10 steps to being a great Workaway host

Before even embarking on the experience a host needs to be prepared mentally and practically for a visitor- it’s not always easy sharing your space or adapting to someone else’s. It goes without saying that you need to be welcoming, understanding, friendly and patient. Having a genuine curiousity to learn about other cultures/ languages along with a sense of humour are great assets too. If you have travelled yourself you’ll be able to put yourself “in their shoes/ flip-flops/ birkenstocks” more readily. In fact, if you’ve never got over that travel bug, this is the next best thing! So here we’ve got a 10 point step-by-step guide to help you get the most out of your experience as a host:
great host workaway advice tips travellers

Step 1: Clear Ideas

Have a clear idea of what you need help with, the time it will take and the input or support a volunteer will need from you. Decide how many helpers you need. Couples may offer diverse skills and are often more independent. Individual volunteers tend to develop a closer relationship with the host and may need more support initially.
Decide upon the dates when you are available to receive volunteers and specify the days/hours when you’ll need an extra pair of hands. Consider if any aspect of your lifestyle, eating or sleeping arrangements which newcomers would need to know about.

Step 2: Transparent Profile

host profile tips advice volunteers travellersWrite a profile which includes details of the optimum length of the stay and the nature of the help required, plus the working and living environment. Some readers may not be native speakers, so make sure the language used is clear and unambiguous. Be honest about any pros and cons and let the volunteers decide if it still interests them or not.
Say what your location has to offer, but also be clear about its limitations too. Before people travel there is a tendency to romanticise about the place that they are visiting and it is important to know what it was that attracted the person to your location and then be sure to point out anything which might be different to how they imagined eg. distance to the nearest beach/town centre, size of bedroom, pets, transport etc.

Step 3: Striking a chord or two

Await responses. Consider which potential volunteer appears to have the charcteristics and apptitude your are looking for. Read their profiles and any feedback they have received from previous hosts. Are you looking for certain skills? If not, choose someone who appears easy-going and enthusiastic. Has the volunteer lived/ worked away from home before? Have they got any allergies/ dietary requirements which will be difficult to accommodate? If you are unsure, why don’t you ask them why they decided to write to you and how they visualise being able to help you. Go for the person who most resonates with you.

Step 4: Mutual benefit

Once you are close to confirming a visit from a volunteer, you should make sure that both of you are clear about the conditions of the stay and the expectations you both have. What is the reason for the volunteer wanting to stay with you? Knowing what it is that has motivated the person to come will also mean that during their stay they get the opportunities they need to enjoy those aspects- whether it be sightseeing, practising their language skills or spending time on the beach or doing their favourite sport.
Once you feel that the arrangement could be reciprocal you might suggest a short skype call to firm things up.
cultures landscape travel

Step 5: Preparation

Using a little foresight and organisation means that your volunteer will feel more comfortable and able to help you more effectively. Let them know what to expect as far as weather conditions go and if there is anything which would be useful for them to bring with them regarding clothes, sun cream, mosquito repellent, own beach towel, wellies etc. Depending on the nature of the tasks to be done make sure that you have sufficent tools, materials and time put aside to settle them in. Your volunteer will be excited, but also apprehensive about the visit. Their arrival and their first impression will hopefully ease any concerns they may have. Offering to greet them at the bus/train station or airport is a good move. Making sure that their sleeping/living area is clean and comfortable will help them feel at home. Any details that you know about their food preferences means you could stock up on a few goodies, picking them up a local map or providing them with information which could be of interest to them, all help to make them feel welcome. This initial input requires some time, thought and effort – but is worth it.
hosting tips advice volunteer

Step 6: Helping someone to feel at home

Once they have arrived, it is important to dedicate some time for you to get to know one another. Take time to show your visitor around as well as how things work: washing machine, internet password etc. Make them aware of any house rules you may have (smoking, drinking, taking shoes off etc) as well as telling them about the facilities which can use. Prepare a meal together, go for a walk or play chess…whatever appeals! There is always something which can be learned from another. Showing interest and respect for the other is a great foundation for a good host-workawayer relationship.

