Have you ever wondered what it’s like to travel anywhere swapping your skills for accommodation? Have you toyed with the idea of get room in exchange for work but didn’t know where to start or if it’s even a real thing?
Let me share with you some of my own biggest questions and concerns I had before I went on this experience as well as do my best to answer them. Stay tuned to learn:
How the work exchange works
If you have the right skills to offer
The pros and cons of doing work exchanges
How to find (amazing and safe) work stay programs
Is this thing safe?
The concept of getting a room in exchange for work is so new to me, how do I know these hosts are legit and safe? I don’t know a single person where I’ll be going, how do I know I can trust anyone I’ll meet?
What I discovered: This may sound cheesy, but the Worldpackers hosts are world-class. They are established businesses that know how to work with you to make sure you feel secure and have the experience of a lifetime.
You are always guaranteed a room or a bed, and the rest falls into place. If I ever had a concern about a guest, another volunteer, or any situation I wasn’t comfortable with, I knew I had the support of the hostel owners and the whole Worldpackers community to back me up and find a solution to any problem.
The really cool part of traveling alone in an experience like this, is that you’re not alone at all. The second you arrive on site, you instantly have the knowledge and local support of those working in the hostel, which helps you avoid rookie travel mistakes and steer clear of needless trouble.
How does it work and what happens if I don’t like it?
What I discovered: the Worldpackers site is very easy to navigate and there is no such thing as a stupid question here. The general idea of this concept of working for food and accommodation is simple: you offer what skills you have to give and find a host that matches where and when you want to travel. Once you connect with them and get accepted, you get ready for your trip and GO. It’s a very rich experience that doesn’t break your bank :-)
If you don’t like it or you just don’t vibe with the environment when you get there, you aren’t under a fancy contract to stay. But if you’re going to put all the effort into doing something like this and make a commitment to a hostel that is relying on you, you should at least feel good in your gut about it before you go so that you don’t end up disliking it or letting anyone down.
I’ve never worked in exchange for a room, how will my skills even help?
What I discovered: At first I thought I would be a fish out of water but was ready for the learning curve. I never realized I would gain even more skills than I offered and in turn be able to use those new skills while on the trip!
I started by doing basic reception and party promotion, but learned how to fill the gaps of where the hostel needed help each day. I discovered I loved being a tour guide of the area that quickly became my second home and was able to use my English teaching abilities in everyday conversations with new friends.
There are many work exchange volunteer opportunities with Worldpackers that really do make a difference in the world but even if you’re just working reception and keeping things tidy, you are helping in tremendous ways. Everyone has something to give.
Are there clear positives and negatives to staying somewhere in exchange for work?
In my opinion, there are huge positives and there are opportunities to learn. If you’ve read this far, you’re probably of that same mindset so keep reading.
You save so much money! If you love sticking to your budget, you will love this experience.
Experience other cultures
Make new and lasting friendships
Self-discovery to the max
Learn new skills and hobbies
Learning opportunities (negatives)
You stay in one place and can’t travel around other than your time off each week. (That’s okay, make this your home away from home!)
You make amazing friendships, but they are just passing through. (It’s better to be open and meet people that can change your life than to be distant and let the amazingness pass you by.)
Your expectations may not line up with what actually happens. (Bring some earplugs to sleep better and be prepared to always wear a smile!)
Those back home may not understand exactly what you’re doing or be as excited as you when you return home. (That’s okay, you left them at home for a reason).
My final question about working in exchange for accommodation, is it worth it?
What I discovered: YES! If you are on the fence or even in the yard walking around thinking about doing something like this, I encourage you to go for it!
I was able to learn a third language, see the inner workings of how to run a hostel and gain insight into the tourism industry, eat amazing food, dance to amazing music, meet some of the most amazing people from all over the world, and stretch my mind and my heart into different shapes – leaving me a different person than before.
I’ll leave you with something a fellow co-worker told me: “I may not be able to travel the entire world, but by going through this experience of a work exchange in a hostel, the whole world comes to me.”