Laura Reischle outlines her experiences working while travelling
It is a Monday morning, you sit in your first lecture of the day and wanderlust conquers your thoughts. In your mind you begin to travel abroad: strolling through the streets of Rome and sitting down in an authentic café on the corner for an Espresso. The wind blows through your hair as you enjoy the breathtaking view from the top of a Swiss mountain. The water is crystal clear and through your sunglasses you can see a Greek island on the horizon while you soak up the sun at one of Albania’s unique beaches. Suddenly a critical thought pops up and ends your short daydream: “How can I afford this?”
Travelling is amazing. You get to see the world, have unique experiences and make friends along the way. But what no one writes under all their travel pictures on social media is how much it costs. Even if you are travelling on a small budget, you will still need some money to afford seeing different countries. If you are willing to sacrifice some of your free time, there is a simple solution to that problem: look for a volunteering position in your destination country.
Thanks to the internet, it has become quite easy to get in touch with people who need a helping hand. Websites like Workaway, WWOOF, Worldpackers and so on are a great place to start your adventure. For some of them you have to pay a few bucks, but it will pay off. The variety of jobs on offer is huge: babysitting, helping to renovate a castle, looking after people’s homes and pets while they are on holiday, volunteering in a hostel, helping in an animal shelter, working on a farm or managing someone’s social media. In general, they will expect you to work four to five hours, five days a week. In return, your host will provide free meals and accommodation. The exact conditions vary from host to host. In addition to that, in wealthier countries people tend to give you some pocket money for helping out, while in others they expect you to contribute to the meals.
You see things you would never see otherwise, meet interesting personalities from all over the planet and learn far more about the world than you would if you were just travelling around for a few weeks.
Concerning the length of your stay - anything is possible. Some people only stay for a few days while others end up volunteering in the same place for months.
It might be hard to tell what exactly to expect and to be honest, you will never fully know until you are there - but I can offer you a glimpse of what it could be like. In Spain I was volunteering at a horse farm in Mallorca which belonged to a German woman in her 70s. She offered me a room and meals in exchange for helping with the horses. Another volunteer was living there and we spent the days feeding the horses, cleaning the paddocks and going for walks with her old dog. She was an amazing chef and I would still kill for her pasta. My experience in Albania was completely different. I volunteered in a hostel in Tirana. The tasks were easy: checking in the guests, cleaning the dorms, chatting with the guests and taking care of the hostel dog. But enough about the working part – I used my days off to go on day trips with the other volunteers, explored canyons and caves in the mountains, got sunburnt at unforgettable beaches and spent most of my evenings around a bonfire talking with the locals.
It's not always easy to work or volunteer abroad, and you see less of the country than you would simply travelling around. But the advantages definitely outweigh the small trade-offs. Besides the obvious perk of saving money, you also get to know the locals and be a part of their daily lives for a while. You see things you would never see otherwise, meet interesting personalities from all over the planet and learn far more about the world than you would if you were just travelling around for a few weeks. So book a flight, pack your backpack and immerse yourself in a new culture!