During Uni I sometimes wondered if I had made the wrong decision by not taking a gap year beforehand. I knew travelling was for me, but I had no idea how I was going to do it. Thankfully, not long after graduating, I found an online platform called Workaway, which I am really keen to spread the word about. Without Workaway, I certainly wouldn’t have had the same experiences and opportunities over the past year or so. Having now realised the vast array of options available to me, I am glad I got the serious studying out of the way first because with a degree behind me, I felt a little more confident and prepared to push myself and start adventuring!
So, for any of you who are in a similar situation, just hold on, focus on the hard stuff first and, trust me, there’s always an alternative if the typical post-graduate academic or career options aren’t for you. My plan is quite frankly to avoid all of that ‘real-life adult stuff’ for as long as possible!
Workaway is an online community designed to facilitate global travel and cultural exchange. It feels like a different level of travel altogether to me; much more meaningful and worthwhile than typical surface-level tourism. The platform allows you to search for hosts all over the world and the principle behind the exchange is that you offer your help (max 25 hours per week) in return for accommodation, food and, of course, free time for exploring the area.
The types of hosts you can find on Workaway are so varied that there is undeniably something for everyone: family homes; busy hostels; animal rescue shelters; old buildings in need of restoration; working farm environments… the opportunities are seriously endless. And I think this is what makes Workaway special; you are in no way limited. You can use already-developed skills to help others as you wish, or you can opt for something a bit out of your comfort zone, learn some new skills and really help make productive change.
Of course, every Host is different, but my experiences have all been undoubtedly positive – in fact, sitting searching for new Hosts to visit is always so exciting, it just makes me want to pack my rucksack and set off again immediately! For students like us, the opportunity to save money on accommodation and food in return for offering our skills, or simply learning new ones, is surely a no-brainer? Personally, Workaway has been perfect in allowing me to travel, explore, meet interesting, inspiring people and to really engage with local lifestyles and cultures in numerous countries. Travelling with Workaway is simply unique – it is so rewarding to be involved in mutually beneficial exchanges and really contribute something to the beautiful places you choose to visit.
Admittedly, my plans this year were rather majorly affected by the Coronavirus (a 2 week stop in Austria has somehow become months long! But the flexible nature of Workaway and the direct contact you have with hosts makes unexpected things like this as straightforward as possible to deal with. In fact, this flexibility is a key thing when it comes to travel – I have learned this already after some narrow misses with transport and other obstacles! It’s all about patience and going with the flow. I would always advise that, although it’s easy to get carried away planning and planning more trips, remember to enjoy the moment you’re in – appreciate where you are and what you are doing right now before rushing onto the next thing. There’s time for it all, even after studying – don’t worry! And with Workaway, the opportunities are so endless that it’s always possible to find a balance and truly make the most of what you’re doing. My advice is simply to go for it – and have fun!
Meanwhile, here’s a little insight into my first Workaway experience in Karlsruhe, Germany:
Although short trips are enjoyable, staying somewhere for longer is so beneficial in terms of making a deeper emotional connection and properly engaging with local life and culture. five months in Germany really made it feel like home and I can’t wait to go back again.
Living with two young boys was perfect for my language practice, but also simply great fun; being patient and giving them time to really get to know me was important, but by the end of my stay it was so hard to say goodbye. We had such an exciting time together; every day was full of new, unpredictable adventures and it was so rewarding to watch them gain confidence and really enjoy the time we spent together.