10 Hacks to get the most from your first Workaway adventure

I tried my first Workaway in France almost four years ago, and I’m still receiving emails and questions from people who are thinking about taking the plunge. I know now that my decision to try Workaway was one of the best decisions of my life. However, it can be intimidating if you’re new to it (or need to reassure your parents). Here are a few tips for your first Workaway that I’m sure will give you the confidence to go for it and have one of the best adventures of your life.

1. Be trustworthy

One of the questions I’ve received most often about volunteering for Workaway is about safety — especially for solo female traveller. From the perspective of the traveller, it can be scary to stay in someone else’s home and to plan your trip accordingly. On the other hand, think of the trust it requires from hosts to invite a wandering, adventuring backpacker (who might not have showered for a few days) into their daily lives. Trust goes both ways. If you’re worried about trusting a stranger, be trustworthy. And remember, all of your friends were once strangers.
tips for first Workaway

2. Do your research

There are over 40,000 hosts on the Workaway site in almost every country around the world. That’s a lot of options with many choices and variety. Chances are, you’ll be able to find the perfect Workaway just for you, but it might take some research. When you’re looking at a host, read the reviews other Workaway volunteers have left. If there aren’t any, send the host an email with your questions. The more you communicate before you arrive, the smoother the experience will be for you and the host.

3. Ask questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions before and during your stay. Questions show curiosity and a willingness to understand. If you’re unsure about a task or need more of an explanation, ask. Language and cultural barriers can be tricky to navigate but taking the time to clarify a situation or conversation goes a long, long way!

tips for first Workaway

4. Be sure before you commit

Workaway hosts receive a lot of email from volunteers who they may never see. That’s okay, but it can be tedious. If you’re still in the “checking it out” phase of planning your trip, be honest. You don’t have to commit to certain dates or time frame until you’re ready. That being said, once you commit, show up. A lot of hosts can only take one or two volunteers at a time and chose you, so make sure you follow through and help keep the reputation of Workawayers a good one.

5. Bring a gift or cook a meal

Tips for your first Workaway The beauty of volunteering with Workaway is that the emphasis is really on culture exchange. One of the ways hosts share their culture with you is by letting you stay at their house. A simple way for you to show your appreciation (and something from your own country) is to bring a small gift or cook a traditional meal for them. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but can be really fun! When I was in France, I cooked my big host family a meal of fajitas (which are not necessarily American, per se, but a turkey dinner was above my skill level) and they literally clapped at the end of dinner. It was so sweet I almost cried.

6. Adopt the pace of life

“You don’t need to clear the dishes right away, leave them dirty on the table for a bit….” I was told by a fellow volunteer during my first Workaway. I blinked in surprise. “We’re still drinking our wine,” he explained. “It’s okay to sit and relax for a bit. Sit down and chat with us,” he smiled.

No matter where you are, chances are the pace of life will be different than you’re used to. In Ghana, I got used to adding a one to three hour cushion to my schedule. In Germany, people are culturally more attuned to keeping a stricter time schedule than Spain, for example. It might take a few days, but try to adjust and let go of any expectations you have about time.

Tips for your first Workaway

7. Help with chores

This is an obvious, but important one. It’s polite and just a good habit to help with chores even if you’re technically “off” for the day. This might include helping to prepare a meal, bathe the kids, feed the animals, or washing the dishes. Remember you’re not at a hotel, you’re a guest in someone’s home, so be careful with their things and pick up after yourself. Do your own laundry, make your bed, and help encourage other Workawayers to do the same.

8. Say no if you need to

All of your friends were once strangers.

All of your friends were once strangers.

It’s okay to say no to something you feel uncomfortable with. You don’t “have” to do anything, even if you agreed to it before hand. Things change and sometimes we need to set boundaries. This goes for hosts and Workawayers. Keep an open mind and be flexible, but if something is just too far out of your comfort zone or doesn’t feel right in your gut, say so and try to form a compromise.

9. Stay in touch

There’s a deep and instant friendship that forms between Workawayers. Whether it’s with your host family or among other volunteers, you’ll feel a sense of connection that lasts. Some of my closest friends are ones I met while volunteering in Africa or gardening in France. It’s hard to go back to life without Workaway (some might argue you don’t have to!) but if you do, make sure to stay in touch with the friends you made along the way. Send them a Christmas card, set up a Skype date, or invite them to visit you in your home.

10. Don’t fall in love

Last but not least, don’t fall in love. I repeat: Do not fall in love. For all of the tips for your first Workaway I can offer, this is the most important one. You might be in the most beautiful, remote jungle in Ecuador working with the coolest students and staying with the most charming family, but don’t fall in love. Don’t fall in love with the home cooked meals that taste like nothing you’ve ever had before. Don’t fall in love with the feeling of having a purpose and making a difference in the lives of people you’ve just met.

tips for your first Workaway
Don’t fall in love with the landscapes, the language, or the smell of the open air markets. Don’t fall in love with the sense of community and teamwork. And especially, don’t fall in love with another volunteer. It might change your life forever, and you certainly wouldn’t want that. <3

35 replies
  1. Nabila James
    Nabila James says:

    Ahh I’m planning on doing a workaway after my college graduation, but I’m not sure yet even though the idea of leaving on a adventure & meeting new people lights up something in me!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Véronique
    Véronique says:

    Thanks for the advice! I am looking for my first Workaway experience in September, and I am quitting my office job.

