Get free food and accommodation backpacking

It’s no secret food and accommodation are two of the biggest drains on a backpacker’s budget, but what if I told there was a way to get them both for free? Sounds too good to be true, but without sounding smug (okay just a little), we’ve found one and want to share our experience with you.

Mount Coot-tha, Brisbane

Me and Joe first heard about Workaway from a fellow traveller in Cambodia a few months back. She boasted about this “awesome website” and how it helped her spend as little as $200 AUD a month in Australia, so understandably it sparked our interest.

The thing we dreaded the most about starting our new lives down under was the cost of living. Unlike Asia, this continent’s pricey, and instead of paying $20 a night for a hotel or hostel, we’d be looking at $50-$100. This is where Workaway came in.

What is it?

Quite simply it’s an exchange. An exchange of your time and skills for lodging and grub. There are 30,000 hosts in 170 countries all willing to put you up during your travels and all you have to do is dedicate between 3-4 hours a day to their needs (that sounded less dodgy in my head).

This can be a family wanting to build their dream home, a community reaching out for volunteers to help with a project, a farm or business looking for cheap labour, or busy parents who just need an extra pair of hands around the house, which is what we decided on doing in Brisbane.

South Bank, Brisbane

How do you get involved?

This was the hardest part of the whole process, and when I say hard it was actually pretty straight forward but just felt odd. We had to set up a profile, like you would on a dating website, with your skills, a short bio, and a photo for security reasons. This is the make or break moment because it will either attract or put off potential hosts. We both have a better idea of what it’s like being on Tinder now! There is a sign-up fee, but it’s only $45 USD, which you’ll save pretty quick.

Our Workaway profile

It’s all about location, location, location

When looking for a host one of the most important things to tick off is a good location. We came across an opportunity to work at a retreat in the outback, which looked lovely, but you needed a car to get anywhere and it was miles away for anything worth seeing. For some that could be a dream come true, but like most backpackers we wanted to be in the heart of it all.

Eventually, we came across a few homes looking for an extra pair of hands in the Brisbane area and messaged them to see if they could put us up. Sophia and Ben were our top choice, because their family home was only a 10 minute drive and 30 minute walk from the CBD. Luckily for us they were in need of some help looking after the kids while they went away so the timing was perfect!

Paddington, Brisbane

Read reviews!

I can’t stress how important it is to do your research before agreeing to stay with someone. The Workaway website allows other guests and hosts to leave reviews after a stay, and they can shed some much-needed light on an unfamiliar situation. If there isn’t any because the host is new, ask them a few questions before arriving to put your mind at ease, or better yet arrange a Skype call to ensure you’re not going to be working for Hannibal. We did this with Sophia and it was lovely putting a face to the name.

Annoyingly, we discovered that hosts can hide comments if they don’t particularly like them but their profile will still show ‘comment hidden’. If there are a few of these, it’s probably a good indication they’re not the best person or business to work for.

Maddie the dog (biggest work distraction)

Agree terms

This can seem a bit invasive at first, but it’s best to lay all your cards on the table before you get there. Things like working hours, the types of jobs, the standard of accommodation, and access to food and drink need to be agreed on. Usually it’s 3-4 hours a day, 5 days a week for most Workaway positions. Any more than that then you should probably be paid. Some hosts will allow you to do 8 hours in one day so that you can have a full day off to go exploring. Sophia and Ben where really lenient and were happy for us to move our hours around to suit our schedule.

It’s not for everyone

This probably all sounds pretty perfect, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re hoping to continue living the backpacker’s lifestyle of late nights and lazy days then I wouldn’t suggest signing up until that’s out of your system or you’re running really low on funds.

At the end of the day you’re living in someone else’s home, and you need to respect their rules. Workaway was awesome for us, as we had time to kill before visiting my cousin on the Gold Coast and we wanted down time to apply for jobs. We also wanted to get a sense of what it was like living in Australia, and what better way than to move in with an Aussie family.

Our Workaway family

If you’re a solo traveller, there are options of shared Workaways, usually on farms or small businesses, which can be a great way to meet people and save some doe.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us via the website or on Instagram @journey_bird 😊

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