway
Want to know more about Workaway? Want to find ways make your travel more meaningful? On a budget and want to travel long term? Then this is the article for you, where we explain everything you need to know about volunteering abroad with Workaway.
Reti and I quit our jobs, sold everything and booked one way flights to India in the hope of having an epic one year adventure! We let go of our fears, embraced the unknown and ended up having the most epic 1 year long travel experience!
We spent a year travelling through Asia on a super tight budget and Workaway was a platform that help us achieve this. Not only did Workaway enable us to travel for cheaper longer, it also enriched our travel experiences and helped us achieve more meaningful travel.
Although we have had some amazing Workaway experiences, Workaway can come with its challenges. Your Workaway experience could be one of your most treasured travel memories or it could end in tears. This complete guide to travel volunteering with Workaway is here to help you keep those eyes dry and those travel memories epic!
You can see one of our Workaway experiences in our youtube video here:
What is Workaway?
Workaway is a global online platform that connects volunteers with hosts. It’s a simple way for travellers to gain access to thousands of volunteer opportunities from across the globe. It’s how we found our volunteer opportunities while travelling and were able to work in exchange for accommodation and food.
Hosts vary from families, individuals, businesses and nonprofit organisations. Some may say Workaway is similar to Wwoofing, however the main difference is that Workaway expands further than just farm jobs and offers more variety in terms of types of volunteer work.
There are a huge range of Workaway jobs ranging right through from teaching English to design work, gardening, community developement, reception duties, home renovations and the list go's on!
Why we love Workaway and why we recommend it.
Let’s be honest if you’re a budget traveller, a way to get free food and accommodation definitely makes your ears perk up. Workaway really helped us save pennies and allowed us to travel cheaper for longer.
We were hosted with a comfortable bed and three meals a day in exchange for a few hours honest work! Our spending basically halted while we were volunteering and we went weeks without spending a dime.
However, we found the benefits of Workaway reach far beyond just money saving. Workaway allowed us to get off the beaten path and immerse ourselves in local life.
We stayed with locals, ate local food, made local friends, joined in on local activities and learnt local languages. The richness of a Workaway experience gave us memories that will last forever and it can do the same for you!
When we think back to the highlights of our one year abroad, our Workaway experiences always top the list! Some standouts include discovering secret waterfalls, being the first foreigners to visit a remote village, feeding wild elephants and eating homemade traditional food.
As well as offering a rich cultural experience Workaway allows you the opportunity to give back in a meaningful way. We made sure to pick Workaways that aligned with our values and gave back to meaningful projects. This gave our travel a deeper sense of purpose and allowed us to use our skills and knowledge to help local communities grow and flourish.
How Does Workaway Work?
As a volunteer looking for work you would need to sign up for the one year subscription to gain full access to the thousand of hosts and Workaway jobs from around the world. A one year subscription costs $54USD, this price is excellent value if you are planning to do one or more volunteer stints within the year long timeframe. When you consider most volunteer programmes charge thousands, it's a very affordable option.
2. Create a profile
You have signed up, now it's time for you to complete your Workaway profile. Make sure to take the time and effort to complete your profile properly as this is this only information potential hosts will be able to see to get to know you, your profile is basically your Workaway CV.
So sell yourself and your skills and be sure to be creative and unique. One of the most important elements of your profile are the pictures, so make sure you upload a good quality pictures that show off your smile and a bit of your personality. Pictures of you doing something adventurous or practical are always good too!
3. Find your host
Now it’s time to search the massive database and find the hosts that suit you best. With over 18,000 hosts in more than 130 countries, its super fun searching for host, but it can also take a bit of time.
Luckliy Workaway have some great search filters to tailor your search effectively. We recommend searching for hosts at about 1-2 months in advance in-order to give the hosts time to reply. It’s important you read the Workaway profile thoroughly before you apply as there are often some details that might make or break your decision to apply.
