Traveling gets expensive... quickly!
Many people save money for years to afford just a few months of travel...!
It all adds up - a place to sleep every night, transportation, food,
and everything else in between.
Even with budgeting, I get a little nervous every time I check my bank account.
What if I told you there is a way to travel with spending little to no money at all?
In addition, you also get to be immersed in the local culture, eat tradition cuisine, and if you're really lucky, get tons of hugs from kids who absolutely adore you?!
It's called workaway.info
(disclaimer: I am in no way associated with the website - I am just a fan of it! I have been getting a lot of questions about my experience... and if you follow me on social media, you might have noticed I was suddenly on mom duty and absolutely loving it for two weeks just recently).
When I first bought my spontaneous plane ticket to Iceland, and then within that week deciding that I was going to turn it into a whole Europe trip; I was hesitant about a few things.
⟡ How I was going to afford it: (but then again, I don't really worry about this too much because I always find a way to make things I truly desire happen, but I definitely do not like spending excess money)
⟡ How I was going to adjust to the solo traveling lifestyle and also how safe it all was
⟡ If I was going to miss having family and friends around
⟡ If I was going to get tired of constantly sharing a room with upwards of 10 other people and living out of a backpack in a locker
so, I started doing research and looking into work trade.
and then I found workaway.info, AMAZING.
A balance to everything that a nomadic, backpacking lifestyle offered
(which I absolutely LOVE, by the way)
but let me tell you, after a month of having tightly rolled up clothes, and doing my laundry in a sink - it's a sweet, sweet change to have space of your own and be welcomed into a home.
So here's what I did:
first things first, workaway.info is not a free website - but after spending some time on the website - I absolutely loved the functionality and easy to use style of the website so I said what the hell, and paid the $30 yearly membership. Stay with a family just one night, and it'll pay for itself (but, this isn't couchsurfing so there are no families that just want you to come one night - it's more of a longer term thing - most of the families I had been in touch with want a month!)
I then quickly got overwhelmed with the amount of opportunities on the website... Thousands! I had no idea where I was traveling to besides: Europe.
I was open with my plans, places, and type of work.
With workaway they common provide you with a place to sleep as well as food.
Ok, so this is important.
If they were providing me with food, obviously I'd want to stay with a vegan family or a family who is open to having a vegan come and stay.
So there we go:
I finally was able to narrow it down. I typed in "VEGAN" in the keyword search form and I got close to 900 families STILL.
This means the word vegan was typed somewhere in their profile
(meaning, some families specified they did not want to host a vegan).
I went through all of them. I favorited the ones I was interested in, and got it down to 77 families.
I decided I was mostly interested in doing child care and being an extra hand for the mom and family, so that was what I was most interested in while looking through the results for "VEGAN". There were also some retreat centers, festival vendors, and cafes that needed help which I am looking forward to confirming dates with in the near future.
I then took time writing an introduction email about who I was, why I was traveling, where I was living, why I want to do a work away exchange and all that fun stuff. It was a couple paragraphs long and was simple enough to send to each family but still very personalized.
A good introduction email is important. I'd imagine these families get a lot of emails, and you want to make a good first impression.
But be honest and just be yourself.
I had a few countries in mind that I absolutely wanted to spend time in: Switzerland and Norway.
As time passed, and it got closer to my trip- I had a few families I was talking with. It's highly likely I drove them just a little crazy with my lack of plans, but one family in particular seemed very flexible, open, and easy going! I decided to set a light date with them "sometime in the first week of March" and there we had it -
I was making my way to Switzerland the first week of March.
They lived in a small town in the South of Switzerland, there was a train station in the town and transportation was simple (they helped make sure I knew how to get there! I ended up carpooling from Italy).
AND, they even offered to pick me up from the local train station.
I had made sure to read the reviews of all the families I was potentially staying with and this particular family had amazing reviews and they went back a few years too! This is important! The last thing you want is to end up with a family that is not what you expected, and then you go back and realize people tried to warn you!
Do your research - especially in a situation like this!
The work was exactly as described in their profile
and I felt that even with the three kids - it was never too exhausting.
Kids can be tricky, especially being a live in nanny - because kids don't realize when you are "off duty" but with them I never felt obligated to be with the kids -
I genuinely enjoyed playing with them and being around them.
