What is workaway?
Workaway is a platform that allows members to contact one another to organize homestays and cultural exchange. Volunteers or “Workawayers”, are expected to contribute a pre-agreed amount of time per day in exchange for lodging and food, which is provided by the host. Just for a small fee, for a year the user have access to hosts all over the world. Choose a country, set up the profile and message away. This is a great way to learn more about the places one visits and a great way to practice the local language and learn about the culture. Typically, volunteers are guaranteed a place to stay in exchange for 3-5 hours of work a day max 6 days a week. With the platform, users can read the list of available hosts and past experiences of volunteers time spent. Users can also look at what’s expected of the work and the incentives of working with that particular hosts.
Some hosts may provide more than just accommodation such as free meals, bike rental, laundry, and even payment. Make sure to inquire and learn more about each host and what they require before committing to the tasks.
Typically for Workaway, a minimum of 2 weeks stay are required for most of the volunteer experiences. For many of them are not as easy to replace volunteers. Along with that, longer times also give travelers a better chance to become comfortable with the work and learn more about the people and places they are residing in. Some hosts may be flexible with the time duration. Make sure to read their profiles fully before inquiring. Always ask questions and most importantly, be flexible.
My first Workaway experience was located in Hualien, which is a small city on the eastern side of Taiwan known for its famous National Park, The Taroko Gorge where Japanese Soldiers defended the local people from invaders back in the day. Currently, the gorge is a popular hiking spot for both locals and travelers and the best times to go are during March-April and Sept – Nov due to the off-peak travel season and the weather is not too hot or cold.
I volunteered at a hostel where my main duties were cleaning and helping guests when needed. On a typical day, I had to start work at 10 am where I had to clear out the kitchen, clean beds, clean the bathrooms, wash the sheets/towels, and vacuum and mop the floors. Work would range around 2 -3 hours a day and I had one day a week off. I can choose which day I want to take off. I generally worked with 1-2 other volunteers. But since I stayed there for a month, it varied. When I first started, there was 3 of us, then I was alone for over a week, and then another guy came, and then he left and 2 more women came by. The work wasn’t too difficult and took a few days to adjust to the new routine. The most cleaning I’ve ever done in a while. But with it all, I learned how to properly fold a fitted sheet and it actually looks nice when folded.
After my work is done for the day, I would typically go explore by bike or foot around Hualien chatting with locals, taking photos, and just taking in the natural beauty surrounding me. Other days, I would stay in and chat with travelers and take part in the day to day planned evening activities at the hostel.
What I really enjoyed about volunteering at this hostel for it had a very homey vibe to it. When you walk in, there’s a small common area with a kitchen, couches to relax, and a dinner table where everything and anything can happen. Confessionals, trying new food, snacking on some fruit my host brought back with her, yelling at the projector while watching the World Cup, calligraphy, a fiesty game of UNO and the list goes on.
The best part of it all was meeting the travelers. This hostel, in particular, could hold max up to 30 people so it was easy to meet people and getting to know them and sometimes even going out with many of them to the nearby local spots.
And the staff of the hostel was simply just great. They always took the time to chat with me, wanting to learn more about myself and my background. Along with that, they gave me free food, took myself and the other volunteers to hidden gems around Hualien. I am so happy that I chose Hualien as my first experience being in Taiwan. I highly recommend to everyone that if they have the chance and time to travel, challenge yourself to experience a country a different way and take on a volunteer experience with Workaway.