Such things might be minimum time requirements, whether food is included, or whether the host is charging for food. More on how to find the perfect host later in this article.
4. Contact your host
You have found the Workaway experience you want to apply for, now it’s time to contact the host through the internal workaway messaging system. Our tip is to never copy and paste a generic message when you email them.
Write a thoughtful and enthusiastic application message that lets them know it’s tailored for them and their volunteer opportunity. Let them know you have read their profile by mentioning something they have written and be sure to tell them why you are wanting to volunteer with them.
5. Keep communication open
If you don’t hear back from the host in a week or so, send them a friendly follow up message. If you do hear back and they can’t host you, be sure to send a thanks to them for their response.
If they are keen to welcome you then be sure to reply and keep communication clear and open so that you can easily organise times, dates and details. Make sure you are responsive and you communicate any changes to your host. This is a great opportunity for you ask loads of questions and understand expectations.
6. Enjoy your Workaway experience
Now it’s time to enjoy your workaway experience! Enjoy connecting with locals and exploring a new place, enjoy giving back and trying delicious foods! However, by now you know that Workaway is not a hotel, and as exciting as Workaway sounds it does involve work.....sometimes hard work. So be prepared to work hard and give back to your host.
7. Write a review
Once you have completed your Workaway Volunteering be sure to leave an honest and fair review. Be detailed when leaving feedback and do be as honest as possible, as your review helps other when choosing their hosts.
How to Pick the best Workaway Experience?
Choosing the right workaway programme and host can really make or break your experience. Making the wrong choice can lead to a myriad of problems including terrible sleeping conditions, unfriendly hosts and bad working conditions. To ensure this doesn't happen to you, be sure to follow our tips on how to pick the best best Workaway experience.
Are you wanting a meaningful project or just a free bed? Can you rough it or would you rather your usual comforts? These are all the types of questions you need to answer honestly before jumping into a volunteer opportunity.
We once volunteered at an orphanage in India with very basic sleeping arrangements and limited food available, but for us we were prepared for it and we were happy to adapt. In the end we had an incredible experience, but roughing in this way isn't for everyone, so make sure you are honest with yourself when selecting your volunteer opportunity.
2. Read the Workaway reviews
Have a read through the reviews and consider them before you approach your host. Many travellers are hesitant to leave overly negative reviews as the reviewing system is two way. But you can look for hidden messages from other travellers and read between the lines a bit and pick up on subtle hints.
If the reviews are all glowing and positive you probably have found a good one! If there are a few neutral reviews, then perhaps move on or be sure to message the host with some specific questions to try and get a better feel for the situation.
As a general rule of thumb, we only apply with hosts who have more than 3 positive reviews and this hasn’t failed us yet. However some new hosts may have zero reviews so if you find a volunteer programme that seems perfect don’t let the lack of reviews turn you off completely. Message the host with your questions to get a feel for the host, if it seems like a great fit then by all means it could be worth taking a leap of faith, every host needs their first volunteer!
3. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions
Be sure to ask any burning question you may have and make the most of your opportunity to suss out your host and learn more about the Workaway. This is your chance to decide if the volunteering is right for you, so don’t be afraid to ask away.
Some questions we have asked:
How to be the Best Workawayer?
Being a good Workaway volunteer is all about the time and energy you give back to your host. Work hard, be kind and stay positive. It’s also about managing your own expectations to ensure you get the best out the experience.
Don’t go expecting things to be a certain way, keep your expectations to a minimum and things will almost always pleasantly surprise you. The old saying rings true, go in with an open mind and leave with a full heart.
It can also be a good idea to ask your host if you need to bring anything, this shows you care about the project and shows a sense of gratitude to your host. We took some vegetable seeds to one Workaway for their community garden and some second hand laptops for some the children to another.
So there you have it, our complete guide to travel volunteering with Workaway. We hope we answered all your questions, if not leave us a comment below, we will be happy to help!
Cheers, Native Travellers
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