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Throughout this blog, I’ve written plenty about the wonderful places, crazy experiences and must do activities. One thing that it always comes back to, is… cost!! Australia is vast and trying to see it all in relative luxury, at a leisurely pace, without working 3 jobs and surviving eating nothing but dust, to be blunt, is simply going to cost you a small fortune! But what if there was another way!?!? Thankfully there is… Do some workaway volunteering…
What is Workaway Volunteering?
To be fair it’s pretty simple. Workaway is an organization set up to stop some unscrupulous volunteer agencies that charge kind people who want help others for free, obscene amounts of money just for putting you in touch with the same person. Effectively cutting out the middle man.
Small businesses and individual hosts that find themselves in need of a few extra pairs of hands will offer food and board in exchange for a set amount of work per day. Currently there are over 32000 welcoming hosts all over the world that are looking for help on various projects.
Most of the time you will be living with your hosts in their own houses, eating with them, being part of their family. A fair few of the hosts accept full families, even pets!! Some will expect you to stay around for at least a week and some will let you stay indefinitely if you would like.
Update: Since writing this article I’ve written a few posts of my experiences doing some Workaway volunteering in various countries in Asia.
Check out some of these posts to get an idea of how it works:
- 10 days volunteering in India – Growing vegetables on a natural farm in Moordibidri.
- 10 days volunteering in Thailand – Helping to construct toilet blocks for a jungle retreat in Ba Na.
Who does Workaway suit?
Well anyone who wishes to see as much of the world as possible for the least amount of money. Also, a lot of the hosts are locals and situated in the more rural areas, so you’ll get much more of a taste for native culture than if you stayed in a hostel surrounded by fellow backpackers.
For anyone who is just starting their first year visa in Australia, Workaway is perfect to get you on your feet.
As already discussed on this blog, accommodation in Australia is one of the biggest expenses to the thrifty backpacker. With hostels costing upwards of $250 a week, that’s a massive hole in your pocket if you’re not currently working and just using it for a bed as you go out exploring every day.
Another good point to the workaway scheme and maybe the most beneficial is the fact that you can have it all arranged before you step foot on Australian soil.
Turning up in Australia without a bank account no tax file number and no work prospects, there’s only one thing that is guaranteed to happen…. you’ll be flat broke in no time!! Remember the $16 cheese burgers!?
So one of the best plans of attack for arrival in Australia is to sign up to Workaway before you arrive, have a host lined up ready for your first days in Oz.
This way you can fly into the nearest airport, spend maybe a day or two in the city getting over the jet lag/exploring and then head to your workaway scheme. This will give you the necessary time to get your affairs in order i.e. TFN, bank account, white card, RSA. All without having to spend a fortune on survival while you get to grips with these mundane necessities.
As well as them benefits, there’s also the fact that being hosted by someone who lives in the area and knows how things work gives you the inside track on what to expect for your ongoing adventure.
If I had my time again, that last paragraph is of paramount importance! Don’t burn $2000 in the first month not knowing your arse from your elbow like I did.
Will I be worked like a slave for a bowl of rice a day?
Quite the opposite, most hosts are genuinely very grateful for your help and will treat you the best they can and share with you all their facilities. Some will let you borrow their car/quad, some even have horses that they’ll teach you to ride.
Plus you can also see feedback from other workawayers, on the work required, working hours and accommodation before you agree to go to the placement.
You get the right host and it could verywell be the best thing you ever do in your life!!
The usual working conditions consist of, 4-5 hours a day for 5 days a week. In return, you’ll be given somewhere to sleep, and a good feed for 7 days. Although this can be negotiated between you and your host, for example, you might only want to work for 3 long days and have 4 free to explore the local area.
What type of work might you find?
- Looking after children (teaching them English)
- Renovating houses and outbuildings
- Many aspects of farming
- Reception hostel/campsite
- Looking after animals/pets
- Learning/helping with permaculture
- Driving work
Pretty much anything! There really are some once in a lifetime opportunities up for grabs on the workaway scheme. Recently I saw a host offering 4 places on his 45ft sail boat, travelling from Portugal to Australia and everywhere in between.
All you had to do, was be a deck hand/travel mate and in return, you would receive a bed, food/drink on a round the world trip. He would even teach you to sail. Now how much would some people pay for that experience!?
Things to consider before you start volunteering…
As with anything, knowing all the facts and understanding what to expect before you arrive is very important. So having done more than a few workaway placements here’s a few of my top things to consider before signing up for a couple weeks volunteering somewhere that you have never been before:
- Accommodation: Knowing where you’ll lay your head at night is certainly at the top of my list and for good reason. Some hosts will ask you to bring your own tent as they can’t offer you anything else. Some will offer you a bed in a 20 person dorm while others will be able to offer you your own room with ensuite.
- Food: Me, being a very fussy eater ensures the consideration of meals is on the list. I’m a meat eater and my girlfriend Agne is a vegetarian so finding a host that can cater to both of us is important. Some hosts will cook “local” meals for you while others will give you a fridge stocked with food for you to cook yourself.
- Hours of work: Obviously you don’t want to be working 10 hour days, 7 days a week so negotiating working hours needs to be done beforehand.
- The local area: Working only around 20 hours a week will leave you with a lot of downtime, Make sure there’s something worth doing nearby.
- How many other workawayers: Along the lines of the local area and having a lot of downtime, I spent a week out of 10 days alone in the jungle because I was the only workaway at that time. Worth an ask….
- How long you have to stay: Some hosts have a minimum required length of time that you must stay. No good you turning up for 3 days and they want you to stay for 3 weeks.
So how do I join in this world of free adventure?
Well it’s not quite free!!! But what in the world is these days? There is a once yearly membership fee – 29 EUR for a single person and 38 EUR for a couple. These costs are not to line some fat cats pockets but to pay for reliable servers, 24/7 technical assistance and other operational costs.
If your not sure about whether the membership fee being worth it, you can always click here to see what opportunities are on offer before parting with your hard-earned cash.
Once you’ve decided that it is definitely worth it and payed the small fee to join then you are able to get in touch with as many hosts as you like. You also get access to the traveller community, so you can see who is working nearby, arrange to meet up and trade tips on which hosts and areas you found to be the best.
No matter where you are in the world, well almost everywhere, there will be Workaway hosts willing to put you up and feed you for a few hours of your time. It has to be the best way to properly immerse yourself in the local culture, while at the same time saving money and seeing many new places.
Sign up for Workaway, buy yourself a second hand bike, a tent and a backpack….. Few hundred quid in your pocket, be amazed how far and long you can travel!