Work and travel around the world!
Working in exchange for food and accommodation is a way of travel that is getting more popular every year. By travelling this way you’ll get to know hosts in foreign countries, and experience more of the local life than the average tourist. You’ll also save plenty of money, making long term travelling more realistic.
Today I’ll share a few things to keep in mind when planning your next work exchange adventure!
#1 | Don’t expect a free ride
Some travellers unfortunately expect to live for free while giving little to nothing in return. Working in exchange for food and accommodation can be rough, many people hosting travellers live without electricity, and expect 4+ hours of work per day to be done.
Many hosts are also interested in learning about foreign cultures, and meeting new friends. So try to open up and don’t be too shy.
#2 | Use an online platform
While it’s possible to google up hosts yourself, using an online platform will save you a lot of time:
Today there’s a few platforms around:
- Hippohelp – Free and map based (disclosure: I’m the creator).
- WWOOF – Specialises in organic farming, not free.
- Workaway – Similar to Hippohelp and boasts more hosts, but are not free.
A great comparison of the most popular platforms around can be found here:
#3 | Understand why the host are looking for volunteers
Some hosts are only looking for free workers and nothing more. While this is totally okay if both the traveller and host are on the same page from start there’s unfortunately not too uncommon that travellers feel abused by their hosts, this seems to be extra common when the host is the manager of a hostel.
If your host are going to treat you as nothing more than a number, and only wants to hire you because he/she doesn’t want to pay for employees, then there’s a high risk that you won’t have a good work exchange experience.
You’ll also miss out on all the other benefits that comes with work exchanging, such as befriending the host and exchanging skills.
#4 | Don’t give up!
Since many hosts are people living alternative ways without internet and electricity they don’t always have easy access to computers.
They can also get quite busy managing a farm, keeping after animals, taking care of guests, or managing current volunteers.
So when these hosts finally get the time to sit down in front of a PC they might be overwhelmed with messages and unable to reply to them all.
So don’t be too upset if you only get a few replies on all your messages, just keep trying and you’ll eventually succeed!
#5 | Don’t overbook yourself
Since you have to send multiple requests before getting a host willing to take you it’s easy to accidentally book yourself on two locations at the same time.
To avoid this, always make it clear that you’re checking for availability only, when searching for hosts.
#6 | Make everything clear from the start
When you’ve found a host that sounds like something for you make sure that you’ve talked everything through before booking a stay, preferably using a video call service like Skype.
A few questions to ask might include:
- How many people live in your home?
- How many people have you hosted before?
- Am I allowed to use the kitchen?
- Are there any safety precautions I should take before my stay?
#7 | Safety first!
Safety should always be a top priority when travelling. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when work exchanging:
– Always look for what other users have written about your host before booking a stay. If there’s no reviews then ask the host if reviews can be found anywhere else on the internet.
– Make sure to understand the cultural codes and rules of the country you’re travelling to.
– Always have a backup plan. What happens if you don’t have cell phone coverage, or if the host suddenly changes arrangements?
– Always let your close ones know your travel route, and where you’ll be staying.
Also, spend some time to get to know the host when you finally meet him/her in person. If anything makes you uncomfortable, be sure to bring it up in a friendly fashion.
A bit about Leopold
Leopold is the creator of the work and travel platform Hippohelp.com. He lives in China with his wife, and develops the platform when he’s not busy growing delicious carrots and other vegetables.