They also respected me when I would tell them i'm going upstairs to take a nap, or shower, or go on a walk, etc.
I was in charge of watching and playing with the kids while the parents were at work and making lunch.
For dinner, I would help the mom out with some prep and clean up.
I also would help pick up the house and clean up after the kids throughout the day.
We didn't discuss work roles or what they expected of me when I arrived - so the first two days were a bit funky. I wasn't sure if I was doing enough, too much, making them happy, looking lazy, etc. I definitely recommend talking about this the first day! It will make everything much more clear and avoid awkward moments. We never discussed job duties, I just went off what I read on their profile - but honestly, I should have just brought it up the first day to confirm. I definitely will next time.
They gave me my own room and were so welcoming. Truly felt like it was my little home away from home. We would share morning tea/coffee together and cook together. I didn't feel like I was being used as a do all sorta person or taken advantage of at all! They were truly special and amazing parents
(and just individuals as well!)
I am a snowboarder and it's something I absolutely love to do.
Snowboarding on the alps and in Switzerland has been a dream of mine -
and I was not only able to go once, but 5 times!
I got lucky with the family, they lived in a valley and the closest mountain (which the dad worked at everyday) was only 20 minutes uphill to the lifts.
They also had tons of extra snow clothes and I fit into the moms stuff!
They had found a snowboard a few years back on the side of the road and saved it just because, turns out it was my size board!
(how does stuff like this just happen?! very fortunate!)
They even offered to let me drive their car to Zermatt, which is where the Matterhorn is, and something I was looking forward to - but unfortunately it would have costed me $100 to get there on train. They literally offered for me to take their car on a solo road trip there!
Seriously still haven't gotten over how kind that was of them.
The kids were smart, sweet, and lovely. They warmed up to me so quickly which made my adjustment to the home and family so easy and effortless. They welcomed me in with wide open hearts.
The kids were 2, 4, and 6 and spoke 4 languages!!!!
I was inspired by these children!
I enjoyed cooking some vegan meals for them - even if the mom was the only one interested in trying this "foreign food"! HA! You know how kids can be picky eaters. Actually, I take that back -
they loved my vegan cookies and vegan chocolate chip pancakes.
I never once felt like it was too much work. and honestly, I can't wait to go back!
They told me towards my last days, that I am absolutely welcome back but instead of as a workawayer they said I would be welcomed back as family and a friend.
Keep in mind that this is very much a change from typical traveling: your life will slow
down drastically, you will be working on someone else's schedule instead of your own, and you wont have as much freedom to go explore as you might be used to. It was a tough adjustment at first only because I had gone from a straight month of walking miles and miles a day of complete freedom and seeing so many new things - to now living in a small town with a few local shops and grocery stores.
I crave that go, go, go - but I quickly realized the kids were so entertaining.
Spending 2 weeks - 2 months in one place might not be what you are looking for. So realize that you need to be ready to commit to a certain town for that long, and it's usually not in the big tourist towns you visit on vacation. I enjoyed seeing something different, honestly don't think I would have ever seen this town if it wasn't for this family.
I spent very minimal money during my two week stay in Switzerland: therefore, I was able to treat myself to enjoying snowboarding as much as possible on my days off. I got extremely lucky because I didn't have to rent or buy equipment or snow clothes for snowboarding. I didn't have to buy meals or food (except a couple small extra things here and there that I would grab at the local co-op). I didn't have to pay for a place to sleep at night. I didn't have to pay for transportation to get around (I would go with them, walk, or like I said, they even let me use their car!).
I was able to truly live and be part of a Swiss family and get a feel for Swiss culture. I was able to eat Swiss meals (that they made sure were Vegan, of course!). I was able to learn about so many amazing things that are just part of their daily life, that I was so fascinated about. I was able to be an extra in a Swiss commercial because of connections they had, and get paid for that! And I learned a few words in french, and german, too. It was all so amazing and it was all because I decided to change up hostel life and go help out a family.
Oh yes, and like I said at the beginning:
I got LOTS AND LOTS of hugs from the kiddos.
They have a very special place in my heart.
The experience was more that I could have ever asked for, and so incredibly special. I absolutely am looking forward to the next experience.
If you have any more question about doing a work trade or au pair exchange email me!
I'm no expert, but i'd love to help!
All my LOVE,