What is workaway?
Workaway works on the simple premise; “will work for food and shelter”. In this case, typically you as the guest works for 6 hours, 5 days a week in exchange for your host suppling a bed to sleep in and some tasty meals.
The twist is this work is not zzzz yawn worthy. You can work doing whatever! For example, I have used workaway to work on a llama farm in Yorkshire, a yoga retreat in Andalucia, teach children in the barrios of Nicaragua and work as a bartender/tour guide in a hostel in Guatemala. The possibilities are literally endless.
The idea is that you are coming to this person/business with something to offer. Maybe you are excellent at online marketing, maybe you freelance as a yoga teacher, maybe you can speak another language, or maybe you’re just good with children. Either way you can exchange these skills for your stay.
Exceptions- (some workaways (typically in more developing countries) wont offer food with their stay package due to the cost on them. However, typically in these countries food prices are pretty minimal anyway.)
How do you use workaway?
With workaway you pay 36 euros for an one year membership. With this membership you then have to create your profile,which you use to apply to as many jobs as you want. Your profile is your chance to sell yourself so putting on some friendly photos of yourself, your previous work experience, your skills and a little bit about yourself is all really helpful!
You can search for jobs either via area, keywords or both. So if you know, for example, that you want to work in a hostel in Buenos Aires it is a really quick and easy way of narrowing down your options. (I would personally only go with hosts that have previous feedback for safety reasons.)
Much like a normal job you apply via a message to the person/business saying why you would like to do this job and why you think you are suitable for the position. Then you just have to wait for all the new opportunities to come rolling in.
(Most profiles ask for a minumum stay of one month, and though there are many jobs that will take you for less time, I would really consider extending your staff to a month to open up the most opportunities)
Why use Workaway?
1) Workaway saves money
The most obvious reason to use workaway is that it saves you money when travelling. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if you cut cost of your hostel and food from your travels you can spend about half the amount of money! Using workaway as a service is especially useful in destinations where maybe it would ordinarily be too expensive to go to, as then you are only paying for your transport and leisure activities. I’ve met people who have travelled round the globe doing workaway after workaway and it really does work!
(Obviously there is the upfront cost of the membership, but if you compare this 36 Euros this to a couple of nights in a hostel you can start earning your money back pretty quickly)
2) Workaway provides new learning experiences
Because you are not getting paid in a literal sense (though some jobs provide payment via cash tips e.g bar work) you can gain work experience in areas you normally would not be qualified for (think like an internship). For example, say you are fascinated with off-the-grid living, but you know absolutely nothing in reality about it, volunteering to work in a off-the-grid project is fantastic way to learn all you can about it idea first hand without needing any prior knowledge to take part in the experience. Workaway doesn’t just have to be for fun, but it can also help in terms of getting your foot in the door for a future career you would love to do. Putting your work experience on your CV can be really advantageous. So be ambitious and why not try something new, it might be the key to your future!
3)You can meet some incredible people
Meeting new and interesting people has always been on of my favourite parts of travelling and this for me is the focus of workaway. What better way to connect with a local community in a non-touristy way than to work in it! Getting the opportunity to talk to someone who is living an entirely different life from you is a fantastic opportunity for growth and learning. Or maybe that person is living your dream life! Why not use Workaway as an opportunity to meet mentors who can advice you on the path to the rest of your life.
Furthermore, I’ve always found that if I want to settle in an area for a little longer when I workaway it makes it really easy to find a community to settle into. Afterall, you already know everyone you work and live with from day one, so you can only build up from this.
4) There are loads of once in a lifetime opportunities
Some of the jobs on workaway are literally once in a lifetime opportunities. If you want to learn how to huskey dog sled- you can do that, want to live on an island and eat fruit all day- you can do that, if you want to work in an ashram and live your hippy fantasy- you can do that too! There truly is something for everyone, the world is literally your oyster.
The one downside of using workaway is that the people can sometimes be a bit flaky. I had a job I was going to do in a hostel in Antigua, Guatemala. I had applied a month or so prior and everything was looking gravy. I had stopped off in Cuba along the way (with obviously limited internet) so I was only checking my emails once a day. Anyway, the day before I was due to fly out to Guatemala I looked on my workaway and the hostel told me that they could no longer take me for reasons they previously did not know about. Cue the panic of now not having anywhere to stay and nothing to do for a month in Guatemala alone! And having to reorganize all of this in a public park with very limited wifi in Cuba within a day! (Also a dog nearly weed on me but this did unusually commence a very helpful conversation with a Cuban dude so silver linings I suppose!)
In the end…
I booked a hostel for a week in the city, which gave me enough time to find something once I was actually in Antigua. I ended up in an even better job and had a fantastic time so everything really does happen for a reason, but I can’t say in that moment in Cuba I was overjoyed! For that reason I would always have a back-up plan for these type of things, just in case it falls through for whatever reason, or maybe you just don’t like it. I was lucky I had found a job in a massive city where there were lots of other opportunitiesm, in comparison to finding myself in a tiny village stuck with no job and nowhere to stay.
A secret tip between you and me…
During this whole Guatemalan hostel kafuffle I ended up finding my new job not through workaway but just by contacting hostels directly. As I travelled round on the weekends and stayed at different hostels I got offered a job at every single one when I said I was currently working at a hostel. So the tip here is that if you are looking to work in a hostel, and you seem decent, most hostels will be willing to take you on, they just need to know you are interested first (and potentially this can be a quicker and easier route than going through workaway).
My top workaway tips-
Be a nice, normal person-
At the end of the day, someone is opening their home/business to you which takes a large amount of trust, so really the most important thing you can be is nice, trustworthy and normal. Make sure you show these human aspects of yourself on your profile or when talking to people. This honestly will sell you more than anything
Trust other’s reviews-
As travelers other peoples reviews on things are worth their weight in gold. If someone has left a comment that seems a bit odd to you, trust it. If people are raving about something- trust it. We are all in the same boat here so put faith in other’s advice.
Be clear and honest about what you want to get from the experience
If you are only thinking about staying for one month then say. Don’t pretend and say you’ll stay half a year- it doesn’t benefit anyone. People will appreciate it more if you are upfront about your travel plans because it means they can plan around you accordingly. Remember it is not just about you, the hosts have businesses and homes to run also.
Just because it is not a traditional job doesn’t mean you don’t have to sell yourself. Maybe you are excellent at making films and there would be a exciting press opportunity at the job, but they will never know you can do it if you don’t say. Who knows what exciting opportunities lie ahead!
Last minute often works better
The best success rate I got from workaway is when I applied within a month or two of arriving in the destination. This approach obviously doesn’t work fantastically if you have expensive last-minute flights to catch, but if you happen to be around the area anyway this seems to be the way to go!
Sometimes things just go wrong. The best thing you can do is ride the wave in whatever way you feel the universe taking you. If you hate it or feel uncomfortable don’t stay- your safety is worth more than anything, and your intuition is there for a reason so trust it! Because of this- always have a backup plan! Write down the email addresses or company names of other places you would be interested in working in, look at local accommodation to see what is available and check out transportation options just in case plans change.
I hope this has helped in your workway journey and you have as much fun doing it as I have over the years,
Want some more travel inspiration… check out some photos
Want to know more about Ramblings… click here
For more backpacking tips… click here