If you are interested in Workaway to travel overseas, you might doubt whether Workaway is safe. It’s understandable to have, as, in Workaway, you have to suddenly share the place, time and food with your host.
Even if they look good in the profile& contact before you go, you don’t know until you meet them in person and stay there.
In short, nothing dangerous or harmful happened in my past 5 workaway experiences.
However, I have 5 tips for you to avoid bad experiences from my first Workaway experience of working around 8 hours a day, which should be 4-5 hours under their profile & Workaway rules.
I hope you will enjoy this blog!
My First Workaway experience in Mangawhai in NZ
What is the workaway?
First of all, introducing workaway for those who don’t know, is a global travelling service in which travellers can get accommodation and food in exchange for a certain work time.
In this Workaway, you can get a unique experience with locals and travel at a low cost which is helpful for those who want to explore a lot of places.
If you would like to lookup more details of workaway, please check this article!
What I have done in the first workaway
I stayed with the host family with 2 girls(8-year-old and 10-year-old) in Mangawhai for a month which is only 2 hours drive from Auckland.
My tasks during the stay were mainly playing with girls who got summer holidays, housework (making kids’ breakfast & lunch, dishes, cleaning, laundry, feeding animals, sometimes helping make dinner) while both of the parents should go to work. That means it was pretty housesitting work.
In exchange for my work, they offered such good meals (even when eating out, they paid for me), a cottage (single room a little away from the main house), WiFi, the experience of Kiwi life, such as BBQ with the locals.
They gave me a lot of opportunities to involve locals and get cultural exchange experiences, which I really appreciate because I hardly can do in study abroad and general sightseeing.
What were the problems with a host family
Working 8 hours which should have been 4-5 hours
The workaway sets worktime a maximum of 4-5 hours a day and 5 days a week. In this workaway, they said 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week on their profile. However, I should have worked around 8 hours a day most days, which was quite frustrating.
The host parents had to work from 8am to 4pm on weekdays, which means I should have kept my eyes on the kids while they left for work. They told me that I didn’t need to play with them all the time and I could let them play by themselves, so it wasn’t that tough work.
However, I couldn’t feel relaxed or go out to do what I wanted to do, such as hiking, leaving them at home once 4-5 hours of work were finished.
To be honest, I didn’t really care about it at first. However, I was getting frustrated not being able to get enough free time and realized this wasn’t okay.
It was the end of the stay to realize this matter, and I ended up not telling them about my feelings. However, working 8 hours without my will is out of the rules of Workaway, and workaway isn’t a free labourer.
What the host family said on the first contact was different from the reality.
This was my first Workaway experience, so I did a phone call with the host mother beforehand and sent some text messages to get to know each other because I didn’t want to make it a bad experience.
I knew I would play with the kids without their parents, so I was worried about whether they would be happy to play with me outside, not be into the devices.
I didn’t think I would be not in a position to say about their house rules, so I was just worried about what the rules of devices looked like in their house.
On the phone call, she said, “We have rules about the screen time, and you don’t have to worry about it.” However, the reality was completely different.
We enjoyed the time with the trampoline, pool, and papercraft, but the girls wanted to play on devices as much as possible. The situation was as bad as the kids were hiding and using devices in bed from when they woke up until they went to bed if their parents didn’t say anything.
It seemed that the kids got some devices like Nintendo on Christmas, which was just 10 days before I started staying in their place, so I could understand that the kids were into them when suddenly they were surrounded by those tempting stuff.
However, what got me upset most was that the reality was totally different from what they told me on the phone, and I felt I would be expected to get them out of their devices and play with them as my work, even though the parents couldn’t control it.
5 Workaway Tips to Avoid Bad Experience
Insist on what you want and what you aren’t satisfied with
It is difficult to insist on what you expect from the stay with them or what you aren’t happy with, especially if the host family is very kind to you.
However, in Workaway, both you and your host should be happy to stay together, so it’s essential to make good communication.
Unfortunately, some hosts see workaway free labour, or I heard some hosts give travellers less food or not enough to exchange with their work.
In my case, I didn’t feel exploited by the hosts, but it was my subjective view, and I shouldn’t have worked much longer than I was supposed to be.
It’s a key to tell them what you don’t like, want to do, and even the tiny things. If they don’t seem to improve it, it is okay to leave a note and run away with your baggage before something worse happens.
It’s all up to you to protect yourself and get a wonderful workaway experience.
Talk to someone who has experienced workaway
It is helpful to ask someone who got Workwaway experience when you have a doubt about work, family, or food during your stay.
In my case, I asked my friend who I met on the workaway Website about what I got frustrated with and had no idea whether it was the right thing.
He has experienced workaway many times and gave me some advice on what I should do, which helped me realize that that situation wasn’t okay.
If you don’t have a friend on Workaway, you can ask workaway ambassadors or me anytime. I believe they definitely listen to you and help you.
Be flexible but don’t need to bear too much
From workaway experiences with 5 host families, I learned that you need flexibility and tolerance to go deep into their local cultures, not refuse them.
For example, I had the experience of sleeping on a sleepout in Great barrier Island for 2 weeks where there was so many dead insects body. Partly because I wasn’t that sensitive to this matter, but I took it as it is to live like the locals.
However, if you have something that you really don’t like or can’t bear, you can tell the hosts from first contact or in person. Especially if you have your own diet styles, such as vegetarian and vegan, it is best for the hosts to know about it beforehand.
Better not to stay in the place where the hosts got a busy schedule
Workaway aims for cultural and language exchange between hosts and travellers, not only work-food&accmodation exchange.
Since if you are keen to get a lot of experiences of them, I would recommend you not to stay in the place where the hosts have a busy schedule during the time you are supposed to stay but can welcome you to come.
I got a not fun workaway experience to stay with such a host family in Great Barrier Island and always felt to be treated as a helper, not a workawayer.
It’s okay if you aren’t keen on them, but if so, it doesn’t have to be workaway and just better to work.
Read the reviews and feedback of past workawayers
It’s a KEY to read the reviews and feedback of the past workawayers who used to stay in the host’s place. Most of the travellers left honest feedback, and you can see what the stay was like in the past.
It helps you choose the right host and place to stay and protects you from getting a horror workaway experience.
Thanks for reading!
Thank you very much for reading!
In Workaway, you can get unique experiences that you can’t do in studying abroad, working holidays and sightseeing.
However, as I wrote in this article, there are some tips to prevent you from getting bad experiences during your stay.
I’m sure you will get a wonderful workaway experience worldwide, following 5 tips to avoid bad experiences.