There are so many options for work when backpacking that it can feel a little bit overwhelming. What if you don’t really need to get paid, or you don’t want to get stuck in one location for longer than a few weeks, let alone a few months. You want the option to leave when you like and freedom to still have your days to explore. If you haven’t yet heard of Workaway.info and just how quickly it will benefit your traveling experience, then it’s time to get onto the site and check it out quick smart! Workaway is a great website that connects travellers with people and businesses requiring help in exchange for accommodation and/or food. I’ll give a quick run down of how it works.
First off when you sign up you will be required to make a yearly payment to confirm your identity as a legit real life person and not just a scamming bot. Then you create a profile detailing your skills and what type of work you are seeking. Now comes the fun part of finding the perfect host depending on where you would like to go and what type of work you’re open to offer your skills for.
My first Workaway experience was with the lovely Vivian Studios in Rhodes, Greece. I had been seeking working within Greece for the previous 2 months prior to my arrival and hadn’t had any luck so far. Then shortly after finishing my nightmare of a time at Summer Camp in Italy I received a response from Vivian on Workaway saying she needed help for the end of season at her hotel. If was like striking gold when I was about to give up. I was so excited that my flight was booked within the hour!
Vivian was very accommodating during my time at her hotel. She picked me up from the airport and integrated me into her family whilst I stayed in Room 1 full-time at the studios. For me. I have had many reasons to want to test this whole process out, varying from local experience, working in a new field to gain knowledge and of course to save a bit of money and lengthen my journey backpacking abroad!
Working at Vivian Studios I found it to be such a great learning experience to finally understand the demands of the hospitality world and deal with difficult clients in a manner that is very different in comparison to the fashion industry. I learnt how to fix a toilet seat and how to replace a shower head and nozzle all by myself that I feel like a fully functioning adult. My Dad would be so proud!
It was during my stay with Vivian that I was starting to struggle the most mentally, but it was this down time that allowed me to connect better with my emotions and allowed me personal time to rest and recuperate for the next leg of my journey, gearing up to 6 weeks in Israel.
During my short stay the clients were honestly my favourite part of the experience, basically because most of them were bat shit crazy. One German woman who was terribly upset for being stood up on her pre-planned holiday to Rhodes with the Doctor she was clearly having an affair with, loved telling me all of her life stories. I can’t say at the time I appreciated being the emotional support to her hysterical behaviour, but looking back I can certainly laugh at the fact she made me walk 2km to an ATM (while I had sopping wet hair from just stepping out of the shower) with her at 10pm at night and instruct her on how to take money out of the machine because she was furious we wouldn’t accept her strange German credit card.
Then there was the Turkish family that turned the hostel into their personal home, eating/spitting out sunflower seeds like they were life support. The mother for some reason refused to speak English with me and the young daughter was as spoilt as North West, but again it was almost comical watching how people behaved whilst on holidays and getting an insight into their personal living habits. I never did find out the mystery of the dirt foot prints on the stairs every morning, but have a sneaking suspicion that the Dad was to blame.
It became incredibly interesting to monitor how people would treat me differently by being staff in the hotel compared to a guest or management. The expectations from guests of what they wanted from me and change in tone of their conversation directed towards myself in comparison to the owners of the hotel was very apparent. It was obvious how people believed I was beneath them, all because I cleaned their toilet and changed their bed sheets. I never felt it was worth it to correct them on my position at the hotel as a volunteer, not as full time staff. I felt like devaluing the people that work these jobs day in day out. I have always had respect for hospitality workers, with many friends working in the industry, and have enjoyed now being able to offer my own experiences to share in the same conflictions they have with the clear class system society places upon this work title.
There were moments of course that were challenging as although you are working for free and being provided accommodation, you need to be available at a moments notice seeing as small hotels don’t have to follow specific check-in times and set their own protocols. I found myself dealing with blood stained towels, rooms so dirty you wondered if the people occupying them were human or animals, then of course emptying toilet bins was always a pleasure, as in Greece you aren’t allowed to flush toilet paper. You get to learn people’s bowel movements pretty quickly.
Living within the hotel also meant clients found it perfectly acceptable to enter the staff common room (which I slept above on a man made mezzanine platform) at all times of the night, speaking at full volume and turning all the lights on. I was suffering from a lack of sleep, but it only served to make me more humble and patient in the end. It gave me the chance to find my love for customer service again and providing a great stay for the clients. Something that I had lost in the last 6 months whilst working in the fashion industry.
If you are considering completing a Workaway stay during your backpacking journey then do consider there might be things you’re asked to do that you have never done before, but it will teach you a new skill and that is what being involved in this community is all about. There may also be times you are asked to complete a task that isn’t reasonable and you are of course at complete liberty to say no. Set your boundaries before you commit your time and the Workaway host invites you into their home or business. This will stop any surprises or misunderstandings from occurring.
From all the people I have met who have used the website they have also found it is mutually beneficial for both parties and the options can be so far-fetched, ranging from farming to building, hotel/hostel work to teaching english. The opportunities are endless and the locations are worldwide and infinite. Pick your destination and go from there, but make sure if you do decide to stay with someone, offer to Skype or add them on Facebook to see how reputable they are and if your personalities will blend well. It’s better to find out early on that it’s not meant to be then after you arrive.
I know I’ll continue to use this as a great tool to exchange skills for a bed to sleep and a bit of food if there are places I want to stay for an extended period until I need to earn a bit more money to continue traveling, but that’s when I’ll end up on Jobs Abroad Bulletin. Information for this site will be shared at a later date, but if your main goal is to live like a local and meet great people in a specific city, then Workaway offer the best opportunity to get involved with this.
Also, although I found my experience to be unique, I haven’t yet seen a bad review for Vivian Studios. She provides fantastic service and is a kind and caring individual. Her hotel is one that I’d vehemently recommend you take the chance to spend some time working and living at during the high season in Rhodes. You won’t regret it!
♥ Love from Leah
(Review on Workaway for Vivian Studios)