How to use your skills to travel the world for free: meet Leo, our Workawayer of the month

If you’re someone who loves children, you’ve probably had your fair share of experience looking after a younger sibling or family friend’s little one… and if you’ve got a heart filled with wanderlust like us, you’ve definitely dreamt of exploring the world while being able to support your travels on the road! So where do these two passions cross paths, you ask? Meet Workawayer of the Month Leo, a traveller and babysitter who’s giving Mary Poppins a run for her money! Find our how Leo discovered that joining a Workaway host family and looking after kids can help us travel immersively, connect with local cultures, and learn new languages... 

Why did you start using Workaway?
Leo:
I started using Workaway three years ago, when I decided I wanted to follow my dream of seeing the world, and I was looking for cheap and alternative ways to travel.

At the time I was also a volunteer at a couple of charities in my city in Argentina, working with children living in difficult situations. I was interested to see what childhood is like  in other countries and cultures , and how people grow up.

Workaway was the perfect mix between volunteering, travel and cultural experiences that I was looking for. So I thought, let's start this journey and see what happens!
A collage of three shots - far left Leo poses in sunglasses outside an old sandstone church, the centre a blinding sun beams across the horizon while Leo looks out to sea from the cliffs, and the right Leo poses on ancient stone steps surrounded by forest
Tell us about your Workaway experiences so far!
Leo:
I've had quite a few experiences in Italy staying with different local families where I helped to look after their kids. The first two were in Milan and Rivoli during the summer holidays... I was basically their driver, taking the kids to their different activities.
In the evenings I would do some cooking or just play games with the children until their parents came home from work. I also got to practice my teaching skills and my Spanish when I was helping one little boy with his homework. We had some really nice moments together.

That's why I chose Workaway - because you can truly get to know your hosts and learn about their culture. In my experience, I've always been treated like part of the family and be a part of their daily life. Hosts have asked me a lot of questions about my own culture too, so I've always felt comfortable.
A collage of three shots - Leo being embraced by two women on the left, in the centre a group of volunteers in the street underneath a red and yellow 'floating umberella' installation, right he poses smiling with two women all wearing winter gear
Related article: The best skills to learn before you go on your next Workaway adventure
What's your favourite part about working with children? Do you have a favourite age group?
Leo:
I'm very interested in languages. I did start studying Italian at home, but it was all theory. 
From the moment I arrived in Italy, looking after the kids meant 24/7 language practice!  It was a challenge because I had never been a babysitter or worked with children in this way before, but I loved being part of the family and acting as a big brother to the kids.

I think my favourite age is over the age of ten, because the younger they are, the more patient you have to be. It's a different experience when they're older, because you get a bit more of a back-and-forth conversation.
A collage of two shots - on the left Leo poses with a family including two teenage girls in the sunset, on the right he is indoors with a large group of young families
What kind of responses do you usually get from people about working with kids?
Leo:
I've only ever had positive responses. Some people are surprised, but I think in a good way. Sometimes they think it's weird, like, the big guy working with children? But normally they also think it's cute!
I've also been able to meet other travellers who work in childcare through Workaway, which is always nice!
a collage of two shots - on the left Leo poses with other volunteers smiling for the camera, on the right Leo is standing with an older couple, a blonde woman and a man in a blue shirt, in a garden
What tips do you have for other Workawayers who are also interested in child care?
Leo:
It's a task with a lot of accountability because you are caring for children. You have to be very responsible especially since there might be moments when the parents aren't there and you are left on your own to look after their kids.

You also have to be very patient. As I said, the younger they are, the more patient you have to be! It's a challenge, but I do think it is an enjoyable one.

If you are willing to challenge yourself, the result is always worth it.
A collage of two shots - on the left Leo poses with a young boy and young girl on a sunny day, on the right he poses with a woman with glasses and short dark hair, and a little boy pulling a funny face
What else have you been up to?
Leo:
I've been to nine Workaways in total, I'm always trying to change things up!

I have stayed in England, first near Cambridge, and then in Devon. I did more varied tasks at these Workaways like painting, gardening, cleaning, carpentry ... every day was different. I also got to visit London, which was really cool!

I spent the lockdown at a hotel in Sevilla, Spain, which is a beautiful city, I really recommend it if you've never been there! I'm so grateful to those hosts because they ended up letting me stay there for the whole quarantine.

I went back to Workaway in Rimini again, but this time to a hostel where I was helping to greet the customers and helped with their bags, and I also spent a wonderful summer Workawaying at a hotel in Lisbon, Portugal.

I also have a seasonal paid job in Gro ß-Gerau, Germany, which lets me save up some money so I can keep travelling. I'm actually here at the moment just enjoying it as a tourist, staying in hostels and going on walking tours, before the next season starts.
A collage of two shots - on the left two men sit on a bench having a break from gardening work, their tools propped against an old stone wall, and on the far right a group of men work on a garage roof
Is there any other kind of type of workaway that you're particularly drawn towards?
Leo:
I'm really interested in education, I think it is so important.

I did one Workaway at a language school in Poland, where I gave classes all the way from kindergarten kids to senior citizens, so it was really challenging. But I'm always trying to face new situations by myself, so I can see that I am capable of solving problems.

Now that I've seen a little bit of what children's lives are like in other places and countries, I want to learn more about education specifically.  So, I've been using Workaway to accumulate more experiences and I just want to keep going. 

My next goal is to visit another continent because I've been in Europe for three years, I am probably going to go to Asia next. I don't know how long I'll be travelling, but right now I've only had a little taste of the world and I want more.

I think this is just the beginning for me - three years? That's nothing!
A collage of two shots - top - Leo kneels on an indoor basketball court in front of a young basketball team in sportswear - bottom - he attempts to corral a lively group of children aged 5-6 in a school classroom
Any final words on your Workaway experience?
Leo:
If you're thinking about travelling in a different way, Workaway is a really nice way to do it. You will have plenty of opportunities to try new things and develop new skills.

You'll eat tasty local food, and practise new languages... there are so many places to go through Workaway- whatever you want to do is possible! I hope it's an experience you try at least once in your life.

And maybe after one, you'll want to do another!
A collage of three photographs, all of a group of people at a meal - far left is a Christmas meal in a family kitchen, in the centre a group of volunteers preparing food, and on the far right a group of people on a sunny day having a picnic in the garden

Maybe! What do you think about Leo's story? Let us know in the comments below ... or if you want to start having adventures of your own, sign up to Workaway here!

Watch our interview with Leo here!

homestaylanguage exchangecultural immersionhost familiesteachingchildren

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