Lately, there have been a growing number of people who participate in voluntourism. Voluntourism (also known as work exchanges) are when tourists visits and work in exchange for accommodations and occasionally meals.
The concept is not new. Many OG backpackers have been using this idea of travel while working and living in hostels. (If you have stayed in at least three hostels, you probably have seen at least one Australian doing this.)
Additionally, working holiday visas are accessible to most Europeans, Australians, and New Zealanders. Although they are usually only available for people who wish to work to report to agricultural centers and areas, they are beyond the normal length for tourist visas.
What is World Packers?
Which brings us to World Packers. World Packers is an online software that connects potential volunteers to job opportunities worldwide. It does cost an annual fee of $49. But it is widely assumed that you will be able to recoup the annual cost in your first work exchange.
This might be due to the affiliate referral program, but I have their software to be easy to use and split up by specialty interests and such.
Within the application, you can send messages to potential jobs opportunities, review and read reviews of people who have participated in the work exchange program you are interested in, and there is a blog, too.
Where can I participate in a WorldPackers Program?
WorldPacker hosts are located worldwide, and as a volunteer you can filter each region via the website panel. For example, you can see the East Asia, Latin America, and Middle East menus above.
However, when I looked through the amount of options offered per region, I did notice one thing. Most WorldPackers experiences are concentrated in four major regions: the United States of America, Eastern Europe, Central America, and Latin America.
Other Work Exchanges Programs like World Packers?
Wwoof is a work exchange that focuses on agro-tourism. Basically, instead of working at a hostel you will volunteer at a form.
Trusted Homesitters is a form of house sitting. However, some people ask other volunteers to clean and take care of pets such as dogs, rabbits, or cats. House sitting is highly competitive, however.
Work Away is probably the biggest competition to World Packers. It has a much larger pool of both volunteers and opportunities. Work Away was one of the earlier workaway programs from what I can see, with a founding date of 2002. I found their website to be a bit antiquated. However, the speed and overall responsiveness is good.
Finally, some people use HostelWorld. They will look at various options in a city they are traveling to, and will reach out on their own. However, this is only for people who want to volunteer, usually as cleaners, front desk associates, or even social media persons.
Are work exchanges legal?
Maybe? Part of traveling always seems to fall under the grey market, in my opinion. It is far less legal than remote working as a digital nomad. However, it is far better than working in a store for actual pay.
Whenever you are questioned by border security, usually people follow the don’t ask/don’t tell mantra. I don’t intend to give any legal advice on this website, however.
But What are Working Holiday Visas?
Working holiday visas are a bit different. Usually designed for young people in their 20s and 30s, working holiday visas allow visitors to stay beyond the usual visa length. For example, New Zealand offers a twelve-month visa.
However, working holiday visas usually have restrictions about where you can work. Generally, these jobs tend to be agricultural focused. Most times they have limits on pay and length of working time, too.
My WorldPackers Experience in Denver, Colorado
After traveling significantly over time, I decided to get back on the road, albeit temporarily. However, one thing I learned over my six months bouncing from location to location is it’s exhausting. Traveling slowly and more intentionally also saves you money as well.
Like almost everyone, I was drawn to WorldPackers due to an advertisement on an influencers page, although I had read about it, too. I thought about it, and signed up. As someone who had done videos for social media, I did a social media sign up for a hostel in Denver. And after signing up, showing interest, and completing an interview, I was on to one of the top hostels both in Denver and the USA.
In the mornings and evening, I would both record content and try to game plan all of the experiences. However, if I was to do it again, I think it would be a bit different.
I was the first people to take this position for the hostel, so I was never quite sure what the protocol for be to access certain levels of permission. To me, I think you should probably have unfiltered access, and then provide a media plan and template. Then, record all of the events and plan them. Finally, provide all of the content.
That being said, the World Packers experience was filled with great people. And I would happily do it again if I needed to.
Pros of World Packers
- Cheaper Travel
Especially when exploring more expensive parts of the world such as North America and Europe, travel exponentially increases in price. However, when paired with a voluntourism experience, it becomes much cheaper. For example, a bed at the hostel I worked at in Denver averages between $50 per night. I was there for two weeks, which should be about $700. So, basically it was a buy one night get thirteen free.
- Local and Intentional Experiences
The secret is out, and I am kind-of fed up with traveling at this time. Constantly bouncing from highly visited destination to the next gets old, especially when dealing with crowds at all times.
By working at a local destination, it allows you to travel slowly and with more purpose. It also creates a feeling of belonging, especially amongst your coworkers.
- U/X Design and Overall Interface
Compared to most websites, I found that Worldpackers had a really responsive webpage. It seemed more modern than others.
Cons of WorldPackers
To some people $49 is a lot of money. And that can be highly restrictive for some.
- Potentially Long Tours
When looking for some of the opportunities, the length of time they wished to have volunteers was quite long. For example, some hostels offered three month tours, which is very long.
For example, most people visit the United States with a B2 visa. However, the maximum length of time you can spend (per entry with the 10 year visa) is only six months.
- Working Remotely
If the opportunity arises, it might be better to work remotely. Especially in cheaper destinations, volunteering at a hostel might be fun. However, you could possibly be only saving between 10-20 dollars per night. Meanwhile, if you can make something between $10-20 per hour as a virtual assistant.
Thankfully, we have a lot more on digital nomad posts. However, as always, if you have any questions about WorldPackers or working remotely, please feel free to reach out!