10 questions to ask yourself before traveling with a work exchange
To help you mentally prepare for your work exchange experience, ask yourself these 10 questions before traveling. Are you really ready to change your entire life?
It takes some mental gymnastics to open yourself up to the world of travel and work exchange.
Work exchange is not a typical vacation. You may not know a single person in real life who has participated in a work exchange.
I know that I was of two minds about traveling with a work exchange before I went and experienced it.
On the one hand, I was terrified that I would end up sharing my precious vacation time working with strangers I couldn't get along with.
On the other, I was amazed that I could spend my travel budget so sparingly to experience authentic life in amazing locations around the world.
I'm so glad that I brushed my fear aside and embraced traveling through work exchange opportunities for the meaningful, life-changing experiences that they are.
But it wasn't without a lot of careful consideration.
Aside from checking the 20 questions to ask your Worldpackers hosts before you commit, I also asked myself a few key questions to both mentally and logistically prepare for my work exchange experiences.
Before you participate in a work exchange opportunity yourself, ask yourself these 10 questions before traveling with a work exchange through Worldpackers.
10 questions to ask yourself before traveling with a work exchange
- Am I really ready to help rather than relax on vacation?
- Am I actually ready to see the world differently?
- What do I want to learn from a work exchange experience?
- What skills or assets could I teach someone?
- Do I care about more about the work I'm doing or location I'm in?
- Am I really willing to adapt to a new environment? Schedule? Diet? Lifestyle?
- Do I want to truly disconnect or be easily accessible to friends/family back home?
- What impression do I want to give others about my own culture or country?
- Do I have a contingency plan if something doesn't feel right to me?
- What do I need to change about my current life now to make work exchange a reality for me?
1. Am I really ready to help rather than relax on vacation?
This is the first, and most obvious, question you should ask yourself before traveling to participate in a work exchange program.
If you want a truly traditional holiday, don't do a work exchange.
If you're open to helping out for a few hours a day, continue on.
With a work exchange experience, you'll have to balance the time you spend working with the time you spend have to sunbathe and sightsee.
Before you discount work exchange as too much work altogether, consider that you may be able to stay longer in each destination because you'll save money compared to a more traditional vacation in the same location.
2. Am I actually ready to see the world differently?
Inevitably, travel is a pure form of education and expands your horizons. Work exchange experiences tend to accelerate this even more.
You might learn interesting things about foreign cultures. You could learn a new language. You'll have friends who are different than you. You'll learn things about yourself.
These things all shift the way you see the world moving forward, and that can be a scary thing.
Ask yourself if you're actually ready to view your life in a different light. If not, don't do a work exchange.
3. What do I want to learn from a work exchange experience?
Is there a certain skill you'd like to practice? Would you like to learn more about a specific culture? Do you want to learn a language?
Ask those questions before traveling, so that you can spend your time at a work exchange wisely.
4. What skills or assets could I teach someone?
Take a look back at your past. What is your educational background like? What have you done for work in the past? Do you speak a language fluently? What are you passionate enough about to teach someone else?
You may not think you have a lot of offer, but everyone has something to bring to the table.
I never would have guessed that my background as a journalist would help me get a tutoring gig on a sailboat in Greece, but it did!
Get creative. Your skills, and even your personality, can be of value to someone on the other side of the world.
5. Do I care about more about the work I'm doing or location I'm in?
This question to ask yourself goes back to what you want to get out of traveling with a work exchange experience.
Does location or the work you're doing matter more to you?
Would you do less exciting work to be located in your dream destination? Search specifically and be open to whatever may be available.
If you have a specific skill you want to use or a certain language you want to learn, use that to narrow your work exchange search.
Maybe you're just interested in having a unique experience somewhere. I ended up sailing the Greek Islands because I was simply interested in what life was like on a sailboat and was able to find a work exchange opportunity there.
Be honest with yourself about what will make your work exchange experience a success for you.
6. Am I really willing to adapt to a new environment? Schedule? Diet? Lifestyle?
Life will inevitably look differently than it does during your current daily life.
Are you really willing to spend your precious vacation time living in a different way than you're accustomed to?
I highly recommend that you keep your mind open to adjusting to your work exchange experience. If you're set on certain aspects of your lifestyle, keep that in mind as you vet work exchange experiences and decide if they're right for you.
7. Do I want to truly disconnect or be easily accessible to friends/family back home?
Not all work exchange opportunities are created equally, especially when it comes to connectivity.
If you want to be totally off the grid for a modern digital detox, search for work exchange opportunities that would be conducive to disconnecting.
Do you need to be checking in with friends and family back home? Be sure to look for opportunities that would provide wifi and align somewhat with your home timezone.
It seems like a strange thing to think about in advance, but it might make a big difference to your experience.
8. What impression do I want to give others about my own culture or country?
No matter where you're from, there will be preconceived notions about you, your country, and your culture.
You might be the first person from your home country that your hosts have met. It's up to you to form or reshape their opinions about your culture or country.
I also like to think of the potential questions about my culture and country that I may be asked before I arrive.
As an American, I know that I might get a few political questions so I have a few respectful responses ready when the conversation inevitably turns that way.
Regardless of where you're from, it's helpful to think of the tough questions you may get so that you can handle them appropriately.
I also like to think of a few fun anecdotes about my life at home that I can share with my hosts. It helps them to get an authentic glimpse of what real life is like in my country.
9. Do I have a contingency plan if something doesn't feel right to me?
As a solo female traveler, I'm always giving safety a consideration. Worldpackers does a great job of reviewing their hosts, but I always like to have a contingency plan in case something goes awry.
Do you have enough in your travel budget to adjust your travel plans if something falls through with your work exchange hosts? If not, I would save your pennies for a little while longer.
10. What do I need to change about my current life now to make work exchange a reality for me?
There is a lot of things in life that might stop us from participating in work exchange.
Maybe it's a job with very little vacation time.
Maybe it's a bank account with too many expenses paid to "Starbucks."
Maybe it's simply your mindset.
Finally, don't forget to check this exclusive guide on how to prepare for your trip with Worldpackers.
Start by taking a few baby steps towards the idea of traveling with a work exchange. It may be difficult and take time but start small.
By asking yourself these 10 questions, you'll be closer to traveling with a work exchange than you were yesterday.