Recently while backpacking in Europe, I tried a unique experience of working as an au-pair with a couple of hosts by using a website called workaway.info — a work/exchange volunteer type of program, with projects from all over the world.
The drill is… as a workawayer, you get to stay in a place for weeks or even months without having to spend anything on your food and stay. Workaway is perfect for people who want to stay a long time in a certain place for free. But there is more to it than just staying for free. I found workaaway a better way of travelling because you can stay with your host like a family (particularly if you attend someone as an au-pair) and doing so you get a chance to learn about the place you’re travelling to. As a tourist you can never have such an experience.
My workaway experience in Rome and Germany showed me a local way of life. As an au-pair, I had a chance to live in a German countryside village and learn horse-riding, before making it to Rome and staying with a Roman family, and exploring Rome like a local.
And if I talk about money it saved for me, in Rome alone, where it otherwise costs backpackers at least 20 euros a night for a hostel and 15 euros a day for food. Over my two-week stay, that meant a total savings of at least 500 euros.
Joining Up Workaway
I had joined workaway for a modest fee of 25 euros using free wifi in a cafe in Northeast India. This is the way it works: You start by creating an account. All you have to do is sign-up, pay the fee for one year ($29 for a single person, $38 for a couple or two friends), and create a profile and description about yourself and what you offer. Once you have signed up, you can start contacting businesses or local hosts based on countries, cities, and/or type of work. The general gist in each location is that you get a room and board in exchange for 5 hours work a day.
Each host profile will tell you about the host, and the kind of work they expect you (the workawayer) to help them with. Read it carefully and ask for accommodation and job details, weekly routine, and food arrangements before you commit.
So if you’re planning to travel the world, on a long term, without wanting to spend much, and getting maximum learning, hospitality networks like Workaway can help you in a big way. There are people across the world who have been doing this. I have myself met a few such people during my travels, who told me they have covered so many countries workaway-ing around. You can moreover Google such stories too.
Other Similar Platforms
There is a number of similar websites offering a different work-exchange prospect. WWOOF for example, is another popular platform, that matches people looking for work on farms with farmers who are looking for labour. And it works pretty much similar to Workaway, with some differences though — the biggest of which, is the kind of work you do, which is limited to working in organic and farms.
If, however, you are only looking for only free accommodation and are also on a short hop-on-hop-off trip, then I’d personally recommend Couchsurfing — an online (free) directory of local hosts willing to offer a free place to stay, to passing travellers. I’ve personally tried couchsurfing while travelling in Europe for 3 nights in Zurich, and it was a great experience.
Other than Couchsurfing, Workaway and WWOOF, here’s a very precise list on Guardian about top 10 hospitality network sites in the world. But for someone from India, whose passport doesn’t offer much movement across the world, I cannot guarantee how useful the other plaforms can be.
As an Indian nomad or a long term traveller with Indian passport in hand, I’ve personally tried Couchsurfing and Workawaying, and can recommend only these two.
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