James and Charlie are Workaway members travelling the world and currently in Argentina with a family they met via the website:
“The experience has been brilliant and I plan to follow up the featured article with a blog about our experience in a few weeks. We love the website, the concept and how it can be used as a great tool for enabling cultural exchange as well as cost effective travel.”
To read more about their adventures check out their blog: www.thesummingup.wordpress.com
A few hours of honest graft a day in exchange for food, a bed for the night and the chance to learn about another lifestyle and community…sounds like the perfect backpacker opportunity.
And it has been exactly that for thousands of members already switched on to workaway.info – a network for travellers looking for a little more than the normal hostel experience.
From developing an animal rescue centre in Peru to helping at a co-op cinema in Phnom Penh, Workaway grants staycationers respite from ballooning travel costs as well as the opportunity to make a worthwhile difference without paying excessively for the privilege.
To add to this, the placements regularly throw up interesting quirks – such as the chance to live in a yurt, ride horses every day or lead thirsty cycle groups on a tour of the world´s premier wine regions.
And projects with innovative organisations can throw out work experience that would be hard to come by back home, such as arts internships, eco conservation work or the chance to produce video diaries and blogs for Cusco-based Volunteers on Wheels, which claims to be “the world´s first mobile NGO.”
“[My hosts] are so warm and open and laid back, I felt like I was with family from the beginning,” said Annelie, who helped build a yoga studio in Miranda, Brazil in December.
“The tranquility is punctuated by endless and ever-entertaining visits from various characters of Miranda!”
Workaway, which donates money to partner charities through its foundation, introduces travellers to an international database of more than 8,000 families, individuals and organisations which are looking for help in a wide range of fields.
The prospect is all the more attractive given that most hosts are flexible and frequently do not ask for a long commitment, meaning volunteers can try their hands at a variety of projects, enjoy a short stay somewhere as an enriching part of the travel experience, or simply see it as a cost effective way to rebalance the cash flow.
While specialist skills are welcome, it is often general help that is in demand, whether you are doing eco projects or art projects, cooking or charity work, painting or planting, building or babysitting, shopping or shearing. Any perceived hardship is invariably outweighed by the benefits to volunteers, which commonly include free meals, internet access, accommodation and language practice.
There are also regular calls for help from skilled professionals, although often it is only upon meeting volunteers that hosts unearth hidden talents that can also be tapped. That was the case for Annelie, a professional artist, who after a few days of washing up and cleaning was soon enlisted to help brighten up the yoga centre, paint murals and portraits of indigenous people she met in their villages, and even help create a monument in the town.
“I loved everything about my stay here and will definitely be back” she said.
Workaway membership valid for two years, costs €22 (€29/pair or couple). Visit http://www.workaway.info for full details.