It is possible to travel for free and live like a local?
Dear reader, have you always wondered if there was a method that would allow you to travel for free and, at the same time, fully immerse yourself in the culture of the country of destination leading a life like that of local citizens? I have the answer for you: it is called workaway.
Today I want to introduce you to this beautiful program based on the experience I have had since November '19 in Australia.
What is workaway and how does it work?
Workaway is a platform created to connect hosts (local families) with travelers (the workawayers) based on a fair mutual exchange (usually).
The format is very simple: the traveler will be required to perform, generally,The format is very simple: the traveler will be required to perform, generally, five hours of work per day for five days a week, in exchange the latter will receive room and board for free.
All you need is to create a workaway profile for a pittance of about €35/year, introduce yourself and indicate the period and locations in which you intend to travel. After that you can start looking for families that best meet your needs!
Example of my workaway profile
I suggest you invest some time in creating your profile and your presentation: you are introducing yourself behind a screen so it is very important to make a good impression. Present yourself as you are and with complete sincerity, indicate what kind of help you can offer and, if you don't have any kind of experience, write it down!
Workaway is a great place to learn new skills and hosts are usually happy to teach you something new!
Example of my workaway profile
In essence, then, it is a volunteer program and therefore it goes without saying that it is a very good way to substantially cut travel costs but, the true essence of workaway goes far beyond the economic aspect.
First of all, in fact, it is a great way to learn new skills and help local people in the development of their projects but it is also an excellent opportunity to establish long-term relationships and fully immerse yourself in the local culture, living a life that fully reflects the local one.
I forgot! With workaway you also have the possibility to connect with other travelers who share the same destinations as you. So perfect for those who are looking for a travel buddy or for those who simply want to meet new people!
Find more information on the official website: https://www.workaway.info/.
What kind of jobs do you do?
The tasks are endless, they really range far and wide!
For example, I tried my hand at being a painter, a gardener, a porter.. but even the classic cleaning or cooking together with the host family are part of the experience.
In the end, you have to understand that you become part of a family and it is legitimate to help with daily tasks.
These are just a few examples of the work I've done, but there are so many possibilities and most of the time no previous experience is required, that's why it's also a great opportunity to learn something new to put into practice in the future.
Having always been in love with Australia but never having had the opportunity to go there, I found the workaway program perfect for my needs and, if at first it might seem like a purely economic choice, I can assure you that it turned out to be a delightful life experience!
I began contacting dozens and dozens of families a few months in advance so as not to risk arriving in the land of kangaroos without a place where to stay (which turned out to be a good choice since I found the first family that agreed to host me only about sixty days before my departure).
Irene and the students
The first good soul who decided to host me was Irene, a woman to whom I owe so much for everything she taught me in such a short time.
She welcomed me like a son, making me feel at home despite the sixteen thousand kilometers that separated me from my family.
With her I immediately got a taste of the life I was going to live in Melbourne and with a lot of patience she also gave me a good foundation of English.
Living with Irene was a great place to start. In addition, she has been hosting international students for many years, which is great for workawayers who, like me, are jumping into this experience since you get to socialize with people from all over the world.
From left: me, Irene and Vivian
My favorite time, in fact, was dinner: every day we all cooked and prepared delicious food together and then ended up in long chats around the table.
I immediately felt at home!
With Irene then the bike rides are always there! Already the second day after my arrival she took me to discover the best of Melbourne through beautiful places!
Day two in Melbourne, not bad as a welcome!
In short there is so much to learn with her and I had a really rich experience. She gave me the opportunity to learn about different cultures thanks to the students she hosts, incredibly increase my English level thanks to her patience and efforts to help me and I learned a lot of skills in gardening thanks to her mother and painting thanks to her friend George. Not to mention cooking: a world opened up to me every day!
Oh I forgot, with Irene I also had the opportunity to be the joy of all the children because, during a Christmas party, I found myself handing out dozens of presents in the role of Santa Claus; who would have ever thought that I would have gone to the opposite side of the world to do that? It was amazing!
Me in the role of Santa Claus
Distributing gifts to children
Irene not only gave me a great welcome but also made me grow hugely as a person. In addition, she has been at my side throughout my stay in Australia being an excellent cycling companion and, above all, strongly supporting me during the pandemic making my life there much easier and joyful.
