I mentioned in a previous blog post that volunteering abroad can be a cost-effective and enriching way to see another part of the world. The Internet has made the world a smaller place, and it allows many to give back in ways that weren’t possible before. You may be curious how it all works and possibly interested in doing it yourself. I’m here to break it all down for you!
Workaway is an online platform that allows volunteers to find opportunities in virtually any part of the world in exchange for accommodations and meals. The types of opportunities available range from language teaching to carpentry. Typically volunteers will work a normal work week for 3-5 hours a day. Many hosts are individuals, families or volunteer-based organizations who want to learn from others and/or give back to the volunteer community. Workaway currently offers annual membership for individual volunteers (39 USD) and for couples (51 USD), while hosts are granted free membership.
Now for the real question, is traveling the world worth volunteering your time?
My short answer is yes, but it’s more complex than that.
There are advantages and disadvantages of Workaway and volunteering abroad in general. I prefer to end this on a positive note so I’ll begin with the disadvantages!
Anybody can host. Literally anybody. I would recommend doing your due diligence when looking for your next opportunity. Only spend time on profiles with 5+ recommendations and read through them to get an idea of what the experience was like. Ask as many questions as you feel necessary! You will be leaving home to give your time and services to your potential host so they should answer any and everything! Ask questions about the responsibilities, their expectations, meals and the accommodations that will be provided. Depending on their responses to your questions and the feedback they have, decide whether or not you are comfortable with the arrangements. Trust your gut feeling and be skeptical! If it sounds too good to be true, it is!
Hosts can back out, and so can you! This is a disadvantage for both parties. As we all know, emergencies happen but sometimes people just don’t hold their end of a bargain. Since you’re a savvy traveler, you will have a backup plan! Arrange another opportunity should your experience end abruptly or if your host is unreachable. It sounds awful but these things do happen! I would also recommend locating the nearest hostel, hotel and/or embassy in addition to buying travel insurance in any case.
There is also the potential that the experience does not meet your expectations. In this case, I would recommend, reminding yourself what you wanted to get out of the experience. If the work is hard, meet the challenge with open arms. If you have feelings of uneasiness or safety concerns you have the freedom to leave. You are in no way obligated to volunteer your time or compromise your safety. Do what feels best to you.
Now for the good part, the advantages!
Workaway connects people who would not have met otherwise. Many people who volunteer together become lifelong friends due to the bonding experience of something new. Some have even met their lifelong partners! How cool is that!
Staying with a local helps integrate you into the local culture easier. Not only is Workaway cost effective it can be a more personal experience because you have time to bond with a family and/or organization. Odds are you’ll end up working with other local people, pick up the language and begin to live just as they do.
If Workaway is something you’d be interested in, why not let your imagination run free? Head over to their website and look at the many opportunities available. If you have any experience with Workaway or anything similar feel free to leave a comment about your time. What did you like about it? What did you dislike about it?
Until next time,
The Pint Sized Traveler