Recently while travelling in Europe and Australia, 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 any money on your food and stay. Workaway is perfect for people who want to stay a long time at a certain place for free. But there is more to it than just staying for free. I found workaway 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 by doing so you get a chance to learn about their culture more closely and much better about the place you’re travelling to. As a tourist, you can never have such experiences.
My workaway experience in Rome and Germany (the first time I experienced workawaying) showed me a local way of life. As an au-pair, I had a chance to live in a German countryside while staying with a family of four inside their house. And since they ran a horse farm, and one of my primary duties was to look after their horses I also got a few horse-riding lessons and learned a bit about how horses behave and function. Later, while travelling in Rome and staying with a Roman family, I explored Rome like a local. A few months later, and while travelling in Australia, I used workaway for staying with a local Australian family who ran an Observatory, a couple of hours away from Perth. Not only did the experience helped me explore an offbeat location in Western Australia, but I also found my fascination for Astrophotography And Stargazing.
[Read More About My Workaway Experiences: Staying With A Roman Family | Getting Horse Riding Lessons In Germany | Finding My Love For Astrophotography And Stargazing In Western Australia]
And if I talk about the money it saved for me, in Rome alone, where it otherwise costs backpackers at least 30 euros a night for the cheapest dormitory and 30 euros a day for food. Over my two-week stay, I ended up saving more than 800 euros, forget all the wine I got to drink every night.
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 how 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 write a description about yourself — including your skills and the kind of jobs you’re looking for. 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 of 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 have only been travelling using such networks while saving 100% on their food and accommodation — all they pay for is transportation and flights to get from one country to the other.
Other Similar Platforms
There are a number of similar websites offering a different work-exchange prospect. WWOOF for example is a popular platform, that matches people looking for work on farms with farmers. And it works pretty much similar to Workaway.
If, however, you are only looking for free accommodation and are going to move between places very frequently I can personally recommend using 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 platforms can be.
As an Indian nomad and a long-term traveller with a weak Indian passport in hand, I’ve personally tried Couchsurfing and Workawaying alone and can recommend the two to travel the world without spending much money, any day.
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