Tips that make the difference between a great and not so great work exchange experience

Dear trav­eler. Con­grat­u­la­tions for decid­ing to do all that takes to see the world. If that means work for board and meals, I think it will surely pay off.

I have put together some tips, I wish I had read before start­ing a work exchange pro­gram.  Do not worry. Chances are you will still have a won­der­ful work exchange expe­ri­ence with­out read­ing this post. But for those 0,1 % odds, I wish that you will.

So, you have found a work exchange site that suits your wishes, decided on the loca­tion, but have a hard time decid­ing which offers are bet­ter than oth­ers.

Here is a way…

1. Decide what work you want to do

There are mul­ti­ple options to choose from.  From clean­ing, babysit­ting, con­struc­tion work etc to social media mar­ket­ing, pro­gram­ming, horse whis­perer – the choice is all yours. But the dif­fer­ence between these types of jobs, is the effort phisy­cal or intel­lec­tual you put in.  Make sure you are ready for the ride.

2.  Pay attention to the number of hours you are expected to work

Some hosts say 20 hrs per week, some 30. It is one thing to work 4 hrs a day and another to do 6, right. Some adds have shifts start­ing at 7.00 am, espe­cially in hos­tels, where recep­tion work is needed. Also, make sure they made a note about free week­ends, or 2 days per week free which is the norm.

3. See how far you are from the next city and how connected you are to the world

Is the loca­tion you found a dream, but remote from the next village/city? Check the pub­lic trans­port and make sure you have con­nec­tions. You want to go and explore the area, not to be stuck in the mid­dle of nowhere after fin­ish­ing work. You came to explore, not only vol­un­teer in exchange for board and meals. If you do not find good pub­lic con­nec­tion, dis­cuss with your host before accept­ing the offer. Ask them if they can give you a rot­ten car, a moped or if they can drive you to the places you want to see. I have arrived in Greece, and stayed one week with­out a car, in a remote place, away from all the beauty. I was bit­ing my nails, and thoughts of walk­ing 35 km in the sun, struck me. All I wanted was to go and see the beauty I came to see. Same will hap­pen to you.

4. Where you will sleep

Will it be a sin­gle room, a shared one or a dorm with 11 beds? Is it a car­a­van, or a room in a guest­house. You alone set the lim­its to which you want to share your pri­vate space. Are you ready to sleep in a dorm with 10 strangers? I was not. I do not care if the bath­room is shared, but I wouldn’t want to share my space with more than 1 per­son.

5. Read the reviews other volunteers left about your host

By read­ing the reviews you will get the big pic­ture. You will under­stand if the host is com­mu­nica­tive, friendly and if the oth­ers felt good with them. Read also what  the hosts said. Some­times, spicy con­flicts can be read between the lines. Pay atten­tion to the Excel­lent drop­ping to Good …there might be all the details you need in there.

On work­away, there is an option to also write a mes­sage in pri­vate to the vol­un­teers who wrote the review. Use it if you like.

6. Get clear instructions about how you find the place for the first time

Ask your host to give you the exact loca­tion (street, no.)  and point of inter­est which are near, in case your nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem faints or your bat­tery does. Make sure you write every­thing down on paper and have it close.

If you need a pick up from air­pory, train sta­tion – arrange it in advance.

7. Ask for a phone number

Once the host con­firmed you can come, ask for a phone num­ber. They might get lost in daily life and for­get about your arrival and not respond­ing to emails. It hap­pened to me.  Imag­ine you are in Rome, hav­ing to fly to your host in Sardegna in 2 days and they dont reply to emails. They might have taken some days off, off the beaten track with­out sig­nal. Do you get on that plane with­out know­ing some­one waits for you on an island?

8. Skype

If you stay longer, have a skype meet­ing with the host to see if the energies match. They might seem nice in the pic­tures, but they might not be your cup of tea. Or you might not be theirs. Save your­self the has­sle of com­ing back after 2 days. Ask any ques­tions you might have. In the end, it has to be a win-win sit­u­a­tion. You do not want to waste your money to get to a place you won’t feel good in. And your host does not want you to come and leave the next day.

Use­ful maybe:  about work exchange sites – here, my work exchange expe­ri­ence – here



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