How to Workaway safely as a solo traveller

Is Workaway safe?

I have lost count how many times I’ve heard this question. You’re maybe even wondering it yourself, right now. I’m not here to sugarcoat solo travel and tell you it’s the safest thing in the world, but I am here to tell you that with the right advice and support, you’ll realise travelling solo with Workaway is one of the best ways to see the world. 

The friendships, freedom and fulfilment will make all the nerves worth it, while the warmth and gratitude of the people you meet will reaffirm your belief in humanity. I should add that, while I love that you can join Workaway as a couple (and have embarked on my own volunteering ventures with my partner in crime) travelling solo hits differently. Especially travelling solo as a woman

Regardless of gender however, you may be apprehensive about taking that first step into the big wide Workaway world on your own. Then the idea of living with a stranger just adds to the overwhelm.

We’re here to let you know you’ve got this!

To friends and family, Workaway may sound like a crazy idea, but sometimes those ideas are the best ones. In fact, it's the perfect way to solo travel - you live with a local, in a home away from home so you’re guaranteed to make friends and memories

It’s comforting to have a base to call home, as well as meals and conversation without the struggle of sharing a hostel dorm or “finding your people” through overpriced group tours. Workaway does the hard work for you, helping you to connect and find your community before you even arrive. 

However, there are still a few tips to make the most of your experience. Here is how to Workaway safely as a solo traveller…

Related blog post: Feel the fear…and do it anyway: a solo traveller’s take on life

solo woman travelling and looking at view through building door

Do your research

Before contacting the first host you find, do your research. Read reviews from previous volunteers and read the host’s profile thoroughly to build an idea if they are your kind of people. 

Ask questions about the day to day life, including the food, expected tasks and sleeping arrangements. This will help you feel secure and ensure your expectations are met when you arrive. 

It’s also worth checking out the local area using Google Maps or similar. Are there transport links nearby? Will there be internet? Or will you be off grid? Having a thorough understanding of your location and host before you rock up on their doorstep will help you determine (and resolve!) any potential problems. 

Have proper insurance

No matter how much research you do or how well prepared you are, sometimes things go wrong. That’s where insurance comes in. Make sure you have adequate health and travel insurance that covers you in case of any medical emergencies or accidents. 

Have a Plan B

While it is rare, sometimes you just don’t click with your host or they need to cancel at the last minute. Whether its homesickness or the experience wasn’t what you’d hoped for, you also might need to leave for whatever reason. This means it’s always a good idea to have a plan B. 

While we love travelling for free and Workaway can help you do this, plan B usually means having some funds to pay for backup accommodation or flights home if needed. As well as the funds, the safety net of a plan B will keep your mind at ease and will avoid you taking unnecessary risks

As an extra support, Workaway can also assist with a plan B if needed. If there’s an emergency situation where the host has failed to fulfil their accommodation commitments and the Workawayer feels they have been left in a difficult situation, we can help. We can either help you find a new host in the local area, or compensate for up to 3 nights of accommodation in a nearby hostel. Have a read through of our emergency help plan before you set off. We also offer 24/7 email support and live chat, so we have your back. 

group of travellers and host enjoying a meal in the garden together

Know emergency procedures

This may sound obvious but each country has its own risks as well as ways to deal with them. For example, you may need to know earthquake procedures in New Zealand but how to deal with snake bites in Australia. 

Without a travel buddy to look out for you, it’s your responsibility to familiarise yourself with emergency procedures and how to contact local authorities or medical services just in case.

Pack smart

As well as knowing how to deal with any emergencies, you can pack to prevent them too. Check with your host if there is anything in particular you should bring to make your Workaway experience safe and smooth sailing. Alongside the essentials such as insect repellent, sunscreen or waterproof clothing you may need specific items such as hiking boots, a head torch, warm clothing, new sim card or malaria medication. 

Similarly, when travelling solo, it’s also important not to overpack with unnecessary items. At the end of the day, you’re the only one responsible for carrying it all so pack light, but pack smart. It means you have less to carry as well as less risk of items being lost or stolen. 

Related blog post: Journey with less: Woman who never travels with more than 5kg

workaway solo traveller with backpack and camping gear

Stay aware of your surroundings

One of the many ways we protect those using Workaway is that we manually review every single host and user’s profile, as well as every feedback left. This ensures only those with the best intentions use the platform. 

However, once you arrive, that doesn’t necessarily mean your surroundings are safe. It’s easy to get lost, scammed, ill or worse when you’re somewhere new and thrown into a completely different culture. 

Alcohol and drugs can also play a major factor in this. We all love to let our hair down and have fun, but it's one of the easiest ways to put yourself in unnecessary danger, get lost or make choices you’ll regret. It’s also wise to never leave your drink unattended or accept a drink you didn’t see being poured or opened. 