If you are lucky, you will also have the opportunity to meet her kind mother: thanks to her I was able to visit the fantastic town of Dromana where I met kangaroos for the first time and spent the afternoon enjoying fish & chips on the beach.
Dromana beach with typical cabins
Villa of Mary, Irene's mother with classic English garden
Fantastic view of Dromana from the mountain behind it
I suggest you have a look at the workaway profile of Irene in case you are interested in having such an experience in Melbourne.
Vivian, tia, Matt and Loui
After a month of living with Irene I met Vivian (here her workaway profile), probably in the craziest period of her life!
Little trivia: I contacted both of them purely at random through the workaway app and then discovered that they were not only friends, but also lived 500 meters away! How small is the world eh?
First evening with Vivian: club tour on Brunswick street – Fitzroy North
The experience with Vivian was totally different: she was moving into a house undergoing a complete renovation and therefore needed help with packing boxes, transporting materials but I also had to do a lot of cleaning and had a certain responsibility for helping her with the choice of furniture (the latter was definitely my favorite part).
I certainly can't say that it was easy and pleasant to have to work every day for several hours but Vivian's enthusiasm certainly helped and what she gave me in return was really a lot!
Plus I was in the great company of the most adorable dog in the world (but that's another story).
The entire relocation process took a month and a half and believe me, I still wonder how it was possible to complete it in such a short time!
Renovation work in the new house in pleasant company
The goal was to finish the transfer by Christmas and we officially finished it on the eve of it; I can't describe how emotional that moment was.
One hundredth of the waste we have accumulated
On Christmas Eve, after dinner, Vivian beckoned to me, Tia (her daughter and by now my second sister) and Matt (her son and by now my brother too) and told us to join her at the foot of the door.
We hugged, she told us to look at the living room and the kitchen, for the first time tidy, clean and marvellous. We got excited.
There were quite a few ups and downs but that's part of the experience and, I would add, that's the beauty of it! It makes everything so much more authentic and makes you feel fully a part of the family.
You understand that your support matters nd you realize how much more you are worth than just a “volunteer”.
Exhausted but happy: this was the first dinner in the new house!
It was such an intense journey. There were so many misunderstandings, so many arguments and, at times, a good deal of stress But there were also many smiles and joys.
To be underlined, also, that the entire move took place in the middle of spring/early summer so I'll let you imagine how difficult it can often have been to "work" instead of enjoying the beautiful days of Melbourne.
But don't worry, Vivian is a psychologist and understands when it's time to take a break!
The satisfaction at the end of the move was incomparable.
Having been part of a move, knowing that I have concretely contributed and helped a family in such an important step has really enriched me morally.
Matt and I enjoying our “relaxation” breaks playing tennis
The efforts and moments of difficulty were repaid in full when I saw the final result and, above all, the thanks that Vivian gave me was incredible.
I stayed with her, Tia, Matt and Loui another month and a half, because by then I had become part of the family and, I must admit, it was hard to part with her.
Being part of the family also means having dinner with relatives on Christmas Eve!
The last evening, then, was very emotional. She organized a picnic at our favorite park and ended with an evening in the spa in the garden watching the stars and talking about travel non-stop, complete with champagne!
To end on a high note, a nice night in the spa contemplating the stars and talking about travel!
It was an unforgettable experience and full of emotions!
And who would have ever thought that?
I lived for free for three and a half months, I met wonderful people and friends for life, learned a lot of secrets in the kitchen, learned important gardening skills, and even practiced painting techniques
I believe that a very big positive note in all of this is to have the possibility of having a foothold on which to rely.
Personally, in fact, it was very useful for me to know that I could count on families close to me even though I was on the other side of the world.
I can assure you that feeling the affection and support of loved ones when you find yourself going on a prolonged experience abroad is very important and if you have already been abroad alone for a prolonged period of time, you know that very well.
So is travel for free and living like a local possible?
Absolutely yes and it's so fucking cool!
There are so many stories to tell about my workaway experience and I could talk about them for hours! Let me know in a comment if you'd like me to do a podcast with Irene and/or Vivian revealing the workaway experience from their perspective as well.