Travelling on a shoestring: Workawaying v.s. Backpacking

Lately we’ve stumbled upon a lovely globetrotting couple, Sandy and Will, who are currently living the dream of long term travelling. We are so excited to get to know them and we asked them to tell us more on how they’ve managed to have so many unique travel experiences on a shoestring budget:

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We booked a one-way ticket from Australia to the UK with the plan to find work in England and use the money we earned to travel around Europe on our days off. However, when we arrived we were so excited about travelling that the thought of looking for a job and sticking to it over winter felt depressing! We started researching all the possible options we had to be able to travel with little savings, and came across one of those ‘Ways To Travel For Free’ articles online. One of the points was to volunteer in exchange for food and accommodation, which seemed so simple that we were surprised we hadn’t thought about it before!

We were invited to our first Workaway back in November 2015 and had the opportunity to volunteer for 5 hosts in 3 countries. It’s been such a unique experience to do so many things we never imagined we’d do. In the end what we got out of our workaways is just way much more than only “backpacking” around the world:

You’re Part of a Community

There’s no better feeling than being part of a community that aligns with your values. We found that the types of people we met through Workaway are generally different from most of the backpackers we met in hostels – we’re all here for the same reasons and usually have the same outlook on life. With Workaway you spend a lot of time with other volunteers so we’ve had time to create true lasting friendships around the world. We’ve also learned to communicate and live with people from all walks of life.

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You Experience Living Like A Local

It’s different seeing the world through a locals’ eyes compared to a tourists’…completely different! The great thing about Workaway is that not only do you get to spend long enough in one place, you stay with locals and experience the real culture of the countries you volunteer in.

Most tourist places you go to you’ll find English speakers, but when we volunteered in Central France almost no-one spoke a word. It was amazing to experience the real French culture, especially when our job was to teach English…in French!

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Getting lost in Central France…

Our host in Central France was actually a well-known chef so we tried many French dishes and learned a lot about French food. Another big bonus is, when you stay with a local you get all the best tips for what to do and what to see in their area. You’ll end up taking the road less travelled and go to places you never thought you’d visit.

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You Learn New Skills

If you think that travelling and volunteering will create a big gap in your resume then you’re wrong. Volunteering looks impressive on a CV because you learn things you’d never learn in a classroom and life experience is always advantageous. Through Workaway we’ve gained experience painting, gardening, teaching English, elderly care, handyman jobs, helping in a hostel and even taking care of animals in a zoo…and we know that the list really is endless as we continue our Workaway journey! In fact, the skills we’ve learned through Workaway even helped us gain paid work in Gran Canaria, which we wouldn’t have gotten without any of those experiences. If the pandemic has left you looking for a change, this is a great way to dabble in something new before taking the leap.

You Learn A Lot About Yourself

Through Workaway we witnessed how stressful restaurant owners can get, so personally we’d never want to open our own restaurant, nor would we want to own a farm after seeing how much time is spent on maintenance… After volunteering in a petting zoo in Portugal we got quite close with the animals and realised we don’t condone the zoo industry, which taught us a lot about our values. On the other hand, we discovered that we really enjoy painting, helping in hostels and have even started considering teaching English in Asia.

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Your Travel Funds Last A Long Time

Unlike backpacking where you pay for all your travel expenses, with Workaway you get food and accommodation for free in exchange for your help. This makes it an extremely affordable way to travel long-term, especially if you don’t spend much on main tourist attractions. We can’t even imagine all the money we’ve saved by choosing to travel through Workaway. When we were looking after our host’s garden in Normandy (France), we literally didn’t touch our funds the whole time we were there. They provided accommodation, meals, snacks and lots of good wine, and even took us on a day trip to explore the nearby areas.

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You Can Plan Safe Accommodation

Let’s not pretend we could just hop onto a flight and travel to the other side of the world without learning about all kinds of COVID travel restrictions at our destinations beforehand. It’s been so much harder to make travel plans during these uncertain times, so it can be a big relief if there is someone out there to help you stay up to date on local regulations. You can check in with your Workaway hosts to find out if there are any precautions they would like you to take pre-arrival, and Workawayers staying in the same area could also give you the low-down on how to be appropriately prepared when heading out and about. This really helps avoid awkwardness and misunderstandings later.

Whilst half the fun of backpacking can be finding somewhere to lay your head for the night, you don’t want to arrive in a remote village and realise the only hostel has shut down - just being able to plan reliable accomodation in advance makes all the difference!

For travellers who would rather be keeping socially distant, a lot of hosts are located ‘off grid’, which is great as it gets you off the beaten track. Alternately if the pandemic has left you yearning for more human interaction, you can always check out the “Meet Up” feature to make new friends! 

You Feel Good When You Help People

Helping people feels good…and why wouldn’t you want to feel good? We spent 2 weeks in Andalusia (Spain) helping our hosts re-paint their home. It felt great to see them so happy to complete their project and in a way we felt this is also a gesture from us to show our appreciation for their warm welcoming and hospitality. Workaway taught us so much about generosity and gratitude. By helping people and giving back to communities you also inspire others to make a difference.

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So based on our own experiences, these are the reasons we chose to do Workaway rather than just follow the typical “backpacking” routes around the world. We’re so grateful for the opportunity that our Workaway hosts provided and will definitely continue to volunteer during our future travels. We recommend it to absolutely anyone no matter your age or background!

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us, Sandy and Will! We really love hearing stories of how people follow their passion and put that into action too. To catch up with their journey, make sure to follow their Facebook page!

budget travelswokawayshoestringvolunteersbackpackinggap year

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We are so glad to have an active community of travellers and hosts who’ve been inspired by their Workaway experiences and want to share with us! Be it a funny story, interesting insights or helpful ti... show more...

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