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?
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.