Do you really want to travel the world, but just not sure how you can afford it? So did I before I started learning (almost studying) ways to travel hack. Sure there are a lot of ways to save money on accommodation while you travel. Most commonly known are staying in hostels instead of hotels and, even better, Couchsurfing instead of staying in hostels.
Those are both great accommodation options, but neither are solid consistent long-term options. And sure there are a lot of ways to see the world, but I wanted to focus my intentions on really learning a city and a culture before I moved on to the next one. That meant staying put for a long period of time in one place.
Then I found Workaway
That’s when I found a company called Workaway. I wanted to stay in Belgium for up to a month, so I figured I would start my search there. Workaway is a concept that lets people, families, and businesses volunteer to host travelers in exchange for a few hours of work per day. There are two sections to the site; “Hosts” and “Volunteers”. When volunteers log-on, they look to match themselves up with hosts in their desired city. Alternatively, hosts can reach out to volunteers whose bios match the type of volunteer work they are looking for.
Once contact is made and each party is satisfied with the character of the person they will be hosting or working for, a sort of unwritten contract is made between the two. The greatest part about Workaway is you can discuss how many hours a week you will be expected to work, how many meals they will provide to you per day, and what kind of work you can handle. This way, both parties are satisfied to an agreed upon experience long before the experience even begins.
Becoming a Workaway Member
To sign-up as a “Workawayer”, it is under $30 for a membership that lasts two years; which is pretty good considering in most parts of the world, three days in a hostel will cost you much more than that. I’ve only had one experience as a Workawayer and it was phenomenal.
Meeting my host – Bahkti
After Skyping and discussing our expectations, I finally flew to Belgium and was met at the airport by my host, Bahkti. The ride home set the tone of our relationship to come. Within the first twenty minutes of knowing each other, we began speaking about her peculiar spiritual views. I was intrigued from the very beginning. She shared these views of Tantra in her profile on Workaway which was one thing that led to me initially contacting her. I wanted to experience something new and different that I would ever experience anywhere else in life.She took me to her home and we had a lovely home-cooked meal that night.
She took me to her home and we had a lovely home-cooked meal that night. Bahkti and her family (two daughters and a sort-of adopted son) were all vegan and the most natural eaters I had ever been around. I didn’t know how I would fair with vegan food every night but it turns out, after a month, I had lost almost ten pounds and was feeling a lot healthier than normal. And it actually surprised me how tasty the meals were!
Over the course of the month, she gave me four days per week off to do whatever I please and only required me to work about 5-6 hours a day for the three remaining days. In addition, she gave me a room to myself, laundry and bathroom amenities, and free WiFi right in the comfort of her home. She even let me participate in her meditation sessions she held for locals in her own home – and spoke English just for me!
The work was fun – strenuous at times, but fun. I learned new skills as I tore down a wall between two bedrooms and converted it into a master bedroom. I completed that work rather quickly and ahead of Bahkti’s schedule, so for the remaining weeks, I renovated her garage. It was such a unique experience as she knew very little about that kind of work as did I. It forced me to learn on my own which kept things exciting every day I was there.
While in Belgium, she showed me around the city and took me out to eat several times. She even lent me a bike that came in handy every day as I made the trek to my friend’s flat about fifteen minutes away. Almost everything I experienced with her was completely new to me and gave me a whole array of new skills, hobbies, and interests. It was Bahkti’s first time hosting a Workawayer as it was my first time using Workaway, too. She was the sweetest host I could have asked for and we still keep in touch almost two years later.
I couldn’t imagine a better host for the month. And the best part? I stayed in the beautiful medieval city of Ghent, Belgium for 28 days. Over those days, I spent less than $50 on food and accommodation combined! You can’t beat that. I highly recommend Workaway and it surely won’t be the last time that I use it. Thank you, Bahkti, for giving me a truly unique experience and letting me see Belgium the way I desired to all along!