More often than not whilst travelling, you hear somebody preaching about “the real” parts of the country in which you’re in; in other words, the parts of the country that are off the beaten track. Whilst we personally believe that being on the tourist/backpacker track is enriching in terms of meeting new people and doing the main activities the country has to offer, we do also like to drop off the map from time to time. Each country we visit has so much to offer us in terms of sights, food and lifestyle, that it’s almost daylight robbery! But, now we’ve found a way to give something back through the website ‘workaway.info’.
WHAT IS WORKAWAY?
Simply put, ‘workaway’ is a website filled with advertisements for all sorts of different types of voluntary work, in a country of your choosing. With a vast database of unique and rewarding volunteering availabilities, we were almost spoiled for choice! From teaching to building and babysitting to gardening, it has endless opportunities available for willing people.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
As volunteers, the standard agreement is that you are given food and accommodation in exchange for a set number of hours per week; the unique nature of each project applies also to the amount of work and responsibilities you have. For example, one project could ask for one week only of 2 hours per day, whereas another could require a minimum of 3 weeks and 5 hours a day of work. It’s entirely unique and incredibly flexible; once you pay the minimal joining fee of $29USD, you are able to get in contact with the hosts to discuss and finalise your details. These days, so many wonderful volunteering projects expect a hefty fee, so this is an economic way to do a good deed!
OUR WORKAWAY EXPERIENCE
As we had a little extra time in Thailand, we decided to take the opportunity to give something back to a community. We wanted a laborious type of volunteering, and with a few quick strokes we found the perfect place for us; a future holistic centre in need of tiling. Our hosts replied quickly and happily, and arranged to pick us up on the day we specified – and so began our adventure!
We were expected to work 5 hours a day 5 days a week in exchange for accommodation and three meals a day. Obviously, it was no 5-star accommodation, but we’re used to roughing it a little; we were given a room with a makeshift bed and plug sockets – all we needed! Our project was based inside little dome rooms, which would be turned into bedrooms and meditation rooms in the future. The curious design of these houses had the villagers calling them “watermelons”!
Our job in the day was to mosaic tile a future bathrooms; our hosts showed us how to make the cement ‘mud’, the right amount to add to each piece, how to break the tiles safely and how to clip them into a suitable shape for the design. Who knew mosaicking was so complicated? Still, it was a very relaxing atmosphere and a therapeutic task. With music playing and our focus peaked, the hours and days passed easily. Art really is therapy! We really loved our mosaic experience, particularly seeing the progress!
Although we were required to have 5 hours of work a day, the way we managed that was very flexible. Aside from the responsibility of watering the orchard at specific times (for the centre hopes to be semi self-sustained food-wise) we were free to work whenever. Usually, we did 3 hours in the morning and two after lunch, but this was entirely up to us.
Mealtime was a very interesting experience, and often amusing. A lady in the village cooked our lunch and dinner, with a repetitive menu of rice and a varying array of vegetables. Did you know that you could cook cucumber? We certainly didn’t! While not particularly appealing, the hosts had a shopping list laying around for any extra necessities. And, luckily for us, breakfast was rice-free (except on days when the excessive rice leftovers were turned into ‘mango sticky rice’ – no joke!) and consisted of fruit, cereal, the occasional pancakes and eggs! Yum! As travellers, it’s nice to not have to worry about making your own meals all the time!
Of course, depending on what volunteering project you choose, you may not be alone! We worked alongside around 5-10 different workawayers of all different nationalities and ages, and made budding friendships with our fellow workers! It’s amazing how many wonderful people we met, all who had no problem adjusting to the lifestyle and making us feel welcome. Many of them even stayed for 4 weeks at the site, and many had been doing workaway projects across the globe! Evenings and mealtimes were spent talking and exchanging stories from all over the world!
WHY DO WORKAWAY?
- Free volunteering: most days, volunteering requires donations and money that many of us simply don’t have! But with workaway, you can do a good deed for free (minus the initial, miniscule fee!)
- Meet new people for longer: you make so many friends whilst travelling, but workaway offers you the chance to stay in the same place for longer – so you can meet people for more than a night or two! When you find the people that you really click with, you can even journey on with them!
- A break from travelling: it’s the chance to settle down for a week or two in the same spot, air out your bag and get a little routine going! Sometimes, it’s nice to have a laundry basket instead of a ‘dirty clothes bag’!
- It’s entirely flexible: there’s no binding contract here; if you find that your volunteering isn’t to your liking, you can leave without a fuss! On the flipside, if you find that you love where you are, you can extend your stay!
- A wide variety: the website is easy to navigate and offers thousands of volunteering opportunities that range vastly. It’s like an encyclopaedia for volunteering!
We loved our workaway experience, and are taking new skills, memories and friends with us as we continue our journey! Share your workaway stories with us!