* When I say ‘lunch’, this actually means: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a bed to sleep in

Do you know about Workaway , Helpx , and Wwoofing? If not.. then prepare for your mind to be blown people! Well mine was anyway..

So take a deep breath, and then picture yourself….

…Soaking up the sunshine in the beautiful surroundings of the Whitsundays in tropical Queensland, Australia. Living in (and ok sometimes cleaning, for a max of 15 hours a week) a holiday cabin, with inclusive food, use of a pool for cooling off, completed by daily visits from lorikeets, kookaburras, and even an occasional kangaroo sighting? It was so good we stayed for 6 weeks!

…exploring the UNESCO heritage sights of historic Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia. Whilst assisting (and yes that does include eating too!) at an authentic Malaysian cooking class. In your off time , hiking to nearby Monkey beach at Penang National Park, or indulging in all manner of culinary delights at the food markets, all for a pittance..

… in the rolling green hills of the Northland, New Zealand. Working on an avocado farm; gardening,  (yeah ok so there’s a fair bit of weeding), doing odd jobs, cooking, eating, and did I mention there’s also a pool? Along with the requisite sunshine and abundant free food fresh from the land…

..living with a Cambodian family in a traditional village, teaching children English, eating traditional foods alongside the family, and gaining insights into the daily life of people who are different, (but really not that different) from yourself…

…living in the midst of the Australian rainforest for a week, experiencing a totally different way of life; eating only raw vegan foods (in essence fruits, vegetables and salads, and no hot drinks!), and helping to reclaim rainforest, at a raw vegan retreat centre inclusive of as much fresh tropical fruits as you can eat!

And for what financial cost? Zero. See – I told you, there is such a thing as a free “cough” (in exchange for a few hours of your time) ‘lunch’*!

Want to know more about our workaway experiences? See Work exchange experiences so far…..

Dessert too?

Well yes, you do get your ‘just desert’ too, (see what I did there 😉 ?) In all the many other benefits,  too many to count. But I’ll try to summarise…

  • Learning new skills, knowledge, ideas and philosophies of life
  • Realising and consolidating the skills you already had and putting them to good use
  • Making new friends from all over the world
  • Living alongside people of a diverse range of nationalities, ages, personalities, experiences, spiritualities
  • Seeing and living in beautiful landscapes
  • Picking, cooking and eating food fresh from the land
  • Sleeping like a baby! (after all of that time and energy spent outdoors)
  • Feeling part of a community of like-minded people and working towards one aim
  • Sharing your own unique strengths, making a small difference
  • Eating foods you never even knew existed.. lemon flavoured custard apple anyone?
  • Getting fitter, healthier and more aware of what you put in your body on a daily basis

Too good to be true?

Under the work exchange principle, you, ‘the Workawayer’ contribute approximately 5 hours a day (usually less and occasionally more) of your time and energy. In return you receive, from the Workaway ‘host’, free accommodation and food. Nine times out of ten we had our own bedroom, and sometimes even a whole apartment or cabin to ourselves! You can read the information provided with each host online and opt for what setup you feel best suits you.

Following the work exchange principle, everyone is gaining relatively equally, or at least happily. There are no shareholders or fat cats gaining, except maybe the pet cats that get extra love and attention with all the Workawayers who come through!

From my experience, the focus is not on profit but upon sharing and mutual gains. Yes, there can be some economic gains for the host (e.g. not employing casual staff when needed or freeing themselves up more time, therefore not paying to employ a cleaner etc.) However, there is a significant difference between this being a part of the deal versus it being the sole motivation.

Out of the 10 Workaways we’ve done to date, we’ve had only one somewhat negative experience. Part of the discomfort for us, alongside some other issues, was the host’s motivation. It appeared to us, to be almost solely on profit, and what they could gain from Workawayers. Not a mutual exchange. I must emphasise this was by far the exception, with all of our other hosts being generous, kind, and embracing of the ‘mutual exchange’ spirit of Workaway.

It’s might not be for everyone though…

I want to shout from the rooftops about the work exchange idea, and have everyone I know and love, benefit! Both as hosts and as Workawayers. What’s not to gain, right?

Well, it seems the common answer people give (and that has included me) for not travelling is financial; and Workaway significantly reduces this obstacle. You still need a small amount of money for personal items. Such as to travel in between Workaways,  and for any luxuries and gifts of course. But the amount required really does depend on you as a person, and it’s amazing what you can give up and soon forget about (for me this has been new clothes, make up, expensive phone contracts, eating out in restaurants etc.)

However, in the same way that hosts need to enter into the exchange for more than just financial gain, this is also the case for Workawayers. I think entering the exchange with an open, adaptable, but also assertive and honest attitude, can be the difference between a more or less successful exchange. Respecting your host, whilst also respecting and knowing yourself, and the extent to which you will compromise, is essential for avoiding any resentments building and ensuring you look back on your experience and smile.

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Thanks to all of our Workaway hosts who have had such a positive impact on our journey, and future journeying 🙂