So Workaway in Europe has been on your mind, eh? Let me guess, you were wondering, “what’s the cheapest way to travel and take that trip of a lifetime to beautiful places for epic adventures?” The answer work in exchange for room and board by doing a work exchange through Workaway. But there are plenty of places around the world to do Workaway, Europe might just be your ideal first place to start as it was mine. In this article I’ll give you many tips for getting started if this is your first time, but keep reading until the end of the article if you want to get my top tips for surviving your first Workaway.
Last year when I was planning a trip to Europe, I wanted to create a really unique experience where I was also giving back to communities where I traveled. However, I’ve found that many volunteer programs are expensive, but some how I stumbled across WorkAway. I was stoked to find a better, cheaper option.
While you’re planning your epic adventure, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:
1.) Remember you can leave
If you arrive and it’s not what you expected, then split. For example, a friend of mine went to a Workaway in France expecting to photograph a woman’s art. When she arrived, she found out the artwork belonged to the woman’s dead husband and that she wanted her to help her move. She split.
2.) Maintain your boundaries
I purposefully didn’t choose any Workaways that involved childcare because I didn’t want a round-the-clock job. With other experiences, once we were done, we were done whereas if you’re caring for someone else’s kid the lines are blurred.
3.) Make friends
Meeting new people from around the world is one of the best parts of the Workaway experience, but some hosts only allow one person at a time. Make sure you clarify this before you arrive. I tried both dynamics — at one Workaway I was alone and at another I was surrounded with people all the time. I loved both experiences.
4.) Intuitively read listing reviews
When going through the reviews on each hosts’ profile, read through the lines. Most people on Workaway leave positive or neutral reviews, so it can be hard to know what an experience is actually like. However…
There’s a BIG difference between a review that’s multiple paragraphs long about how “life-changing” the experience was AND the review that says, “they were great hosts thanks so much.”
The more vague, the more likely the experience wasn’t that great. I tried to go only for Workaways that had RAVE reviews.
5.) Bring clothes intended for work
Some places provide work essentials like gloves or aprons, but just having clothes you don’t mind getting dirty is a good rule of thumb.
6.) Ask if the host accepts people with your dietary restrictions
Some hosts cater to food allergies and some don’t. Make sure to ask about that before you arrive.
7.) Stay at least two weeks
The first week feels like you’re just learning the ropes and breaking the ice, the second week after you get beyond initial barriers … that’s when the magic happens. Deeper conversations take place. New destinations are explored. It might sound crazy as a traveler to stay longer than a few days in one place, but it’s totally worth it. When I stayed almost a month somewhere it literally felt like I lived a lifetime in one week because the circumstances changed so much … I’m now so glad I gifted myself that.
Helpful questions to ask prospective hosts:
What will my sleeping quarters be like? Have you ever had an issue with fleas or bed bugs?
Are you currently hosting other Workawayers who will be present when I arrive? If so, how many?
What type of public transport is available in the area?
How do I get to the Workaway, will someone be picking me up?
Clarify responsibilities if they aren’t clear on the page, especially for the time of year.
Is there anything specific I should bring with me?
Well, now that I removed all the mystery and ruined all the surprises you can feel at peace staying at home instead of going. Joking. If you’re planning your trip and need any advice let me know! I also wrote this helpful post on a few interesting work exchanges around the world to get you inspired.