When I decided to quit and go on my long trip I broke up 3 months before I left. Not really time enough to save some serious money. On the other hand I couldn’t imagine just laying on the beach for a couple of months. The idea of volunteering was there. For a long time.
I could not imagine to do woofing (still not a nature person), and I was too old (okay, that was maybe just an excuse?) to do au-pair. Then I found workaway.
My first impression:
It was a big database of hosts, which I browsed through like in a shoe online-shop. Excited! There were about 16.000 hosts all over the world…and the world seemed to get smaller and easier to reach for me, who have never been away for such a long time.
I knew I wanted to go to Asia, I loved Thailand and China, which I only knew from holidays. I browsed without a special goal and then I found it: the little B&B on Thailand, the island Koh Lanta (and I had NO CLUE where that was).
They were looking for a help in teaching their two little kids english, and also help with the gardening. Proactivity, passion and communication skills were needed, things I’ve always been good at. The long description about that place and the family was tempting, and I wrote a very open and long letter to introduce myself.
The answer was warming and positive, and I commited myself to stay there for 2 months. I packed my rucksack expecting that its going to be the perfect match! B.U.T. unfortunately…it was not.
Dream versus reality:
This workaway online stuff is like the tinder stuff. You think you have the right impression of a person, you show up…and gosh…everything is exactely NOT like you expected it to be.
The point is that we all have certain things which are really important to us. Me for example cleanliness and authenticity.
And so I had the first two problems when entering the house I was supposed to stay in for the next 7 weeks. I knew that you have to lower your standards in Asia. Of course I knew. What I struggled with was that the things which were underlined to be important were not followed by my hosts themselves. I told myself that this was their house and their choice…but I had to bite my tongue very hard to avoid an argument.
The 25 agreed working hours turned out to be 40 hours per week, the free weekends turned out to be one day off per week (thursday).
The tinder illusion was the next thing: the personality I felt so attracted to was not existing. So I kept my thoughts and passion closed inside me, something my hosts suffered from. It was a vicious circle! I stayed for 5 weeks with my hosts, and I’m proud that I did not give up. That I tried hard from my side to get along with them. Because to face it: you are not going to feel at home everywhere, and if you call yourself flexible – something all travellers do – you can handle staying and working in a place thats not your favourite.
What you don’t have to accept:
Workaway has clear rules for hosts. The workawayer needs to have 2 days off per week and is not “allowed” to work more than 25 hours per week. Workaway reminds the hosts in regulary mails, that volunteers are NOT unpaid staff.
The tasks you agreed to do should be the only tasks they ask from you. Don’t get me wrong: if you help building houses in Tacloban, you might want and have to work more than 25 hours per week. Thats of course okay.
But some people want to travel more or have another project besides their workaway task (studies e.g.). So its important to know what can be asked from you and what NOT.
Its a difference if you just don’t like the people you work for (in my case), or if they shout at you or treat you in an even worst way. In that case inform workaway and leave. Even if you travel on a very small budget you can afford three nights in a hostel untill you find another place (check the last minutes hosts).
Apply for a voluntary:
– Check the way the host is writing about the job. When you apply use the same style..and by style I mean make it short and simple if the hosts is doing that as well. Don’t bore someone who is looking for a guy to build a fence with your whole life story.
– You might write this story if a hosts needs someone to take care of their children: they are their biggest treasures and they want to know the person who is going to take care of them.
-Tell them about you strenghts (creative, proactive, willing to learn, open for other cultures, communicative…any others).
– Explain (short) why you thing that their place is the right place for YOU. Its important for the host to know that the person is going to feel comfortable at that place and not going to leave because of for example rainy season in Thailand.
– Stay authentic. You are going to spend time there and they are going to find out how you tick anyway.
My first experience with workaway was good and bad at the same time. I learned a lot from it, even if I thought that I’m not going to last.
But that I did made me proud, and now I know my boundaries even better. Most hosts are really nice, so you don’t have to be worried.
Have fun on workawaying (-: