Fact No1: Traveliving is exciting, fun & an interesting way to live. However, it can get frustrating, tiring, boring and highly demanding on several resources.
Fact No2: You cannot only travel. It is impossible to travel for a long time without doing anything. No matter how much money and time you have available, it is not fun after some point. So you have to fill your routine with different things.
After 6 years of traveliving and after having figured out why we enjoy it and why we don’t want this to finish soon, we managed to give some answers on the above challenges. So, the Pin Project wouldn’t be what it is today, if we did not pause the roadtrip in order to work or volunteer for a good cause.
Several times in several countries, we found paid jobs, volunteering assignments or just work exchange jobs that enabled us to meet some incredibly friendly people, acquire new skills, learn new things and finally enrich our travel time with unforgettable memories.
Either by meeting the right people, at the right time, at the right location or by using online resources and networks like workaway or helpx networks, we have stayed in amazing places like a backpackers in the southernmost tip of Africa, a luxury fishing lodge in Canada, a safari camp in Tanzania, a mountain lodge in Ecuador or -even better- an arts center & boutique hotel in México!
The last 6 years we are mainly working in hospitality & tourism industry in exchange of food, accommodation & tips or proper salary. Lots of people are asking us how we find all these cool places!
The answer is simple:
1. You can register in one of those networks mentioned above and start sending your applications on hosts that you think you could fit.
2. Start visiting local businesses like hostels and lodges and ask if they would be interested for a work exchange. In South America, there are lots of businesses that they are willing to offer you a bed in a dorm in exchange of a 5-6 hours shift for 5-6 days per week.
What we do as Nikos & Georgia (and also how we filter the hosts and also skip the fees) is:
We carefully do our research. We first check the host lists which are available (which is for free) on the above mentioned networks. Βy carefully checking what the hosts are offering as well as the feedback from other volunteers, we can figure out which host would be suitable for our skills, time frame etc. According to the policy though, the hosts are not allowed to mention the business name or their exact location, so its a bit hard to locate them.
However, most of the hosts, in their attempt to describe their business, they are using lots of keywords as well as the same pictures they use in their online accounts like Facebook, Instagram and Tripadvisor. So, by using Google search engine and Tripadvisor comments section, you can start looking for the name of the business and of course their contact details using the keywords they are providing.
For example, their profile can be like: a family-run Bed and Breakfast in Urubamba, the Sacred Valley of Incas nearby Cusco, Perú. Using these keywords and comparing the pics on their account with the pictures on Google images, Facebook & Instagram, you can find out which is the lodge or the hotel that is looking for “young, energetic travellers to help them”.
This way, we have “arranged” 2 amazing work exchanges in México and Ecuador, we skipped the fees and so we did not use the platform services.
The biggest problem for both the hosts and the travellers as well as for the administration of the work exchange websites is the fact that both parties sometimes tend to abuse the idea of exchange.
There are hosts who think that travellers are like their paid staff and they treat them as such by making them work for long hours, don’t provide them with food, etc. Sometimes, this attitude makes some people believe that work exchange is like slavery. It happened to us personally to be called slaves by a host. Besides that, we have met other travellers who consider people who go for work-exchange as slaves. This is not the case since the idea of work & culture exchange is totally out of work ethics but genuine give-take-learn relationship.
Plus, there are travellers who think that the exchange is limited to wake up, having breakfast & watch the sunset rather than helping and contributing to their hosts just because they are “volunteers”. There is no such a thing as volunteering in a business which is also out of any work ethics and labour laws internationally.
Another big challenge for the hosts and the travellers is that guests are short-listing the guests and don’t reply -even negative- to the travellers that they are always expecting for an answer. On the other hand, hosts find themselves waiting for travellers that they don’t show up on the agreed dates just because they change their plans on their way and do not let them know well in advance.
Finally, work exchange opportunities are a great way to plan a long time trip around a region. For example, if you were always dreaming to travel in South America or Southeast Asia, you can plan the route, itineraries & sightseeing you want to do, the time that you will work and travel as well as your budget.
However, we would strongly advise to read very thoroughly all the comments and make sure that the host is reliable and trustworthy and does not look for free labour only but offers a great working environment, opportunities for cultural & skills exchange as well as full-board! It happened to meet other travellers who had an agreement with a host but when they showed up, the host did not even wait for them, claimed that she had forgotten they had made a mutual plan and that she receives so many applications that she cannot remember all the agreements and plans she does with travellers!!!
So, next time you are a bit sick of travelling and you want to extend your travels or just plan your first epic adventure, do something memorable, see how the locals live, save your budget or even make some pocket money, work your way into the local economy and find a temporary job or a work exchange.