It started with a farm in France then a year later brought me to a hotel/art gallery in Italy and recently to an eco-lodge beside an elephant camp in Thailand… is one of my go-to travel resources and a great reminder of how much opportunity there is in the world.

To date, I have used the site to visit four countries by doing "work-exchanges", essentially part-time jobs in exchange for food and housing. When done well this can keep international trips cheap or even free.

Plane tickets and in-country transport are the major costs involved but even these can be covered through mile hacking (see previous post). Another cost to consider is the $29 USD two-year membership fee to contact hosts on the site; a great investment but not always necessary...

All hosts can be viewed without paying, so I often use the site to guide internet searches based on common positions. Here are six other tips for using WorkAway:

1: Determine where or what
There are more than 15 000 of hosts to pick from, asking for all types of work. Searching broadly can help formulate ideas but to get the perfect placement, iron out either the where or what questions. What is something that interests you or that you would like to try? Where are the places you want to see or live?

2: Research, research, research
All the research in the world might not feel like enough preparation for new experiences but it never hurts. Without paying the membership fee, good research can often lead to the hosts’ organization or website if there is one. Find out:  1. What other reviews say  2. Transportation to and from the host (some are quite secluded) and  3.Things to do nearby. Remember to be a traveler. This is not just about work.

3: Send succinct requests
Send an abbreviated cover letter to the hosts, specifically addressing the work described in the listing. Offer to send a CV/résumé but keep the initial contact just 1-3 short paragraphs, clearly answering:  1. When you are arriving and  2. How long you can stay. It is also a nice touch to include a question, like “I would love to help make natural soaps with you, what types of essential oils do you use?” That might just give the host an extra reason respond.

4: Set expectations
Be clear with yourself and the host about working hours, schedules for certain times of the day and what you want to do/see in the area. This will make things smoother from the beginning as one of hardest things is knowing when to stop working. Plus, the host is a local who can give you legitimate advice and connections. They can share the best places to eat, how to get a bike, see a show, etc.

5: Give
Make a positive last impression by bringing a gift or finding something personal to offer instead. The best are hand-made crafts, a hand-written letter, or a token to remember you and your country.

6: Receive
The hosts trust WorkAway-ers greatly. I was shocked when one gave me her house key on my first day. They can also provide often a first line of help in-country. Moreover, they might become your host again later or even set you up with your next place. 

Quite possibly the most important tip to remember is that WorkAway provides a great opportunity to spend almost nothing yet learn and grow immensely. Check out the Frequently Asked Questions for more information or these other resources for additional work-exchange, volunteer and job opportunities "away":


This summer I stretched myself further ever before—in distance, financially and in personal growth. I went half way around the world in four months; from France to New Zealand with stops in Spain, Italy, Turkey, and Thailand. 

I brought less than $ 2 000 USD, a backpack and one suitcase (and still wish I would have downsized). I had no bills to pay, no routines to follow, and the only work I did was by choice — always for free.

I met hundreds of amazing people and learned a great deal about myself from experiences like The Camino de Santiago and a Silent Meditation retreat. I also discovered that I am not alone—people from all over the world are doing the same thing! 

During the journey I got asked a lot if and/or how traveling cheap is possible, so this post is my attempt to break down how I travel cheap:

1: Volunteer 

My first trip abroad was with the Peace Corps. From the day my service started, all the costs were covered and then some. I was based in Togo, West Africa for 27 months and used my location to see a bit more of the region, then as my jumping off point to Europe.

Volunteer service may not always start abroad but many local organizations do work overseas too. I recommend getting involved at home and see how far it could take you. These are some great organizations for globetrotters: 

2. Work 

After the Peace Corps I wanted to work internationally. I applied for jobs all over the world but received hardly any replies. Ultimately, I accepted a position in the States but it did not keep me from traveling. The job required relocation to Florida and while there I visited the Caribbean and Central America.

My goal to work overseas was never forgotten. I strategically selected a French company to work for and tried to prove myself as a transferable candidate to France. A year later my opportunity came around and I was offered a contract in the Alps. The easiest positions to gain abroad can be found in places like these:

3: Work-exchange 

When I get antsy to visit a new place I search for work-exchange opportunities first. Placements can be easy to find, even without much prior planning. In fact, some hosts prefer a 1-2 month notice to assure your plans are solidified. Positions are usually based in hospitality, farming, or childcare and offer food/housing in exchange for part-time work.

I used WorkAway but there are many other options out there. A membership fee is usually required to contact the hosts but it is free to see what is available. Knowing what is on the market is sometimes enough to guide Google searches then target specific industries upon arrival, as I did in Hawaii. Get started by checking out these sites:

4: Mile Hack

(mostly a North American option)
I almost never pay full price for plane tickets. If they are not paid for through volunteering or work, I find a way to earn and use miles to pay. The best deals I have used so far include a free round-trip flight to Hawaii and a $36 ticket from Thailand to New Zealand (with this card).

I am still a rookie at mile hacking but at the most basic level it requires signing up for credit cards that offer mile bonuses. Sometimes they say: "Spend $1,000 in 3 months for 50,000 miles"—which could be the equivalent of a round trip from the US to Asia. Then I sign up for the card, and put everything I normally buy on it (and pay it off every month to avoid interest fees).

5: Smart Stopovers

Just to pinch that penny even further, I try to squeeze in interesting stopovers as much as I can. I added almost a week in Iceland on my way from Europe to the US and made a day out of my stop in Istanbul when I went from Italy to Thailand.

Several airlines offer the ability to extend a stop over FOR FREE. Just remember to account for the extra visa, transportation and hotel costs you could incur. Get your stopping started in these locations:

If I learned nothing else from this life on the road, it is that travelling is cheap. For me, it costs much less than staying put at home. If you are not convinced, take a second to add up your monthly expenses for rent, utilities, cell phones, car maintenance, etc. Then multiply that by four months.

How does it compare to 3 continents, 5 countries and an experience of a lifetime?
An extended stop over at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul