My Experience as a “Workaway” backpacker in Argentina
Gill Hibbitt has recently been backpacking through South America and has been keen to keep her costs down. Here she shares her experience of working in exchange for accommodation at the Rivera Hostal in Cordoba, Argentina which she arranged through the “Workaway” website.
How did I hear about Workaway?
During my Asian gig, fellow travellers had told me about work in exchange for accommodation opportunities. I hadn’t known about this before and had focussed on volunteer projects where I paid to volunteer. This I had understood to be necessary because I mainly volunteered at animal sanctuaries where they needed the volunteer money to help support the animals. However, it was becoming clear that I needed to look at changing this.
I returned to UK for 2 and half months in September 2015. The 2nd part of my Silver Surfers gap year was to start in November 2015, destination South America. Initially I “planned” to be away for a year. However I realised that returning to the UK in November 2016 would not be a good time to return - short days, long, dark evenings and people generally quite “low”! It therefore seemed logical to purchase a 1 way ticket and 18 months of travel insurance - I’m very logical like that! As I had put aside 2 years hostel-style travel money and I had already been away for the ﬁrst year, there would be a 6 month shortfall, along with people telling me how expensive Argentina, Brazil and Chile were. And so the “Workaway’ seed was sown. “Workaway” asks for $29 for 2 years, worldwide which is extremely good.
My ﬁrst Workaway Gig
So where did Workaway begin for me? In Cordoba at the Rivera Hostal Cordoba, owned by the lovely brother and sister team, Enrique y Ro. I researched various hostels and selected ones which weren’t “Party” hostels as I knew I wouldn’t ﬁt in there and would so not have wanted to! I contacted 3 places, including Rivera and Rivera replied .. and so it began! I was initially due to stay for 1 month, and was welcomed on my arrival from Buenos Aries by Enrique (Ro was away in Europe), and by the 2 lovely volunteers who were there at the time, Dutch Marjet and Venezuelan Franklin.
At Rivera they give you 2 days off before starting to give you time to settle in and get yourself orientated. The atmosphere was great, full of “Buena Onda” (Good Vibes). Work comprised of covering Reception ( Check In/Check Out,) helping guests feel at home and giving them ideas for visiting both the city and local area, making up beds, stripping beds and general cleaning help, including ensuring that the bathrooms were kept clean. Looking after guests at breakfast and serving drinks also formed part of our remit.
We worked 8 hours shifts (mine were either 7.30 am - 3.30 pm or 3.30 pm - 11.30 pm) which gave plenty of time to go out and about too. This was 4 days a week in exchange for bed and breakfast. If Enri or Ro knew we wanted to visit somewhere more distant they would ensure we had 2 -3 days off consecutively.
Although Rivera doesn’t promote itself as a Party Hostel, events were often held there, such as Pizza parties serving vegetarian and vegan pizzas, Cultural & Language exchange evenings, a Birthday Party, a Stag evening, Rock groups and of course, Goodbye parties as each volunteer left. This did create a chuckle alert for me at times, including one evening when we were doing a Goodbye party for Ola, believing no other events were happening that evening when all of a sudden people for the Cultural Exchange rocked up! I was on duty, so Ola ended up doing the food prep for her own party whilst I was up to my neck in serving drinks! Music was blaring, people were animated, the drinks were ﬂowing and a thought crossed my mind, “So glad I didn’t apply to a Party hostel!”
There were some great volunteers there - Franklin went on after I’d been there for a couple of days, Ola from Poland arrived before Marjet headed off. Along came our Mexican friend Alma, who had started off as a guest. Gonzalo from Uruguay made up part of the team for a few weeks, heading up pizza evenings. English Beth turned up just before Christmas as a guest and stayed on as a volunteer. Long term volunteer co-ordinator, Mili came from Peru. Guests: And what a great bunch of guests the place attracted, from various parts of the World. Fortunately many from South America too because another part of my travel plan was to improve my Spanish and Portuguese language skills - both of which had lain dormant for quite some time …..
- Exercise: * Joined the local gym to do spinning classes several times a week - always good in the blistering heat!
- Trekking (see “Trips”)
- Walking around the city - lots
- Trips: You might like to check my article on the best places to visit outside of Cordoba
- Oh and did I mention that for the ﬁrst time in my life I did a Sky Dive, along with Ro - a ﬁrst for her too. Wow, was it exhilarating .. especially at the moment of the plane door being opened, looking down .. and thinking, “another ﬁne mess I’ve got myself into ….!. “ And then, we were off, out the plane, free-falling for a while before the parachute opened and we ﬂoated over the landscape. Super cool. Conclusion: It was great experience and a brilliant way to connect with local people as well as international travellers. It afforded a rent-free base to go off and explore not only Cordoba but also interesting places in the area.
By Gill Hibbitt