Sep 062015

One of the things I have been trying to do, with no success, is trade off some webwork in exchange for some sort of living arrangement.  Build a website, build an app, computer consulting, things of that sort, hopefully in exchange for some small habitat for a short term period.  Recently I ran an ad proposing such a deal on FB and CL both for here in the Keys and in Hawaii.  So far, one reply, from Maui.  It actually wasn’t an offer to exchange work for habitat, but it did sound like a nice place, although slightly higher than I want to pay.  No matter, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of response but thought I’d take a shot.  Never know.

Meanwhile, I’ve been researching and cruising the inter webs as usual and during one such search I came across an interesting website, sorta kinda along the lines of what I’ve been trying to do.

The site is called Workaway and how it works is pretty simple.  You can sign up as a host, meaning someone who has a place and needs some help.  Or you can sign on as a worker bee, looking to exchange your handy skills for a roof over your head.  The site has hosts and travelers from all over the world, making it an ideal resource for digital nomads and travelers who may be short on cash, looking to save some money on accommodations, or just want to stay in someplace other than a hotel or hostel.

As a host, you put down what you are looking for, a description of your place, and any restrictions or caveats you may want to impose.  As a worker bee, you list all your skills, along with a bit of a personal profile.  You then try to match up your skills to your desired location and dates you intend on being at said location.  From there, host and worker bee work out a deal.

I did a quick perusal of my two chosen locations and came up with some interesting options.  In the Keys I found three places looking to trade a place for help.  I’m familiar with the one place and all three had some merit to them.  In Hawaii there were over 125 hosts listed.  Most of them were small farms, plantations, or hippie communes.  Farm work, gardening, handy man stuff seemed to be the most popular skill desired.  Not my cup of coconut juice but there were some intriguing options.  I wouldn’t totally write off some of them.

At my advanced age my skill set involves more of sedentary lifestyle as opposed to sweating in the north forty picking weeds and mending fences.  I am no farmer.  Nor am I skilled with things like carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, nor other handyman skills.  I can hold my own on a small sailboat but when it comes to houses and farms, giving me a tool is the same as giving me a high powered rifle, a bottle of hard liquor, and the address to my ex-girlfriend.  Blood will be spilled and there is a pretty good chance it would be the lead story in the evening news.  Nope, my skills are limited to computer stuff and maybe something simple like watching a fruit stand, which I noticed was a needed skill on some of the hosts posts.

The upside is most all of the hosts required only a couple hours or so out of the day.  15 to 20 hours a week in exchange for some sort of place to stay.  It gives the worker bee plenty of time to go and visit wherever they are, and work something which pays money to put some food on the table and save for the next adventure.

The one downside with Workaway and maybe it’s actually a good thing, there is a fee to join.  Just $29 for a 2 year subscription, which if you think about it, is not a bad deal at all.  One gig will pay for the fee and if you can find such gigs on a regular basis,  it really pays for itself.

I haven’t signed up yet as I want to research this a bit more but it looks like a pretty good option.  Worker bees and hosts leave feedback after the gig so you can get a general idea of how good or bad a situation may be.  And the upside is, if things don’t work out, the time frame can be short enough you can get out and move on if needed.  Just be aware most of these jobs are bottom scrapers.  You’ll be shoveling shit, sweating, and doing some really crappy, physical labor.  Just keep an open mind and understand you are trading out for a place to stay.  It’s kind of important because I’m finding out almost half of my expenses involve just paying the rent.  If one can trade out some work experience instead of money for a place to stay, and still have time to earn some money, plus enjoy the place where one is staying, it can be a very good experience.

While Workaway markets more toward the traveling digital nomad and backpacker types, the concept of trading out work for a short term place to stay is not an original idea.  Rv’ers have been doing this for years.  One such site is Workampingjobs, which I should mention I have not researched, it just came up in the search terms.  There are other similar sites.  Rv’ers, particularly snow birds and full timers, can easily cover the costs of an rv site by trading out some campground work.  Mostly working the front counter, doing some minor maintenance, or working security.  It’s an easy way to alleviate some of the costs of lot rent, again one of the most expensive parts of rv’ing.  Live aboards can do the same thing sometimes, depending on how the marina works out.

Another interesting resource is Cool Works.  Geared a bit more towards the younger crowd, this is a good site to find temp gigs at resorts which involve seasonal type work.  Kayak guides use this a lot, working up north in the summer, coming to Florida or the Caribbean in the summer.  There are other gigs here such as cooking, cleaning staff, maintenance, some with options to include a place to stay whilst in said resort.

The point of all this is simple.  Wherever one goes to travel, one of the more expensive parts of said travel is finding a place to stay.  If the destination is a popular tourist area, options for affordable places are severely limited, which if you have been reading this blog, especially that last month or so, you can see how difficult it is to find a decent place.  With sites like Workaway, one has the chance to take those skills which one has, and we all have some skills we can market, and use them to one’s advantage.  If one is willing to work the shittier jobs, is not particular about how fancy a place one needs to stay in, work exchange can be a pretty good resource for traveling on a budget.

As with any recommendation, take what I have posted here with some salt.  Research before you step into anything.  I am sure there are other similar sites to Workaway so do your homework.  It may be exactly what you are looking for, or it may not.  Use your own judgment.  To me it looks like a good option should no others be available.  I’m going to keep researching it myself and perhaps take the plunge soon just to see what turns up.

Capt. Fritter

Skill set:  Pirate, annoyer of wimmen, professional bovine fecal mover, comic relief.

Languages:  English, Pirate, Sarcasm, Profanity.

Got to believe I qualify for some good gigs.