It started with a farm in France, a year later brought me to a hotel/art gallery in Italy, and most 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":