Sebastian is a young student from South America who accompanied me in Rajasthan. He took a break from grad school to travel the world. He is interested to experience the vital aspects of different cultures, art, dance, and music. He revealed his secrets to pleasurably survive in India as a tourist. He experimented with various ways to make his travel easy while experiencing the culture at its best. He tried Workaway in various parts of India, and he was happy to disclose his experience for Sanchaari.
An Interview with Seb – A Workaway experience in India
Me: What is Workaway? How to use it while Traveling?
Seb: Well, for what I know it is is a volunteering network. Travelers can stay for free and work for a certain duration.
To experience the culture and different things of interest, travelers find a host through the Workaway website. They can use it to find free accommodation with food in exchange for skills, energy, with the attitude of offering help to the host with their daily chores like cooking, farming, painting, etc.
Me: How Workaway is budget-friendly and help solo travelers?
Seb: Well, what I experienced Workaway is really worthy. I stayed in India for the past 3 months. I would have to spend almost €5000 for staying in decent hotels and eating healthy, which is quite a lot of money. Workasway allows one to stay for free along with home-cooked free food for weeks and months. That is a lot more comfortable with cultural exchange while traveling.
Me: Could you please share your experience as a guest through Workaway in India?
Seb: I stayed on a farm in Andra Pradesh which was incredible. After getting out of the big cities and experienced the village culture, I discovered for the first time how beautiful the countryside of India is. People in rural areas and their culture are very pure. It was the right time for farming around India and I helped them in fields.
I did the same with family in Wayanad, Kerala. I spent 2 weeks with the family in the middle of a lush green rainforest. Working with cows on the farm was a great experience. The family treated me with a lot of facilities that were comfortable enough.
To another extreme, working in the desert of Jaisalmer-Rajasthan was hard. Working 7-8 hours a day was quite unusual, we used to sleep under the sky without a roof outside of the house. But it helped me to understand how difficult the life of a farmer in such areas.
Me: Is India has good Workaway community?
Seb: Well, In my own experience I did it only in India. I tried in Nepal, but they charged me for it, hence it was not a good experience there. My experience in India was really nice because one could find a lot of farming stuff, schools that need teachers for some time, hosts also are hotels need help for painting and building websites. These are very common hosts in India, but there are also families who are hosting travelers just for cultural exchange. I am really impressed with the communities in India which are amazingly open for the cultural exchange.
Me: Do travelers need to adjust the schedule based on volunteering programs?
Seb: It depends on how the person is planning and how they want to travel. I was traveling without any plan. But I had the pressure to leave the country within 90 days as I got 90 days visa. Hence I could not do any long term Workaway for months together at the same place. If one does not have visa limitations and no specific plans and open to cultural exchange, one should not have to adjust their schedule. There are people who are traveling for years who do not have any pressure to leave the county upon visa expiry. Such travelers thoroughly enjoy such volunteering programs.
Me: The places you stayed belongs to an organization or an individual?
Seb: The first place I stayed belonged to an organization that was helping farmers on biowaste management. They placed volunteers in a few villages to help farmers. Workaway has many such registered organizations who entertain international volunteers. There are also individual families that host travelers.
Me: Do you need to sign any agreement or commit for a certain duration while signing up to work for the owner?
Seb: First of all you are not working for anyone, hence there is no agreement. You are a volunteer. If you do not like the place/you felt uncomfortable/you encounter any problems, you may leave anytime. Of course, while requesting the host, you request with certain duration. But there is no harm if you leave before completing the requested duration.
Me: How to verify whether the host is authentic?
Seb: Technically all the profiles should be authentic. Workaway verifies and makes sure hosting communities are worthy to be displayed. You need to filter the hosts based on your interest, what you want to help or learn, what kind of place you prefer to stay etc.
Me: I heard a few complaints like hosts harassed/discriminated guests based on culture/race. How do you make sure you have a hassle-free stay??
Seb: I didn’t face it in India as I am a foreigner with a white skin tone :-). Rather hosts were very respectful and cool.
Me: Do you get to travel while volunteering on Workaway?
Seb: That depends, I had various experiences in different places. The farm in Jaisalmer, I was working 7-8 hours did not entertain to travel much. However, in other places, I did get a chance to visit places and check around.
Me: Share some of your unique learning.
Seb: I would tell you one experience in Jaisalmer. That was a very short stay, I was volunteering for 5 days on a farm in Jaisalmer. That was really interesting how people live in that part of India. They were living almost without anything. We were sleeping outside the building because we had no place inside to sleep. We were showering without the buckets. If we had to go to a toilet, we had to go to a tree.
This is how they live. It is interesting to do it for a week. But they do it throughout their life. The culture is very deep there. Caste discrimination is still alive and dominant. They don’t have a good relationship with people from another caste. I observed them saying: Oh, Be careful with this lower caste people, don’t even drink a chai with him, etc.
Religion is still being a problem in the country. It is not easy to see caste discrimination in bigger cities. If you go to Wayanad or Andrapradesh or Goa or Rajasthan, the culture is totally different and unique. Language is unique to the state. I am amazed by the diversity.
If you are still finding easy/cheap ways to travel to India without volunteering, CouchSurfing is another option. If you are still skeptical about why to travel India, my article 7 reasons to travel across India might answer your questions.