A comprehensive guide for the budget traveler (or anyone else who wants to save money on the road)!
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed since diving into becoming my own boss and living a semi-nomadic lifestyle, it’s that lots of people are interested in a life of travel. As the world gets smaller thanks to social media and cheaper flights, more and more of us are leaving our desk jobs behind to travel full time.
But the question that keeps coming up is – how do you actually do this digital nomad thing?
People from all over the globe are banding together to help each other with the logistics of the digital nomad lifestyle. Facebook groups and forums have been invaluable to me, so I decided to write a guest post as a way to give back and (hopefully) inspire others. If you’re interested in how to save money while travelling long term, I suggest you check it out!
She Hit Refresh is an online community for women over 30 who want to break free from routine and start a life of travel! They have a Facebook group of over 3000 like-minded, supportive and inspiring women, just in case you’re interested.
Workaway for the Solo Female Traveler
Travel has a reputation for being expensive – many people say that money is the number one thing holding them back from long-term travel. As a long-term budget traveler I can tell you first-hand, travel doesn’t have to break the bank!
Plenty of women are finding creative ways to extend their travel budget by not paying for accommodations. House sitting, pet sitting and volunteer exchange are some of the most common ways travelers sleep for free. In addition, these opportunities promote cultural exchange and provide unique, local travel experiences that are a bit off the beaten path.
For me, volunteer exchange, specifically with Workaway, has been a great way to meet people, share my skills, and save some money on the road as a solo female traveler.
What is a Volunteer Exchange?
Volunteer work exchange is where you agree to work a set number of hours per day in exchange for accommodation and sometimes meals.
The oldest and perhaps the most famous volunteer exchange program is WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or WWOOF. Also known as WWOOFing, these exchanges take place on organic farms around the world and support the global sustainable food movement.
If experiencing life as a farmer isn’t your thing, there are other options out there for free volunteer exchange. Workaway is the biggest online portal for finding and hosting volunteer work exchange opportunities around the world. Available in over 170 countries! HelpStay and HelpX are similar sites that list free volunteer opportunities for gap year students and other travelers.
What You’ll Do on a Workaway
With Workaway you can do almost anything under the sun. Settings are extremely diverse from orphanages, hostels, dive centers, olive groves, farms and wineries to private homes and everything in between.
The types of work you can do are also wildly diverse, giving you a chance to use your unique skills or learn new ones! If you want to do gardening and outdoor work, offer childcare, teach English, or work in tourism, you will have zero problems finding a stay, as these are super common. But you can also put your marketing and computer skills to work, or countless other things. Use the filters on the search page to help you find the perfect match.
The average work commitment is 4 hours per day, 5 days per week. It can be more or less, though, so be sure to read your host profile carefully (and confirm with them) before committing to a stay.
My Workaway Story
For my first Workaway stay I joined a Russian family who has been living in Buljarica, Montenegro for almost 3 years. Buljarica is a tiny village about a half hour south of Budva, right on the coast. The “village” consisted of a few scattered houses, a monastery, a few restaurants, a camping place, and a beach.
The family I lived with consisted of parents Ben and Svetlana, and sons Dan (12) and Teo (3). The family’s oldest daughter Valla (21) also lives nearby in Petrovac. Ben and Svetlana own a business together and travel the world while homeschooling the boys. I knew from their profile that they had previously spent a year as Workaway volunteers, so I was confident that they would know exactly how to provide a great experience for me.
I stayed for 10 days and the whole family was very welcoming to me. When I arrived in Petrovac, Ben and Teo were waiting at the bus station to pick me up. I spent that first day just getting to know the family, the home and the area a bit. Dan took me on a walk through the footpaths behind his house to the monastery. Later they took me into town to see the beach and where some basic stores and amenities were. We also talked about the work and my schedule for the 10 days.
Work I did:
- Play with Teo and speak English with him. Our favorite games were dinosaur races, playing with the hose, soccer, and throwing rocks.
- Help Dan with his English lessons and create study projects for him. We decided to learn about the U.S. states and capitals and talked about American history. He taught me some Russian history too.
- Help with meal prep occasionally.
- Paint the garage with Dan’s help.
My schedule was 4 hours/day, five days/week.
What I Got in Return:
Of course, experiences may vary, but many times you will get far more in return than you give, especially if you count the relationships you form.
- Room and board. In my case, accommodation was a garage apartment with its own entrance and private bathroom. They also fed me – really well! I shared three meals a day and had full access to the kitchen for snacks or cooking.
They were very welcoming, told me to help myself to anything I wanted or needed, to let then know if I needed something, and to feel at home. They asked me lots of questions about my background and travels and I did the same. In a few days we were friends.
- Transport from the bus station and to my train upon departure. This is not required of hosts but I think it’s pretty common.
On your free days, many hosts are willing to take you exploring or at least help you plan something. Dan and I went on an epic 20+ km hike on my day off. It was very remote and definitely an experience I would not have dared on my own!
- Ben did my laundry and sent me off to my train with a care package of mixed berries to snack on. Now that’s just nice.
For the full story including how to set up a membership and book your first stay, what is expected of you and what you get in exchange, pros and cons of Workaway, plus other frequently asked questions, read the full story HERE.
More Balkan adventures, travel tips and guides: Things to do in Sarajevo, Things to Do in Belgrade, Bar to Belgrade by Train, How to Get to Nikola Tesla Airport from Downtown Belgrade