As an introvert who relies on alone time to recharge after a long day, choosing work exchange as an alternative travel style was a big step for me. I know I'm not alone in my hesitation either!
I've decided to share my personal work exchange tips for introverts to alleviate some common worries that I certainly had before becoming a Worldpacker myself.
I've had amazing work exchange experiences as an introvert. Some hosts may have even chosen me specifically because I was an introvert, believe it or not.
I spent three weeks sailing through the Greek Islands with a family in exchange for tutoring their daughter last summer. They loved that I had a big appetite for books and was a quiet sailing companion to share a small space with.
Even now, I'm spending six months in New Zealand as an au pair caring for children in a large home. I live with a family and experience domestic life as an honorary Kiwi. They appreciate that I can be independent and am content if they want some family time.
Work exchange experiences are inherently social. They just are.
I'm interacting with, working for, and sharing cultures with other people constantly. I share their spaces and eat the same meals as they do.
Extroverts may naturally thrive in the social environment that work exchange provides, but that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy a work experience to the fullest as an introvert too.
I've found a way to balance experiencing a new culture and protecting my personal time and energy as an introvert.
It's simply a matter of choosing wisely and adapting each work exchange experience to meet my needs for me time and calm each day.
An introvert's guide to work exchange with Worldpackers
Choose your work exchange wisely
Small or family-oriented work exchange experiences are your friend
Look for work exchange experiences with inviting common spaces
Be the first to say "hello"
Wake up early
1. Choose your work exchange wisely
Not all work exchange opportunities are made equal. Pay attention to the way the host is presenting the opportunity with images and descriptions.
Take a glance through the reviews that former Worldpackers have left as well. The kind of language they use can be very telling.
Helping to run bar crawls for the hostel in the center of the city might sound like fun on paper, until your realize it means your roommates will probably be the loud, raucous type. Look for words like "charming" or "peaceful" in the description instead.
The reviews for my current opportunity as an au pair mentioned the "quiet" atmosphere and "slightly secluded" surroundings. Just what my introvert heart desired!
2. Small or family-oriented work exchange experiences are your friend
A small work exchange project might be just the ticket for other introverted Worldpackers like me. With a smaller group to cater to, and a higher chance of one-on-one interaction with your host, you'll feel more at ease socially.
I've personally found that work exchange experiences that are more family-oriented, involving tutoring or child care, offer more personal space and quiet time than large group projects.
Of course, this tip is based solely on my particular experience with family-oriented work exchange and may not be indicative of the work exchange style itself. Each family is different, just like each introverted Worldpacker has their own needs.
3. Look for work exchange experiences with inviting common spaces
It might seem counterintuitive to consider ample common spaces a good thing for introverts. Personally, I would always favor work exchanges with lots of outdoor spaces like patios or gardens to relax in after all the work is done.
Spaces to encourage socializing might seem like a nightmare to some introverts, but think of it another way. More common spaces mean a better chance of finding a cozy corner of your own to read a book in or a more natural way to have genuine conversations with your hosts or other Worldpackers.
They also provide an alternative to your shared room, if you don't have a private room of your own, if you're feeling overwhelmed by extroverted roommates.
4. Be the first to say “hello”
Another counterintuitive work exchange tip for introverts. As introverts, we're generally not the ones to jump head first in a conversation. When you're sharing a room or house with someone and working alongside them, it can get really awkward if you don't strike up a conversation willingly.
To avoid a tornado of anxious “what should I do?” and “should I have said something?” thoughts, be the first one to say a quick hello. I found that getting the small talk and chit chat out of the way early was always a more enjoyable experience than waiting until someone else involved me in the conversation.
If you find yourself enjoying the conversation, you might have a new friend for life on your hands. I made some great lifelong friends this way.
If the conversation is just so-so, you can go right back to working on your project or burying your nose in your book knowing that they don't think of you as the weirdly mute Worldpacker in the corner.
5. Wake up early
If you find it especially hard to find time for yourself while traveling on a work exchange trip, the easiest way to carve out space for yourself is to claim it while everyone else is sleeping.
Wake up 15 minutes before you really need to. Take time to read or journal in peace, before the demands of the day catch up to you and your fellow Worldpackers.
As a bonus, you'll see a more authentic side of the place you're staying at if you're up when the locals are starting their days.
6. Relax when others are away
It's not a foolproof tip for introverts, but I've found that it's important to use the time that you have a gap in your schedule to truly relax.
It's rare for your schedule to completely align with hosts or other Worldpackers. Most work exchange experiences have some built in solo time when working on individual projects, running errands, or when hosts leave the house for a while.
Enjoy those moments to the fullest. Catch up on some me time and soak up the solo feelings.
Sometimes all we need to feel refreshed as an introvert is a few moments on our own to enjoy the meaningful work exchange experience we're having anyway.
Do you have any other work exchange tips for introverts you'd add to my list? Tell me in a comment below!