Become a Volunteer anywhere in the world – Worldpackers
So before we get started can you tell us a little bit more about you?
My name is Andrea, I’m 29 years old and I’m a Host Specialist at Worldpackers. I adopted a nomad lifestyle 2 years ago and took up volunteering after being made redundant from a frustrating job in England. I thought of it as way to learn new skills – soft and hard ones – and also a way to make travelling a bit cheaper as at the time I wasn’t making much money. After volunteering with 12 different hosts at Worldpackers, they advertised a job in the company. As I really believed in their concept, it was a no-brainer. I applied and got the job, and here I am today!
What is worldpacker?
A Worldpacker is what we call the volunteers who sign up to the platform. We use the word “volunteer” but the concept is quite different from the traditional concept of volunteering for an NGO. Essentially, the Worldpackers offer a bit of their time and energy to hosts in exchange for free accommodation, learning new skills and building a network around the world.
How does it work?
Once you sign up for the platform, you can use our search tool and filters to find the perfect volunteer position for you. The positions will show the tasks involved, the benefits offered by the host, pictures of the place and reviews from other travellers. Then, you message the host and tell them a bit more about yourself and your plans. You and the host will talk, get to know each other better and, once you’re both happy with the agreement, the host will send you an invitation and you can accept it. At the end of the experience, you’ll review each other and off you go to your next adventure!
Why did you choose to travel as a volunteer?
It made sense to me because I was looking to have a career change as the corporate world didn’t quite suit me. Besides, I had been working as a freelancer and earning a very small salary. So I felt like the volunteer experience would allow me to get out of my bubble, try out new things, meet people from different backgrounds and just give me that shake up I was needing. Money-wise, it makes travelling a lot cheaper as the accommodation is often the most expensive part of the trip.
Tell me more about your last volunteer experience: how was the process? How did you find the host?
The last time I volunteered was at an equestrian centre in the west of England. I was looking for a more rural experience to take a break from the city life. I went on Worldpackers and searched for experiences in England using our filter for rural experiences. The host came up and they had excellent reviews from previous travellers. I was responsible for helping take care of the horses, clean their stables and take them out for some time outdoors. In exchange, the host taught me a lot about horses, how to care for them, how the competitions work, and everything related to the equestrian world. She also gave me a private room and free access to the kitchen. Every evening we had dinner together with the family that owned the horses and it was lovely to have a bit of family time after so many years travelling alone.
The host took a long time to answer?
The host answered me in less than a day. Our hosts often use our app and they receive the notifications straight away when they receive a message from a volunteer. Also, for every host, you can see their response rate and how long they take to reply on average.
How did you help the host? How many hours per day / days per week? Free days?
I was helping my host between 3-5 hours a day. We’d wake up at 7am, have a light breakfast and then head to the stables. In the mornings, we had to clean them, change the water and put food in the stables. We’d often have to move the horses outside too. This would take from 2-4 hours, depending on the number of stables to be cleaned. Then, we’d have a big breakfast with the family. In the afternoon, we had to just change the horses’ water, give them more food and sometimes groom them, which was my favourite thing. This would only last 1 hour. We also had 2 free days every week.
What did you receive in exchange for your help as a volunteer?
The host gave me my own bedroom and I had to share a bathroom with 2 other volunteers. We also had free access to the kitchen and they’d always ask us if we’d like them to buy us something specific to eat. The dinners were always cooked by the host and were delicious! Besides that, I learned a lot about the horse world and even had a riding lesson!
What was your budget to do this trip? What are the main expenses?
I am a digital nomad so I don’t have a set budget when I travel. But during this volunteer experience I actually spent no money during the 1 month I spent there. I only had to pay for the train to get to that part of England and nothing else.
You have already volunteered 12 times in total – which was the best and why?
My favourite experience was when I lived for 1 month in a forest in Estonia. The host was glamping site (like a camping site but with very comfortable tipi tents). I helped the host to cook meals for their guests and I learned so many cooking skills that I use to this day! The forest was gorgeous too, they had a sauna, a lovely hot tub and even a beautiful clay lake nearby. It was a special experience to disconnect from the busy city life and live amongst the trees, chickens and lakes.
What are the requirements to volunteer? Is there a minimum age or age limit?
Each host will have their own requirements and this will be clearly shown on the position. They can have requirements regarding age, languages and nationality. However, by creating a free profile and searching through our positions, you will see that there’re positions for every age, language level and nationality.
Why didn’t you contact the host through their social media? What are the advantages of using Worldpackers?
The main reason why I think Worldpackers is superior to contacting hosts directly is the fact that on the platform you can see the reviews left by other travellers and a very clear description of what’s involved in the position. Also, Worldpackers offers an Insurance which covers up to 3 nights of accommodation and reallocation to another host in in case the host doesn’t follow what was agreed or if they have to cancel the experience last minute, or any other unforeseen circumstances. We also have a great support team that can offer advice during your experiences.
Did you meet other travelers through volunteering?
I met so many people volunteering! The team of volunteers tend to be like a little family and you form connections for life. I’ve kept in touch with so many people I volunteered with and we went on to meet again in other parts of the world.
You have already volunteered in several countries – for those who are going to live their first experience, do you think it better to start in their own country?
This can be a good idea – specially during pandemic times. You can start locally and with shorter experiences to get a feel for it. Or perhaps choose an experience that is more familiar to you rather than start by volunteering in the middle of a forest in Estonia, for example! Also, you might want to have your first experience with an experienced host and you can see that based on the amount of reviews they have.
What happens if when you get to volunteer, what was agreed is not fulfilled?
The first and most important thing is communication. Speak to your host and have an open conversation with them. If you still fail to reach an agreement, contact Worldpackers’ support team. They will give you advice and offer you the possibility to claim the Worldpackers Insurance. If the claim is approved, Worldpackers will cover up to 3 nights of accommodation in a hostel and they’ll also find you another host in the vicinity or wherever you want to go next.
How much does the Membership cost? What are the benefits?
At Worldpackers we have 2 plans for people who want to volunteer. The Trips plan is our cheapest option and for 49 dollars you can volunteer as many times as you want for a whole year (or 15 months if you sign up until the end of July 2021). We also have a Pack plan, which allows you to volunteer and also gives you access to our platform of online courses. This plan costs 99 dollars a year. If you want to volunteer with a friend or a partner, we also have the Couples plan which gives you both a big discount – if you get the Trips plan with a friend/partner the total cost is 59 dollars a year (whereas two Trips plans would cost you 99 dollars).
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Do you have to pay for each volunteer?
No, the plan is yearly and you can volunteer as many times as you want throughout the year. You can also apply with 6 months in advance so if you apply for an opportunity at the end of your plan, you can actually keep volunteering even after your plan has expired.
Do they pay you something in volunteering?
We really believe that having money involved in this exchange would create a transactional relationship similar to what you’d have in a job, and this is not what we’re trying to foster here. We want our hosts to give you their time, teach you something, connect with you, show you their country or city, offer delicious local meals and a comfortable accommodation.
Anything that you would like to add?
Volunteering is also a great opportunity to increment your CV and make you stand out for a job or even an undergraduate/masters application. It’s an experience that exposes you to different cultures, teaches you new languages and skills, and increase your network massively. So it makes you stand out from the crowd.