To avoid risky situations, it’s also a good idea to stay away from isolated areas or poorly lit areas, particularly at night. Avoid confrontations about sensitive topics such as politics or religion (especially when alcohol is involved) as these can escalate tension. It’s also worth trying to blend in to your surroundings by dressing appropriately to the local culture to avoid standing out as a tourist.

Even when you take these steps, there will still be rare occasions when it won’t all go to plan. That’s why we recommend you familiarise yourself with a few essential phrases in the local language, such as greetings, emergency phrases, and asking for help. This can help you communicate better and seek assistance if needed. It’s also important to have a reliable mobile phone or means of communication with important contact numbers and emergency contacts saved. 

Related blog post: Tips for Travelling Like a Local and Blending In

Open communication

Workaway celebrates a cultural exchange and this means it's very much a two way street. You offer your time, skills and enthusiasm in exchange for living like a local, including a place to stay and meals. At times this may mean overcoming language barriers, or simply communication styles. From day one, it is important both parties set clear expectations and boundaries in an open and respectful way

Then, make sure to follow all guidelines set by your host. Sometimes this will mean house rules, sometimes it may involve how to do the task safely, or local areas to avoid. Similarly, do not be afraid to raise any concerns with your host.  Also keep in mind that Workaway works on trust

Speak up if you feel you need particular safety equipment, you feel uncomfortable or if you feel unwell. If conflicts or misunderstandings arise, address them promptly and directly with your host. Avoid letting negative feelings or tensions build up, as this can strain your relationship and tarnish your Workaway experience.

Finally, be prepared to compromise and adapt. Practise patience and empathy, and try to see things from their perspective. This will ensure you both make the absolute most of the experience while ensuring your safety and the safety of others.

Take care of your health

While it is important to support your host, it is paramount you prioritise your health and well-being at all times. This means both physically and mentally. Make sure you get enough rest, stay hydrated and eat well.

Travelling solo can feel lonely at times but your host is there to listen as they recognise Workaway is one of the best ways to beat loneliness. You can also find a travel buddy for virtual support or Workawayers nearby to meet up in person. 

Travelling solo can also be more physically demanding - you’re relying on your own capabilities to get you from A to B. This makes it extra important to look after yourself. 

Related blog post: Travel fit with these great practical tips from a full time nomad

solo traveller with vegetables in his arms and mouth smiling silly photo fun

Stay in touch

On that note, keep in touch with family and friends back home regularly. While we all want the freedom and independence to explore on our own, all that is still possible with a quick update to home now and again. 

Let them know your whereabouts, including your host’s address and any contact information. It’s easy to get caught up in the fun of solo travel, or perhaps you’re embracing life off grid - either way make it a priority to let others know your plans. 

Test the waters

If you are still feeling a little nervous to try volunteering abroad, why not try it in your own country first? This is one of my best tips for those curious about Workaway but unsure about solo travel. 

With hosts in over 170 countries on the platform, chances are your home country is on there. There are so many reasons to travel in your own country as well as advantages for choosing it as your first Workaway destination

This includes: it's cheaper to travel to and your host will likely speak the same language making communication a little easier. It’s also easier to return home if you change your mind and you can still have an incredible experience even if it's two hours from your own home. 

It also means you can gain a few reviews and get an insight into Workaway life before the time and financial commitment of hopping on a plane to volunteer abroad. This will heighten your confidence and overall make you feel safer and more comfortable volunteering in a foreign country. 

Trust your instincts

Finally, trust your instincts. No amount of technology, packing tips or research can protect you from gut feeling. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe in any situation, remove yourself from it and seek help if needed. 

A lack of sleep or homesickness can make us overthink or overreact but it is always better to be safe than sorry. If a situation doesn’t sit right with you, that’s good enough reason to move on and go for plan B. 

Related blog post: 20 Essential Tips for Staying Safe When Travelling Solo

solo female traveller enjoying the sun with backpacks on the floor

Embarking on a Workaway journey as a solo traveller is a decision that will ignite your soul and change your life. While we should acknowledge potential dangers and challenges, let's focus on the abundance of reasons why you should confidently take the leap instead of the doom and gloom.

Volunteering solo has the unique ability to unlock hidden strengths within you. It will teach you resilience, independence, and adaptability. You'll become a master of embracing the unexpected and finding joy in the unplanned. Challenges will transform into opportunities for growth, and you’ll quickly realise that the journey is not just about the people you help but also about the person you become along the way.

With the right support, an unwavering belief in yourself and a dash of street-smarts, you can navigate through any hurdle. In fact, you will find that the world is a safer and more welcoming place than you ever imagined. Bon voyage! 

safe travelsafetysolo travellersolo tripsolo femalesolo travel

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