Step 7: Being Supportive

Over the first few days the visitor may need guidance as far as finding their way around: post office, bank, chemists etc. They’ll also need to familiarise themselves with the new environment, diet and routine. Be patient, their life here with you may be worlds apart from what they are used to.
hosting travellers volunteers homesick

Step 8: Making the most of their experience

Remember to bear in mind the reasons that your volunteer chose you and your locality and wherever possible look out for opportunities for them to be able to fulfill their hopes: whether it is practicing your native language, getting involved in cultural or community activities, seeing the sights or exploring the natural landscape. Showing that you care by going that extra mile is what the “Host with the Most” is all about.
Taking it a step further you could put together a visitors book with entries suggesting interesting things to places to see and do. Include traveller’s perspectives and opinions.

Step 9: Sharing and caring…

welcome home hospitality hostEven if you are both very busy, try to maintain regular daily contact and share some mealtimes together. Giving each other feedback and maintaining open and friendly conversation means that there is less chance for misunderstandings or confusion. Simultaneously you should be getting to know each other pretty well by now. Perhaps you have even found common interests in music, art, sport, cooking or gardening. Sharing anecdotes, opinions, recipes, cultural differences, philosphies on the meaning of life…all make for great topics of conversation and friendship-building. Enjoy!!
Their insights into the way of life in your locality will help you become more in-tune with the mindset of a newcomer…and what quirks or customs need explaining!

Step 10: Be flexible!

Workaway encourages both parties to be adaptable and considerate of one another. Sometimes things don’t go to plan, so it’s important to be flexible and accommodating, and if necessary have a back-up plan in place. As a host it is possible that unforeseen circumstances mean that a volunteer cannot stay. It is important for hosts to realize that their volunteers should not be so indespensible that the host is lost if they leave- this is too much of a burden to place upon a volunteer!! Conversely, I have been in the situation where I found that I no longer needed a volunteer who I had agreed to come at the end of the week. However, as she had made that commitment to me I was happy for her to come and stay anyway. There is always a chance to help out cooking, shopping, babysitting, tidying, mending… I was not disappointed as workawayer Nadine (who is Moroccan Candian) proved to be a fascinating visitor! On a number of occasions we were even up until the early hours with no idea of the time! But that is what the spirit of Workaway, and indeed human interaction itself, should be all about!

Enjoy being a host with the most!

Enjoy being a host with the most!

13 replies
  1. Laura Miller
    Laura Miller says:

    Number 1 is awfully important. My workaways through India and Nepal were awfully disappointing and involved spending whole days waiting around to be told what needed to be done, or being told not to bother when I did try to be proactive and find things to help out with. There’s nothing worst than waiting around someone’s house bored out of your mind while they refuse to let you work when that’s the sole purpose for your visit in the first place.

    • Frances Adshead
      Frances Adshead says:

      I agree Laura. A host I stayed with had lots of reasons why I couldn’t do what I was there to do (broken/lost equipment etc) so I kept myself busy with cleaning. After 3 consecutive days of it and no apparent prospect of other activities I started to wonder whether a cleaner was what he wanted all along. The expectations of both parties must be satisfied for the experience to be an enjoyable one.

    • Laura Miller
      Laura Miller says:

      Yeah I decided to leave after one day at my third workaway. It was a dog shelter in Kathmandu and I’d spent about 30 hours there and still didn’t have instructions. They had great reviews too. I guess some volunteers love the idea of staying at someone’s place and not having to contribute, but I find that incredibly boring. If I’m there to work, then I expect to work and to have that work set out so once I’ve finished I can go explore.

    • Simone Keijzer
      Simone Keijzer says:

      I recently joined to be a host. I already had volunteers before I joined. This helped me to get a clear view of how little help I really need and I put that in my profile, so they know that before they get here. As I only need help around the horses in the morning and evening, the volunteers are the whole day off and I had warned them about that, and it hasn´t been a problem. I did go out with them sometimes and sometimes they went to the beach or city on their own. It will be the same for workawayers. So, little to do doesn´t need to be a problem, as long as they know. It is indeed very important to make up your mind on what and how before you invite volunteers, so they know what to expect.

