My first experience with workaway

feeding Alpacas

This September, I spent three fantastic weeks in North England as a workaway volunteer. It was the very first time I was using workaway and even though it seemed very promising, I didn’t really know what to expect. So for all of you who are interested in the concept, here is a review of my first experience with workaway:

„A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.“ – Oliver W. Holmes, Jr.

What is workaway?

Workaway.info is a website that enables travellers to volunteer in different places all over the world in exchange for free accommodation and food. As a volunteer you can stay with individuals, families or organisations in exchange for some hours of work per day (usually 3 – 5 hours a day, 5 days a week). The kind of work hosts are looking for ranges from babysitting, help in the house, helping in hostels or B&Bs, animal care, farming or gardening to building and decoration work.

How to travel with workaway

To be able to contact hosts, you first have to register with workaway. The registration fee is 23 € for an individual account and 30 € for a couple account and your account will be valid for two years.

Once you have registered, you can create your own workaway profile. Tell a bit about yourself, your interests and skills, travel dates, where you are travelling to and the kinds of work you are looking for. You can also upload one or more profile pictures or an introductory video.

When you have created your own profile, you’re ready to start looking for hosts. You can search for hosts by country and region, types of work, rating and several more options. When you find a host profile that sounds interesting, you can save it in your host list and even add some personal notes to it.

Once you have found some volunteering opportunities that interest you, it is time to start contacting hosts. Tell the host a bit about yourself, your background, what skills you can offer, why you are traveling and why you want to stay with them.

Most importantly, be patient. When I had send out my first two emails, I was very excited and impatiently checking my inbox every half hour (or every 5 minutes…). I waited one day. Nothing. I waited another day. Still no reply. I kept checking the hosts’ profiles – they had been online today so they MUST have read my message by now – so I SHOUD get a message very soon. I didn’t. After a week or so I slowly gave up hope and started to contact more hosts. And waited again.

In total, I have contacted 21 hosts within a period of three months. Only three hosts replied saying they weren’t interested/not looking for a volunteer anymore. Three hosts said that they were interested but never got back to me afterwards and one host answered when I had already found a place to stay. The other 13 hosts didn’t send any reply at all. Sadly, there seem to be a lot of hosts who don’t take the time to reply to messages or to update their profile. Others seem to send out generic replies to everyone only in order to get a good rating.

I think, waiting and not knowing whether you can start planning your trip or not really was the hardest part of the process but in the end, being patient paid off and I found a great volunteering opportunity.

My workaway experience in England

My first workaway opportunity took me to the Yorkshire Dales National Park in the north of England. It is an absolutely beautiful part of England with green hills, endless fields, rivers, waterfalls and small picturesque villages. It is a very remote area, with interesting wildlife and probably more sheep than people living there.

Beautiful Swaledale
Beautiful Swaledale

Swaledale Sheep

 

Aysgarth Falls
Aysgarth Falls
A wild grouse living in Yorkshire Dales National Park
A wild grouse living in Yorkshire Dales National Park

I was staying in a village in the Swaledale valley. My host, Cath, is owner of a typical English country house which she rents out for holidays. She also has a small farm with sheep, goats and geese and an alpaca trekking business.

Swaledale Village

Alpacas and geeseThere were always plenty of different things to do, so work never got boring. My jobs ranged from helping in the house, paper work and gardening to painting walls, walking the dog, carrying straw bales and helping with the farm animals.

One of my main tasks was helping with changeovers in the holiday house, which means cleaning the house, changing beds and preparing everything for the new guests. When there was nothing to do in the house, I helped working in the garden, weeding the flower beds and raking the grass.

workaway - gardening
Working in the garden

I especially enjoyed helping with the animals, feeding them or taking them from one field to another. After all, it’s not every day you get the chance to feed an alpaca or to clip an angora goat’s fringe. 🙂 We also went on a walk with the alpacas one day, which was great fun.

Angora goats on the farm. The little one is onlyl half a year old.
Angora goats on the farm. The little one is onlyl half a year old.
Workaway - feeding alpacas
Feeding the alpacas

When I had a day of, I went for a walk through the stunning countryside or took a daytrip to some nearby places…. whereas ‘nearby’ could very well mean a two-hours’ drive by car, bus and train. Thankfully, Cath was very helpful with taking me to the next station or picking me up in the evening and even took the time to drive one hour to Pickering just so that I was able to go to Goathland (I will tell you what I did there in another post – stay tuned 😉 ).

Swaledale Walk
One of many beautiful walks through the dale
Exploring the area
Exploring the area

All in all, I had a great time and I will surely try to travel with workaway again in the future. It might be a bit difficult to plan and organise everything, but it is definitely worth the experience. I recommend it to everyone who doesn’t only want to travel as a tourist but really wants to experience what it is like to life in another part of the world.

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31 thoughts on “My first experience with workaway

  1. What a great way to travel! I didn’t know about workaway, but they seem to offer exactly the cultural immersion that I look for, when abroad. The process reminds me of the one I go through to organise a home exchange: it might take time and a bit of patience (I know well the ‚checking emails every 5 minutes‘ feeling!) but the result is more than worth the effort

  2. That is an interesting concept…workaway! Staying with a local is the best way to travel. My daughter lived for two years in Newcastle so I got to tour Northern England, too, when I visited her because I could stay a month at a time. I will look at the site you suggested, and look for some opportunity for a couple.

    1. I think so, too! You get to see and experience things that you wouldn’t as a regular tourist.
      There are lots of opportunities for couples on workaway, you can even register as a couple and share an account. Good luck in finding a host! 🙂

    1. Yes, it is a bit disappointing that people register as a host and then never answer any messages, but then again, there are lots of very active hosts, too, so it’s worth giving it a try.

    1. I’m glad I could inspire you to try workaway yourself. 🙂 There are workaway opportunities almost everywhere in the world, so I’m sure you will find a beautiful place to stay.

  3. First of all, thank you for the quote – I love it!
    Secondly, I never thought I would see alpacas in the UK. I thought they are only found in South America. They look so nice! :))
    Thirdly, I am here with Marta and will reiterate her: what a great way to travel – combining the pleasant with the useful :))
    And lastly – great photos!

  4. Looks like a great experience – sort of like WWOOFing with less hardcore manual labor and more playing with farm animals! Were the other projects you looked at a similar vibe, or is there a big range on the site?

    1. Thanks for your comment, Stephen! There is a wide range of projects listed on the site. There are lots of farm work projects similar to WWOOFing and some hosts specifically say that they are looking for physically strong people. On the other hand, there are lots of hosts looking for people to help with babysitting, house-cleaning, cooking… it really depends on the host and the project.

  5. I had considered Workaway a couple of times but never really applied. Do you think that the fact that you were a newcomer could have affected the answer ratio or is it that some of the hosts aren’t interested no more? Also, how long did it take for you to get an answer?

    Great experience btw

    1. I’d say that being a newcomer and not having any feedback on the site definitely makes it more difficult to find a host. I think most hosts (naturally) prefer to take workawayers who have already got positive feedback from other hosts. Then again, there are also hosts registered who don’t seem to answer anyone. One of the good things about workaway is that hosts get rated by how active they are on the site and by the number of emails they answer, so if someone has a very low rating you can assume that you will probably not get any response. Regarding how long it took to get an answer, that varied from one day to a month later, so you really can’t tell.

      Anyway, I’d say give it a try (but have a backup plan in mind). 🙂

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