Are you new to traveling and don’t know where to start? Are you like me who has traveled extensively, but not sure where to go or what to do next?
Check out Workaway or an equivalent program!
I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go next and I wanted to do something a bit different than the basic see a city for a few days and go to the next city. I wanted a different experience than just seeing cathedrals and cute streets in Europe.
I have heard of Workaway and WWoofing, but I also needed one more thing- I needed to get out of the Schengen zone. This zone is for non-European citizens/residents. It is the immigration rules for these group of countries. It is not the same as the European Union zone.
I didn’t know much about the countries outside the Schengen zone, which is mostly those in the Balkans. I picked what appeared to be an interesting option and made plans accordingly.
I signed up for Workaway and replied to a posting there for a hostel helper in Belgrade, Serbia. I didn’t know much about this country or city, but it checked my boxes- I could stay in an area for a while and recharge my travel batteries, I didn’t have to worry about housing and some food, and I got to go to a place I could really explore since I didn’t know that much about it.
I had some plans in Switzerland, but I looked for flights from around there to Belgrade. There was one from Geneva- perfect. The contrast between Switzerland and Serbia is pretty stark, but after a week I fell in love with Belgrade.
I worked changing the sheets in the hostel in Belgrade, you can see more about my experiences in Serbia here, and lived in it for free with breakfast at a restaurant every morning.
It was a nice hostel, in the middle of the city and the other workers (paid, I was the only workaway) were very lovely. I also got to meet a variety of travelers in the hostel.
There are other programs like WWoofing that apply the same principle. You work in a place in exchange for housing and food. The side benefit is that you can explore the area. WWoofing specifically is more to do with farming while Workaway has many different opportunities.
Here are my 5 reasons you should try one of these programs at least once:
1. You have a local perspective.
When I worked at the hostel, I was in contact with Serbian workers all the time. They told me about their lives and what life in Serbia was like. I know others work on farms and get to talk with their host and actually see how the host lives.
2. You don’t have to worry about housing or food.
When you are traveling, it is always on ones mind- where am I staying, I need to pay for my housing, what should I eat? Through these programs, you can spend more time thinking about what to see and explore!
In Belgrade, I didn’t worry about breakfast and my housing situation. I knew it was all taken care of so I spent more time doing day trips and managing my other meals. You might laugh, but it really did free my thinking space in order to put more attention in what to do.
3. It let’s you explore unexpected locations.
I had no idea about Serbia. No idea what to expect. It wasn’t on my list for places I want to see right away. But through this program, I went on to explore other Balkan countries such as Romania. And now, I’m totally in love with it!
I was already in the area so I figured I might as well continue traveling around and learning more. There is so much history in the Balkans and, unfortunately, most history classes only focus on Western European countries. I am so thankful to learn more about this area and history!
4. It lets you explore places you have always wanted to go.
I know many people want to go to Italy. These programs help with this dream. There are many farms and vineyards in Italy that need support. There are also other opportunities too. How cool is that, spending time in the countryside of Tuscany?
One of my family friends did Workaway in Italy and helped on a farm with making wine, working in olive fields, and other farming tasks. His pictures were so cool- he learned so many Italian dishes and countryside traditions!
5. You are volunteering!
Truthfully, volunteering at a hostel isn’t truly “volunteering,” its not like I am helping a charity or a farmer, but it is still working without actual payment. You can also volunteer to help someone fix their house. There are so many options!
There are other programs that individuals pay an organization for a volunteering experience in a, more often than not, a third world country. This is called voluntourism. It has gotten negative feedback lately because the organization is more concerned about giving the individual an experience rather than actually helping the community.
Through organizations like WWoofing and Workaway, you only pay for using the online portal. You don’t pay your host just the transportation to get to the location. You also communicate directly with the person or organization you are helping so you can see if you really fit. This is important because you will be spending time with the person and sometimes living in their home.
You can also see reviews about the host through these portals from other volunteers to give you a better idea on what it would be like.
Check out these programs! They are definitely worth trying out once!
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