This fall we went on a 3 month trip to France and Switzerland AND had once in a lifetime experiences while meeting some of our new favorite people…and we SAVED money. We only spent $2,333 total (plane tickets included)-that would be the cost of just renting an apartment for 3 months! How? Workaway.
Workaway is a website with listings from people all around the world that need help with projects and offer food and housing in exchange. It only costs $30 for a year membership and gives you an international hosts list that you can filter; it even has a review system for hosts and Workawayers. It’s not only a less expensive way to travel long-term, but also a FANTASTIC way to truly experience new cultures and meet amazing people.
This past Fall, thanks to Workaway and our hosts (<3), we learned how to make French Basque pastries, drove a moped around medieval villages and vineyards, took a private tour of a Swiss cheese factory, slept in an adorable tree house, and received a carriage ride from a giant horse named Nobel.
Here are 10 reasons why Workaway is my favorite way to travel:
1- Easy to use!
The workway website- workaway.info, is really easy to navigate and fun to browse on. Hosts have descriptions about their expectations (hours, days etc.), the projects they have going on, and pictures. Workaway even has a rating system so you can see what past Workawayers have thought about their stay with that host.You can write the hosts you’d like to stay with on the website. The inbox is really useful because it helps you keep track of what you’ve said and who you’ve written.
The membership is only $30 for a year membership or $38 for two people! This gives you full access to all the hosts and the easy Workaway interface. You can even look at the host lists (without contact information) before you sign up-click here.
2- Travel like a local
Since you’re staying with locals, you learn about all the hidden gems of the area. This Fall, we went on TONS of amazing hikes in the Pyrenees that we couldn’t find online (or if we did, they were in French). All of hosts gave us a maps and suggestions on where to go which made our stay in each place even more amazing! We got plenty of great restaurant suggestions from our hosts that I couldn’t find on TripAdvisor. Our cheese factory tour happened because a friend of our hosts in Switzerland works there so he gave us a little tour-which they usually don’t do. In the countryside, our hosts, showed us an ancient Roman canal with a gorgeous path to run on-they also showed us where to forage for figs, mushrooms and walnuts! I went on a gorgeous early morning sunrise hike with one of our hosts and his friend. We even got to borrow some hosts’ cars, mopeds, or mountain bikes to get around! The list goes on and on and it makes a huge difference in getting the most out of your trip.
3- Gain (Unusual) Skills
Helping out your host teaches you a lot of skills that you otherwise might not have been able to learn. Some fun skills we’ve gained are: chopping wood, Bed and Breakfast management, lego building, iron fence painting, pony poop scooping, foraging and then making a delicious cake from it, carrot peeling, wisteria trimming/Christmas wreath making, Australian slang, how to make beds/change sheets really fast, and kid’s birthday party decorating (we’re pros at that now).
It also taught us how to travel light and pack up all our bags in 5 minutes! See our post: 5 Tips for Packing a 3 Month Trip into a Carry-On Backpack.
Those are fun and (somewhat) useful, but you also get a lot of “deeper” rewards for your work. I’ve gained a lot of experience getting out of my comfort zone and developing relationships with people from different backgrounds and with different personalities. This is a very useful thing to improve on and has definitely benefited me in my personal and work life.
Some of the best food I’ve had in my LIFE has been from our hosts. The recipes you get from staying with some of these people are gold. It also shows you another way of cooking staple foods you use all the time! In Switzerland,we got to try fondue and raclette. We worked in a French restaurant in the Pyrenees too so we got a lot of great tips and recipes from them. Food is much more than a way to get nutrients, it’s a huge part of the culture and a great way to connect with people. Here are some recipes from our last trip:
French Basque Cake
5- Language Immersion
If you go to a country that speaks a foreign language, immersion is probably the best way to learn; so Workaway is a great way to both learn or brush up on a new language. The hosts’profiles list the languages they speak and you can let them know in your message that you’d like to practice the language when you’re visiting. When we were in Italy, we learned lots of Italian. It jumbled our Spanish haha, but it was a lot of fun practicing with our hosts and trying out new phrases on them. It’s really useful having a native speaker to help clarify any grammar and vocabulary questions! Meraviglioso!
6- Save Money
We actually SAVED money while we were doing Workaway because we didn’t have as many expenses. Obviously, you won’t be making any money while you’re doing Workaway-unless you work from home/online, but this definitely makes travel more affordable in general.
Most people spend at least $30 per day for a place to stay and at least $20 per day on food. That’s $350 per week and $1,400 per month, not including sightseeing or shopping/souvenirs. If you add flights for at least $800 round trip, that’s $1,667 per month-and on a super low budget.
When we travel, we only spend money on flights, transportation, and fun activities/eating out. We budget around $300 per month for the TWO of us (+ the cost of the flight). For our entire 3 month trip to Europe, we only spent $2,333! That’s only $388 per person per month! AND we got to sight see, go to museums, and buy lots of random things we don’t need ;).
A lot of people put off traveling because they “don’t have enough money.” Workaway makes it a lot easier to ditch that excuse and save up for a much less expensive trip.
7- Experience a New Culture
Living with a local and spending longer amounts of time in an area really allows you to get to know the culture and area. If you want to hit as many cities as you can in 10 days then this way of traveling is not for you. But I think most people who are interested in doing Workaway are in it for the deep, mind-opening experiences that traveling brings. It’s great to have your hosts as a resource to ask questions to and have discussions with about their view on life. You can usually see how their environment, culture, and experiences has shaped their perspective on the world (and how yours has too 😉 ).
We were in Switzerland during December and got to experience a Swiss tradition from Geneva. (See pictures below). There’s a story that a woman named Mère Royaume saved Geneva from an attack by the Duke of Savoy when she poured a boiling hot cauldron of soup on the head of a Savoyard solider. His screaming woke up the whole town and gave them time to fight off the army. Every year around December 12th, Geneva has a festival in honor of this victory where they sell these little chocolate cauldrons filled with “vegetable” marzipan candies to represent the vegetables in a soup. The oldest at the table and the youngest crush the pot together after chanting, “Thus perish the enemies of the republic” in French. It was such a cute little tradition that brought the family together and celebrated Swiss independence.
8- Give your Instagram a face-lift 😉
I am, of course joking, but it does give you lots of great picture opportunities. I love having fun pictures to put up on my blog and show my family and friends when we get back. Instead of getting all the typical tourist pictures, Workaway provides experiences and scenery that will make not only your pictures unique but more importantly, it’ll make your trip unique too!
For an example check out my Instagram: @hazeldespain 😉 hahah
9- Gets You Out of Your Comfort Zone
Meeting new people and doing new things can be intimidating, but helps you grow and it almost always worth it! Doing Workaway can be awkward at times, especially at first, because you’re living in a stranger’s house. But that is also the best way to get to know people and develop close relationships quickly. I LOVE all of the hosts we’ve had and would go through all the awkward moments in the world to have the relationships we have. Looking stupid while doing new tasks you aren’t familiar with is another thing some people are afraid of, but again- it is totally worth the initial discomfort that it causes!
10- MAKE AMAZING NEW FRIENDS
My favorite part about Workaway is the wonderful people you get to meet. Hosts open up their homes and take the risk of getting lazy or weird Workawayers because 1-they want help and 2-most also love meeting new people. We also made friends with other Workawayers from Australia and Hungary and locals along the way. (Also-lots of animal friends)
I think that one of the most beautiful things life has to offer is human connection. Spending time in someone’s home, working with and for them and having discussions about life is one of the best ways to develop a true friendship.
If you want to know more about Workaway- click here!
Do you have anything to share about your Workaway experiences? Comment below!
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