My friend Carla from The Netherlands worked as an intern at a hostel in Cape Town, South Africa. In this post, she explains us her experience and also everything we need to know if we want to volunteer anywhere in the world with Workaway.
We will know which are the main features of this work, such as eligibility and funding, which are the steps of the application process, and how was Carla’s experience, conclusions and recommendations.
If you love to travel and do it with a purpose I recommend you to check the following sections of the blog where you can find more experiences in which you can participate!
Also, you can find applications for scholarships, internships, job positions, volunteer projects, contests, entrepreneurial support and virtual courses in the Scholarship Finder!
1. Workaway: Characteristics
- Type of Program: volunteer abroad
- Location: a hostel in Cape Town, South Africa
- Nationality: any
- Age: from 18 years old, there is no age limit
- Language: in the majority of cases you should speak the language of the country in which you want to go, but that’s not always a requirement. English is usually a must to communicate with the host and other workawayers that come from different countries.
- Skills: some skills might be helpful in the application process because in the majority of cases hosts will choose the workawayers who could be the most helpful for their plans/business.
- Duration: you can arrange the duration with the host. My personal stay at the hostel was 1.5 months in total.
- Application Fee: there is a yearly fee to register in Workaway website (Approximately $32 USD)
- Finance: you have to pay for your airplane or bus tickets but accommodation will be provided. This however is different for each work-away experience. Some hosts provide additional pocket money and/or food. This should be discussed prior to coming so you can estimate your budget.
2. Application Process
Have a look at the website
The website workaway.info is a platform for travelers to volunteer. It allows people to get in contact with a host and volunteer at a place of interest.
There are thousands of volunteer positions available, which can range from hostel work to farming to working in childcare. It has positions for everybody and it is a great way to work and experience cultures in a different way, by staying for a longer time at a certain location and getting to know other volunteers and locals.
In the website you can have a look of all the projects available but in order to contact a host you’ll have to make a profile. There is a yearly fee attached to making a profile. After you made the profile you should enter your details and your skills. This will make it easy for hosts to find additional information about you.
After your registration you can then contact different hosts in different countries. Hosts however can also contact you if they need help and they are interested in your profile. You contact a host by sending a message to them.
Clarify all your doubts
Then you can arrange additional interviews such as skype or WhatsApp calls to get to know the host.
3. My Experience
Hello! My name is Carla and I have just finished my University bachelor. After my studies I decided to finally take a half a gap year to work and travel and to get into a new environment away from studies. I worked in a bar to save some money and in the meantime I was looking around places to travel to.
I sent several messages to different hosts in different countries and I came across South Africa. I have always wanted to visit Cape Town and I was super excited to find a work-away there. I was a bit hesitant at first however as I found it rather scary to travel alone to a far place for the first time. I did many volunteer experiences also through Workaway, but this would be my first far flight and volunteer programme.
To lessen my travel anxiety I contacted the host several times and also contacted other volunteers, which helped me a lot. They explained me about the work, the location and the transport from the airport to the hostel. I would also recommend doing this so you are sure the place you are staying in is going to be a good experience.
After all the research I finally booked my flight. About three days before the flight I got really nervous and was doubting my choice to travel solo and so far. Why did I book this? Why did I want to go so far away from comfort zone?
On the flight however all the anxiety disappeared. I was well prepared and I was ready for an adventure! On the flight I even met another girl who was solo travelling and she told me she went through exactly the same. This was great to know; everybody goes to similar thoughts and feelings when going abroad solo.
When I arrived the shuttle to the host arrived. I also met the host and other volunteers which was great. The following day I started the work and it was wonderful. The work is very flexible and fun.
This hostel has a reception, market and tours. So, your work at this location will probably vary a lot, which is very nice. The host himself was very friendly and understanding and definitely had volunteer experience which is a great plus.
I found myself in a new amazing (sunny) place and was definitely worth all the worries and preparations! I definitely recommend stepping out your comfort zone and giving Workaway a try.
The next pictures were taken hiking in Silvermine, in Elephant’s Eye.
The location of the hostel was perfect. It is located at the beach in a real hip neighbourhood. There are many shops and restaurants and there is a trendy food market, which contains many bars and food stalls. It is a good way to start your journey into Cape Town.
As a volunteer you stay in a 6 bed female dorm, which is very spacious. It is also very clean and you can meet fellow guest and volunteers. It is great!
c) General Opinion
- Traveling through Workaway truly gives a new dimension to traveling: it gives you the opportunity to meet people way easier and to experience the local life. Working during traveling can also introduce you to new skills and build up your CV. It is the ultimate way to travel in my opinion! In addition if you are an online freelancer you can combine your work-away experience with your online work.
- You can travel for longer period of times, because accommodation is already free of charge.
- The hostel in which I stayed was a great host for interns: the work is nice and flexible and you can meet many volunteers and staff. The location and accommodation is also wonderful.
- Traveling, especially alone and at a far location requires a lot of work: you need to be fully prepared and informed prior to coming, so you have to spend a lot of time on research and preparations. Do I need a visa? Do I need vaccinations? Is the host going to pick me up? These are some of the questions you should take into consideration.
- Usually not all costs are covered so you need to have some savings for work away: these are mostly for food/drinks, transport and activities.
- Always do enough research before going to a host: try to read reviews on Workaway regarding the host (I would also recommend only picking hosts with a lot of reviews, so you are sure the place has already good experiences with volunteers). Also find reviews online on the host. Does the place have an own internet site? Is the location on TripAdvisor? Do your research!
- Try to always Skype the host: even if you have emailed make sure you call the host several times to make sure everything is transparent. Make a list of questions and don’t be afraid to ask them all. In addition it is good to ask a picture of the actual accommodation to avoid disappointments.
- Try to contact other people who have stayed at the volunteer location: you can contact them through Workway or by asking the host for their numbers. Skype with them also!
- Pick a Workaway location that has other volunteers: If you are the only volunteer it might be a bit lonely. Find a place full of workawayers!
- Make sure to pick a location, in which you have a family or friend: It is good to have a contact in case of emergency especially if you are far away from home.
- Pick a host, which has good internet access: in case of emergencies.
- Try to always have a Plan B if the Workaway doesn’t work out: Try to find another host in the same location (or close by) just in case.
In the Volunteer Abroad section, you can find more experiences of volunteer projects abroad! If you had a similar experience and want to inspire others to apply please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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