Volunteering work is one of the best things I did last year. The demand for volunteering work increased over the past years. At many known organizations, you pay a fee over a thousand dollars to work for a couple of weeks. Workaway.info gave me the opportunity to do volunteering work without spending an enormous amount of money. Meanwhile, I have done seven volunteering projects. In this post, I will talk about what Workaway is, my experience and the downside.
What is Workaway?
Workaway is a collection of volunteer projects across the world. From working in hostels, farms, being a yoga instructor, till giving English classes to children. Workaway has at the moment more than 20.000 projects in 155 countries. Even countries like Pakistan or Madagascar are participating. On average, you work around 5 hours a day and 5 days a week, but that can differ at every host. In exchange, you receive food and accommodation. Unfortunately, Workaway became a bit more expensive over the last years. At the moment, you have an account for one year for 29 dollars. This is a bit expensive, but when you are using your account a lot, it will be worth the money.
Workaway is a great way to save travel costs when you are doing long term traveling. At some places, you can even get a small compensation. However, to save travel expenses shouldn’t be the only reason to start using Workaway. On their website, they describe their vision as: “Building a sharing community of global travelers who genuinely want to see the world while contributing to the places they visit.” What I like about Workaway is: while I work, I am learning about the country and the people, and at the same time also meeting with fellow travelers. Learning a new language or gaining work experience are also reasons to start doing volunteering work.
My Workaway experiences
The first time that I used Workaway was two years ago. I found an ecological tourism farm in the south of Turkey where I worked for five weeks. During my one year lasting world trip, I wanted to do volunteering work again. The main reason was to get to know the countries which I planned to visit better. The second reason was to have a place to stay for a while because full-time traveling can get exhausting at some point. And the last reason was to save money.
The first hostel where I worked was in Wadi Musa, Jordan. Or how most people know it: Petra. I worked there for three weeks for the English woman Gail who is married to a Jordanian. I was responsible for breakfast, simple cleaning and tidying tasks. While the work was not that exciting, and Wadi Musa is actually a boring city, I had a good time. The surroundings around Petra are stunning! Almost every day, I went out with Gail and her friend to let their dogs out. It was almost unreal that they let their dogs out in such a beautiful nature phenomenon. Also, the Jordanian Bakr who worked for the hostel, and his cousin Ali were kind people who I went out with a couple of times. As far as I know, the hostel closed because of financial reasons. Many hostels and hotels are closing in Wadi Musa due to the decrease of tourists.
The second hostel where I ended up was in Ramallah, Palestine (the West Bank). Working in Ramallah was one of the most interesting experiences of my travel journey. The hostel’s name is: Hostel in Ramallah and the proud owners are the two brothers Bubu and Chris. The purpose of the hostel is to show travelers how Palestine is like. That it is not only a country in conflict but a country with a rich culture and history. At the beginning, I was welcomed by the brothers with open arms. I was responsible for the reception, breakfast and to keep the hostel tidy. It differed each day what I was doing. The hostel is mostly managed by volunteers. I worked in Ramallah for two months, and during my free days I had enough time to discover the remaining parts of Palestine and Israel. The hostel also organizes tours which some I participated in. Look for more information on their website and Workaway.
From Tel Aviv, I arrived at the other side of the world in Bangkok. In Bangkok, I worked for three weeks in Siam Journey Guesthouse. It was the easiest job I ever had. I worked only four hours a day and four days a week where I checked people in and out or cleaned beds. Therefore, I only received accommodation in return, no food. Because of the hostel, I fell in love with Bangkok since the hostel was not in the tourist area. The hostel is located in a residential neighborhood which gave me the feeling like I was within the Bangkok Thai life. It was a small and friendly hostel where I met nice travelers. In the food street nearby, I had my food corners where I was greeted with a happy “Sawatdee Ka” (Hello). The only thing which I found disappointing is that the Thai owners were not much involved with the hostel. I am not sure if Siam Journey is still working together with Workaway.
My last destination of my world trip was Vietnam. I found an idyllic looking place on Cát Bà island in the north of Vietnam not far from Hanoi. The hostel where I volunteered name is: Woodstock Beach Camp. The name already spoils it: a hippie hostel. A hostel for free spirits, and where guests who booked for two nights in the first place, stay for two weeks. This hostel is also mostly managed by volunteers. I was responsible for reception work. Every night, we organized a family dinner and later the evening we opened the bar across the street. And if we were lucky, the plankton would light up in the sea during the evenings. A magical place on a beautiful island and a great group of volunteers. Despite that the relationship with the Vietnamese staff was a bit troublesome at the begging, they also have a place in my heart, and I learned a lot from them. Look here for their Workaway.
The Downside of Workaway
The disadvantage of Workaway is that you never really know what to expect. This is applicable for both workawayers and hosts. The descriptions and pictures of projects can be inaccurate. Also, reviews can not always be trustworthy because some workawayers are afraid to leave bad reviews (because there is also a chance that your host leaves a bad review as well). Furthermore, there are some reports of people who chose to leave a bad review which Workaway didn’t accept on their website.
Of all seven volunteer projects I did, I only had one bad experience. It was my first host of my world trip in the capital city of Jordan: Amman. I worked there for one week in a guesthouse. Actually, at the beginning, everything was fine. It was a nice guesthouse, the work was okay, and the guesthouse is located in a good part of Amman. The owner of the guesthouse was the problem. One day during breakfast, I did something wrong according to him. Instead of solving problems, he got angry at me and told me that I am not doing any work and doing everything wrong. I tried to talk with him, but there was no possibility. I did everything wrong and he did everything correctly. Pretty upset I left but was happy quickly when Gail welcomed me in Wadi Musa two days later.
A couple of tips
- Read a volunteer advertisement carefully. Is it written in proper English? Professional? Do you know what to expect?
- Make clear agreements with your hosts. How many hours will you work? What will you receive in return? What will be your tasks?
- Read the reviews underneath the page of the host’s advertisement
- With a hostel/hotel, company or organization: look for them on the internet
- Arrange a Skype conversation with your host for additional confirmation.
At the end, the website workaway.info helped me a lot during my travel. Despite the downside, there are many beautiful projects available on the website which can give you great experiences. My time of traveling stopped for now. But when I will start traveling again, Workaway will be on my side.
Want to read more about affordable traveling? Continue reading:
For more information look on workaway.info
This post is also available in: Nederlands