      • Sue Ball
        Sue Ball says:

        I’ve been hosting for five years now and met some great people, some are never seen or heard of again although we enjoyed good experiences together, others have stayed in contact long after travelling on or going home, some have become our friends. Yes, hosts and travellers do need to communicate clearly about expectations and all of the above points are valid ; they are all things I’ve done quite intuitively, having hosted for Servas for 30 years, but even so I have experienced the total let down of a ‘ no show’ when they have been sent plenty of information, we’ve exchanged a number of emails and maybe skyped too; I always invite volunteers to ask questions and once we have confirmed a day for arrival I hope there will be no problems …..
        Sometimes a ‘no show’ has not had the consideration to let me know that they cannot/will not be arriving as planned, despite having all my contact details and being asked to let me know immediately of any change of plan – I feel that this should be able to be shown as feedback to warn other hosts , as it can be hugely inconvenient- especially if one has turned away other potential volunteers in favour of what ultimately manifested to be a ‘no show’.
        I am surprised that relatively few hosts & volunteers regularly give feedback and do encourage everyone to do so , however brief- it builds a clearer profile for the host or volunteer and can only serve to guide one’s choice of either.

  2. Clif
    Clif says:

    We have enjoyed Hosting on WorkAway for about 1.5 years now. Overall, GREAT! What I have learned is a lot of the above, and I now have a much clearer description of what WE want. We live near San Diego, California and get lots of requests. Some tips include, 1) for those booking far out, like 3+ months in advance, we learned to get a confirmation a few weeks in advance, as some do have plans change and we have had no-shows, 2) we are pretty flexible, as we know plans often do change, 3) since we are a house, not a business, we learned to leave decent gaps between travelers, as private time is needed, and some you will want to stay longer, 4) we just recently decided to require some proof of travel health insurance, as our lawyer friend highly recommended that, 5) we love to have workers cook THEIR specialty dish, 6) we typically have a list of potential tasks to do, and then the travelers can pick what they feel comfortable with, 7) in regards to artistic work, we learned it is best to be very flexible. 8) I think it is our duty as a Host to leave feedback. Even something simple. We ask Workers to also leave feedback for each stay, as good or bad, it is good for others to know. 9) last for now, all Workers are different, some pitch in right away, some are shy and don’t. We like people to right away get comfortable in the kitchen and at least start putting dishes away. One house rule we have, the cook does not do the dishes. Cheers all!

  3. Carolyn O'Connell
    Carolyn O'Connell says:

    I’d appreciate some comments on:-
    We live in a rural environment with no public transport and nothing within easy walking or even casual cycling distance. We do what we can to take workaways out and about and encountered a problem for the first time.. Our current volunteer (only here for a week) has accompanied us on evenings out, and each time we have paid for his drinks, with no offer from him to contribute. What do other hosts think?

    • Maria McCartney
      Maria McCartney says:

      Before you go out I would say to them, we will take you out if you are happy to pay for your own drinks. Then you can still buy him /her a drink if you want to but won’t feel obliged. Have a good time together!

  4. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    Paying for drinks etc: I like to take my travelers out with me to events, or just to show them around my favourite bars. Usually they will offer to pay. I like to pay for them, if I am feeling financial enough, and If I really like the work they’ve been doing 🙂 If I am not feeling so financially flush, I will accept their offer to pay. But don’t let them in for too many expenses – they are usually on a constrained budget. If it is not obvious who will be paying (if you already know you want to pay – no problem), then have a discussion before the drinks are bought, or even before you go into the bar. I would usually just say “OK folks, shall we go into this bar? Who’s paying for drinks?”

  5. Nichole Cannon
    Nichole Cannon says:

    I have been registered as a host for over 5 months now and have not had any workawayers come to stay. I’ve only had one interested. I’m not sure if it is our profile or our location. I was hoping to have many by this time. Is there any advice people can give to help us find some workawayers?

    • Juliet
      Juliet says:

      Hi Nichole,

      If you can post a link to your profile, I’d be happy to have a look and give some feedback if you like? We’ve been hosts for 3 years now and had 70+ helping hands here. A few of those I have contacted directly when we were looking for specific skills, like carpentry. But we do get requests most weeks, sometimes several a week, even though we’re in a remote part of Italy. I don’t think we’re anything outstanding, but I regularly have to write gentle rejection letters. I’m sure there’s a simple solution for you!

  6. Michelle Johnston
    Michelle Johnston says:

    Hi, I’m just signing up to be a host, but am not ready yet to actually host anyone ! I wanted to get the feel of this first, and see how others felt. Some of the comments are really interesting.
    I may want some pointers from more experienced hosts at some point too.
    Looking forward to starting though. 🙂


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