    Big move! Since I will not earn money during my stay, I would like to find a paying job there (wherever that would be!)
    So what country do you suggest where it would be easy to find work afterwards? Thanks!

    • George Vinoth
      George Vinoth says:

      Hi Veronique..

      I’m also like u in the same situation..I hate to go office..have to life this life meaningfully..thanks!

    • Lena
      Lena says:

      Hi! I have no advice for you! But Its good to see that others also is taking the big step of quitting their job. Iam still gonna work for about 2/3 months, quit my job and try workaway!! We only live once hey..

    • Anh Ngo
      Anh Ngo says:

      Hello. Liked you before, I’m in an office job. Sometimes I just want to quit it and do something new, something helpful, something meaning for my life.
      But I’m still confused. I thought too much, scared too much…
      Can I have some advise from you? Or just a sympathy..

  3. Darlene
    Darlene says:

    Thank you for wonderful share of information. I agree, don’t fall in love with another’s place, goal, or ideas. Fall in love with your own ideas and work. No one enjoys a competition over there own self developed ideas. God gives plenty , not to covet others, and to give back, expand skills, and make your own happiness or through our spiritual path.
    I look forward to working, and helping hands with honest people, and warm hearts.

  4. Sindhu
    Sindhu says:


    I don’t know if you can help me with this. I want to travel but being brown and being from India I’ve faced obstacles in every direction. TEFL agencies don’t accept me as I am not a native speaker. I can’t do house sitting because they are usually for short time periods and even shorter notice and I wouldn’t have time to get a visa. Will I be able to workaway? Do you know if its easy to get visas for this? I doubt it’ll be a work visa. Tourist visa then? Are there specific countries (other than my own ofcourse) that’d be more welcoming? Will I be able to support myself without getting paid? Will I be able to keep travelling or would I end up having to go back home after every trip?

    Thanks for your reply!

  5. Lúcia Gonçalves
    Lúcia Gonçalves says:

    OI tudo bem?
    EStou me planejando para fazer parte dessa linda equipe pelo mundo ano que vem pela primeira vez!!
    Amo conhecer pessoas, lugares e aprender com a troca de experiencias, vivencias na e da vida!! Uhuhuhu
    Grata pela materia, ajuda muito!!

  6. Ros Lee
    Ros Lee says:

    I’ve got another tip. If you have initiated contact with a host asking to visit at a certain time, please do respond to their email replies.

    We have had two workaways contact us in the last week asking to come and stay over Xmas. When I responded to say that they would be very welcome they didn’t reply. Two more emails to each of them since then asking if they have and still nothing back, even though the system says that they have read the emails. I am a bit at a loss to understand why they won’t reply with a “yes I’m coming” or a “no I’m not”, or even an “I haven’t decided yet”.

    It’s both frustrating and disappointing, as I had hoped to give them a good Kiwi Xmas, but at the same time needed to plan food menus and get sleeping arrangements etc sorted. So now instead of the 3 workaways we had hoped would be coming to share our Xmas celebrations, we only have the pleasure of one young man who spent a few weeks with us last month and is returning for the holiday period. Extra food for him then!!

  7. Samantha
    Samantha says:

    I would love to do this but I have a 9 year old son who I would love to take with me. I have lots of experience in different job roles and no doubt if it was something fun he would probably join in…. Many hosts allow children to join?? I think it would be such a great experience for us both xx

    • mel
      mel says:

      my daughter is now 7 years old and we have been working as volunteers in 13 different countries with workaway. non stop travel for 2 years from egypt to switzerland, india to colombia. it is certainly possible. she has been adored as a volunteer. she is even mentioined on the website for a school we are volunteering in peru
      our lives have been changed
      take the leap, its more than worth it

  8. Amanda Buxbaum
    Amanda Buxbaum says:

    I cried when I read number 10. From happiness. Because I knew that you were saying that we will fall in love that we must fall in love falling in love is one of the biggest parts of this! I am so ready!

    • Prathyush
      Prathyush says:

      Sounds cool. I would love to join Workaway whenever time permits, infact am trying to make time for it

    • Adina
      Adina says:

      For those who are truly on a spiritual path it takes more than new surroundings and a sense of purpose to be in love. Love is inside you not outside. People who marry fellow travelers still identify with their old self and perceive the shared passion as miraculous. So even if I know tip number 10 is meant as cheek, I worry it may be true, sadly. Anti-soulmate traps are many.

  9. Guilherme Mendes Cintra
    Guilherme Mendes Cintra says:

    Oh it’s really nice.
    I’m on my first backpacker travel and reading this make my mind more confortable for my next trips. Even more I wanna make volunteering next time!

    Significant tips! I just thank for it 🙂

  10. Ole-Kristian Lauritzen
    Ole-Kristian Lauritzen says:

    Met my dream girl through Work Away even before I registered to the site. Falling in love with the people and the surroundings around you takes care of itself once you let go of all expectation for you experiences to end up a certain way. 🙂

  11. Dylan
    Dylan says:

    Great tips my self and my wife want to do our first workaway in march next year to Thailand. Does anyone know what type of visa i need

  12. Girish Keswani
    Girish Keswani says:

    Don’t fall in love… ha ha ha.. yeah… like that is totally under your control..totally voluntary 😉

  13. cesilio
    cesilio says:

    I think you must fall in love, its the most beatifull thing, its more importart to learn to let it go, love is not about having something is about feelings is about give and one moment all end and you continued but the love still…

    thanks for share!


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