We’ve heard it all before – ‘I quit my job to travel the world’, but what is it really like when you are actually doing it? When you stop earning a guaranteed salary and start travelling without a wage? We decided to ask someone that knows all too well (and who also told us when the RIGHT time was to quit your job to travel ) how to really live off pennies, and the rewards that come with doing Workaway exchange. We hand you over to our one of our fabulous bloggers Sarah Ricard:
I was 19 when I started working in a bank, the money lured me into a false pretension of happiness – that and naivety. To be fair, I enjoyed it for the first few years; I could afford a car, nights out and new clothes, all while living at my parents house. Looking back now it was probably the richest I have ever been. It wasn’t until I turned 22 that I realised there was more out there than the comfort of my guaranteed salary, my hungover Sunday’s and unnecessary shopping splurges. I started to research if it was possible to work abroad. Back then (ok, we are only talking 5 years ago, but still) travel blogs weren’t really a thing, so I couldn’t find much information. I eventually stumbled across Workaway, and sorry guys, but a fairly crazy looking website – that after a bit of navigating I realised was exactly what I was looking for. I remember the day I handed my notice in and my boss telling me I could really have worked my way up in the company. He could have offered me a million pounds right there and I still wouldn’t have taken it, I knew already how much more rewarding travelling and volunteering in other countries would be compared to continuing doing something I didn’t love just because I was too scared to get out of my comfort zone.
I used to spend hours looking at Workaway – like a kid in a candy shop – I couldn’t believe there were so many options, in so many countries. As soon as I knew what I thought I wanted to do another host would pop up; I would go from wanting to look after baby bunnies in Maine to being a mountain tour guide in Costa Rica on an hourly basis. I then decided to let the opportunity choose me and sent out emails to all of the hosts that looked interesting and see who came back first. I knew I wanted to go to South America, but I didn’t really mind which country to start in, but when a host came back from Argentina it seemed like the obvious choice. I had savings from working so long in the bank, so I felt comfortable not earning, plus knowing the Workaway hosts gave housing and food eased my mind. I figured I would just come back home when the savings ran out (SPOILER ALERT – it’s been 5 years and I never moved back home).
The Volunteering and Travelling
As I said before I was up for it all really, nothing was too hard (or too easy). I started off on a farm in Argentina, just an hour from the wine region of Mendoza. I learnt how to milk a cow – which proved way too much fun – how to make cheese, and how to sit around a table with people from 4 different countries, where the most common language was Spanish (which I spoke about 5 words of at that time).
I then went to an English School in Chile that turned into a month’s love affair with the school, kids and the country. I taught locals of all ages English in a relaxed setting, which usually involved eating, drinking and laughing.
Next was a hostel in Peru where I spent Christmas with travellers from all over the globe. Then onto a children’s charity in the North of Peru which proved challenging and emotional to see so many kids without families.
And finally, onto the mountains of Ecuador to work in a guesthouse helping with their social media. This was a big one for me – I ended up staying for a good 5 weeks and it is where I set up my blog.
After travelling for 6 months purely on Workaway and Couchsurfing I had barely touched my savings and wanted to share my experience with everyone. Some 4 years later this turned into a full-time paid job – which all started in the whirlwind of my Workaway volunteering experience!
The Reality of Working Abroad
Honestly, it’s better than you could really imagine. The amount of hours I spent laughing couldn’t even compare to those working in an office. During my travelling I felt ready to burst with happiness on a daily basis. However, one of my most valuable lessons was money is just an object. Yes, we all need money to survive, but you would be surprised at how little you really need. I hardly spent anything in my year in South America – and I didn’t earn a penny, but that year using Workaway was hands down the best of my life. It also gave me the opportunity to discover what it was I really wanted to do and was the catalyst for my current job and the reason I never moved back home, and will never work in a bank again!
To Job or not to Job
While travelling using Workaway is not working abroad – it’s an opportunity for you to learn from other cultures as well as discovering yourself – it helps you find a new kind of ‘rich’. Rich in happiness, experience, laughter and lessons. I would not recommend doing this if you are looking to continue earning an income while you travel, rather to do this if you want to see the real world – from outside the office block.