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.”