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7 ways you travel differently after experiencing a work exchange

Participating in a work exchange changes your life, but it also changes the way you travel. Here are seven ways you travel differently after work exchange.


Apr 16, 2020


work exchange abroad

It's no secret that travel can change your life. And, traveling differently than you ever have will make you, well, different. After all, that's part of why we travel in the first place.

I've been working and traveling full-time using work exchange for nearly a year now, and I've noticed a few ways that it has changed the way I approach travel.

7 ways you travel differently after experiencing a work exchange

  1. You'll daydream about work exchange experiences instead of destinations
  2. You'll be more inclined to go "off the beaten path" 
  3. You'll be less intimidated to meet strangers
  4. You'll eat like the locals do (well, you'll eat like the locals do more often)
  5. You'll never think a week's vacation is enough
  6. You'll plan differently (or maybe not at all)
  7. You'll actually believe the world is your oyster

Let's take those one at a time, shall we? 

1. You'll daydream about work exchange experiences instead of destinations

Ocean daydreams

Work exchange teaches you that how you spend your time matters a whole lot more than where you spend your time.

Now that I've had that experience for myself, I daydream about working in a vineyard anywhere instead of working in a vineyard in Tuscany.

I dream of working on eco projects with people who are passionate about them, but I don't stress about where they're located too much.

Now that I know the value of experiences over locations, I often use the Worldpackers search engine by continent. It's just enough narrowing down for me and my newly open-minded ways.

Which leads us to...

2. You'll be more inclined to go "off the beaten path"

Female adventurer walking in the woods

Some work exchange opportunities are in major cities that everyone knows about, but many are in locations that you've never even dreamed of.

Tiny French villages that ooze charm? Yep, there's a work exchange there — just check out the amazing work exchange opportunities in France. The beautiful Italian countryside? Yep, there's a work exchange there, too— check these opportunities in Italy. Chill surf town that instantly relieves stress? Become a member of the Worldpackers community and apply for your favorite surf camp opportunities around the world.

After you experience the joy of discovering an off-the-beaten path destination via work exchange, you'll want to revisit that magic as often as possible.

3. You'll be less intimidated to meet strangers

Travel companions

As a proud introvert, I had often found myself fretting over new social interactions for weeks before they even happened.

Strangers at a party? No thanks. A hostel room of new faces? I'll pass. Living with strangers for an extended period of time? Nightmare.

Work exchange challenged me to face a lot of those social fears. After all, you've got to get good at connecting with strangers quickly when you're living on a sailboat with them.

I've developed a lot of tools to help me bond and make friends while traveling aloneI have a solid list of insightful questions that I often ask travel buddies. I've been known to share my latest reads or ask for travel advice (even if I don't need it). 

I've even learned that a shared language, while helpful, isn't the end-all be-all to connecting with someone. I've shared a coloring book to bond with someone, enjoyed a laugh over a shared silly moment, and of course, used my solid miming skills with great success.

In short, after experiencing work exchange abroad, I'm confident in my ability to connect with just about anyone now. Something changed in me. I even created the introvert's guide to work exchange with Worldpackers — give it a read for my best tips on traveling as an introvert.

Do I still have days that I don't love socializing while traveling? Sure. But even on those days, I'm much less nervous about the people that cross my path.

4. You'll eat like the locals do (well, you'll eat like the locals do more often)

Woman selling fruit at a local market

I'm not saying you'll never eat at a touristy restaurant or touch a hamburger again, but you're much more likely to shop at a farmer's market or grocery shop like the locals do after experiencing a work exchange abroad.

Work exchange teaches you that the travel experience matters more than expensive restaurants and fancy meals.

It teaches you that the journey really is the destination. When the destination is a tasty meal, the journey is an enjoyable evening spent cooking up a storm in a cozy kitchen somewhere.

5. You'll never think a week's vacation is enough

Beach and coconut

Of course, you can find short term work exchange programs if you're looking. But more than likely, you'll spend 2-4 weeks participating in international work exchange.

That means that you've learned the true luxury of time.

I have a work exchange related theory that you can be "time rich but money poor" or "time poor but money rich." I think you'll find that many people who travel by doing work abroad in exchange for room and board subscribe to similar philosophies.

I'll always opt for a longer, budget-trip rather than a short-but-luxurious one now.

After my work exchange abroad, I know how to travel on a budget. I also know how amazing it is to slow down and live like a local while traveling. I wouldn't give it up for the most amazing week-long vacation in the world.

6. You'll plan differently (or maybe not at all)

Compass and map

My first work exchange was on a sailboat. That meant that the wind and available anchorages dictated our path.

I didn't know where I was going to be the next day, let alone the next week or month. I didn't even have a set date that I was going to leave the work exchange.

It really tested a type-A over-planner like me.

I used to be someone who had carefully planned itineraries and well-researched routes. Then, I started pursuing work exchange opportunities and realized that flexibility was a virtue

Sometimes, flexibility is even a necessity. 

I still like to research the places I travel to, but I keep it simple now.

I create a very simple "bucket list" for each trip. Sometimes it only has one easily attainable thing like "eat a baguette in Paris" and other times, it has one major task like "scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef."

7. You'll actually believe the world is your oyster

Solo female traveler enjoying the ocean breeze

This one really goes beyond international work exchange. It might even go beyond travel altogether.

After experiencing a life-changing work exchange program, you'll realize that the world is filled with opportunities. There are thousands of work exchange opportunities with Worldpackers alone! 

The world becomes a little less intimidating when you come to that realization. If something doesn't work out? It's a bummer, but it's not the end of the world. It's the start of a new one.

There are more open doors, more opportunities, and more ways of living life than you'd have ever known before traveling via work exchange.

If you've had a work exchange experience abroad yourself, you know that because you've seen people living life that way firsthand.

You've already taken the first step in opening yourself up to the world by traveling through work exchange (or even considering it).

Woman with a blooming flower

How has work exchange shaped the way you travel?

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