It doesn’t matter if you are a student without any work experience or have been working for a while already and dream to travel longer than for a two-week vacation you should definitely try a Work Travel program.
Working in another country is a sure way to immerse yourself in a new culture while offsetting your travel costs.
Work Travel programs in general are meant for international cultural exchange. As part of the program students and young people from different countries spend their summer in the country of choice. The program provides participants with official right to work and travel in a country for some period of time. It also give a good chance to meet locals and learn their way of life there.
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HOW TO FIND SUCH PROGRAM?
Each country offers different programs and different conditions. If you have some country in mind where you would like to spend few months just google “Work and Travel country name” (for example Work and Travel Greece) and see what options are offered.
They can be either government provided programs or organized by private companies. Do your research and choose a right option for you. Just make sure to check if the company is licensed to provide such service. In our case we participated in a program designed by a Latvian travel agency and everything went great.
We had an opportunity to go for this kind of adventure ourselves and spend a summer in one of the beautiful Greek islands Crete. One of us was just out of high school, the other one was a student with a two-year work experience ready for a change of job and location. We both were extremely excited for few months abroad and a chance to meet people from all over the world.
Next you will read about 6 pretty tempting aspects why Work Travel programs are great!
1. TRAVEL ALMOST FOR FREE
A large part of organizations and companies who offers these programs will help you to find a suitable job. In Greece all options were mostly in hospitality business.
Usually you will have to pay something for agency services and a one-way ticket to your destination. Return ticket afterwards will usually be covered by employer if you managed to spend decent time working for them.
In terms of expenses you won’t have to worry about anything else. In my case I paid 50 EUR to agency for all the paperwork and 70 EUR for my ticket to Crete. So 120 EUR investment for a 3-month long adventure in Crete – not bad at all!
2. STAY IN A NICE HOTEL & FREE FOOD
This is another big plus for Work Travel programs specially if you choose to work in a hotel. They usually cover your accommodation, food. If you work in a hotel you usually get to live there as well.
In our case we were working in a Sunshine Club Calimera Crete hotel and got to stay there just like hotel guests. The hotel area consisted of the village of small private houses located in the hills and a main building right on the beach of the Mediterranean Sea.
Over the period of 3 months that we spent there we managed to live in 3 different locations and all of them were great. Two locations were within the hotel and the third one was a guesthouse in the nearby village. At first we got to live in the hotel village.
The apartment was very spacious, located in beautiful surroundings, it had a nice terrace and next door were all other Work Travel participants from different countries.
It was a nice opportunity to get to know new people and have hangouts on somebody’s terrace every night after work for the whole summer.
When the high tourism season arrived (in Crete it starts on July) the hotel got fully booked so everyone who worked and lived there had to move out. We were relocated to a village in nearby mountains to Taverna Asteria.
The surroundings were beautiful but the only downside was having to walk to the hotel and back for a good 20 minutes in extremely hot sun. That’s something I don’t miss a lot though.
Later in the middle of august when summer started to move to its ending also the amount of guests became less in our hotel so we got to return there. Then finally we had chance to enjoy staying in the main hotel building with typical long hallways and hundreds of rooms.
Every room had a balcony where to enjoy morning coffee or watch the sunset over the sea while having a refreshing drink after a long day in a hot August sun.
The only downside was that we were living on the first floor. The view from a balcony on top floors was much better of course. However this kind of living had its own perks. For example we didn’t have to walk the long hallways to get out of the hotel. We’d just jump over the railing of the balcony which was almost on the street level and be outside. That saved a lot of time.
So that’s the living part.
And now to the other extremely nice thing that allowed us to save up a lot of money – free meals. When you are hosted by a hotel in a Work&Travel program your employees will usually take care of the staff meals as well.
Our experience in this area was pretty great. We had a meal 3 times a day in the staff canteen and they served quite a wide variety of food. We got a chance to try some Greek national masterpieces – Greek salad, moussaka, which is a Greek style stew made of meat and vegetables, sea food as well as more common European dishes such as french fries with a grilled chicken, lasagne, pasta Bolognese and more.
Portions were always huge so everyone could eat as much as they like. Plus there was always a dessert which was mainly fruits and ice cream. Oranges and watermelon always tasted heavenly because they were locally grown.
On our days off however we usually didn’t eat at the hotel but drove to the city nearby instead to have a nice meal in one of the many sea-side cafes.
Not having to pay for accommodation and daily meals was really beneficial in order to save up the money that we had with us upon arriving in Crete plus the salary we earned while working in the hotel there. And this brings us to the next point.
3. MAKE MONEY AND LEARN NEW SKILLS
Within the Work Travel program participants usually become trainees or even official employees of the company. You will have a work agreement with a predefined monthly salary.
For us the salary was a bit under average of what one would normally make in a hospitality job in Europe so this program might not be the best idea if your only goal is to make lots of money out of it.
But surely among many participants of the program there were few who came there purely for money and would take a lot of extra hours or even a second job but most others were looking forward to hospitality experience in combination of travel opportunities.
If you are not taking extra hours of work then you get pretty decent time to travel around the area while still not spending a lot of money.
Our main goal participating in the Work and Travel program was to gain new professional experience in a foreign country so earning salary for a job that had us excited all the time felt like an additional benefit.
We got to try working in different departments of the hotel but ended up being waitresses in the hotel restaurant and from time to time got to be the main person looking over the self-service tavern in the beach area.
The work was not that difficult and we mostly had an interesting time getting to know new people who arrived in the hotel every day. We also hadn’t had any restaurant staff experience before so it’s was nice to learn new skills for example how to professionally carry 4 plates of food on hands and not to drop them.
At the end of the 3-month program we had not only traveled, saved up some money and had a great time, we had also learned new professional skills. If we started as total beginners with shaking hands when carrying tray of glasses and not knowing how to serve tables properly, we ended the program as restaurant service pros.
Also we figured out how to make some tips in the restaurant. We learned some tricks how to melt the hearts of hotel guests and they’d tip us. The key was always the same though – wide genuine smile and being friendly with everyone.
Work in the hotel restaurant and bar isn’t the only option though. You can apply also for a cook position, to be a housekeeper, babysitter, lifeguard at the beach or poolside or even animators that puts on an entertaining show for hotel guests each night.
You can also work in the gift shops in the hotel area or in the diving equipment rental at the beach. There are countless options so you can definitely pick what fits your interests or skills the best.
In our hotel the most VIP job was in the animation team. They always had a great time doing different sport activities during the day and artistic performances at night. It’s like they were partying all the time and also got paid doing that. Doesn’t that sound great?
4. MEET PEOPLE AND MAKE FRIENDS FOR LIFE
Participating in programs like Work Travel you will for sure have a chance to make friends from different countries. It’s always so interesting to hear stories by other people who have ended up at the same place in the same time but comes from a totally different background.
So this gives you opportunities to learn about new countries that you might not even know existed and get to hear about their culture. You even might end up having friends for life all over the world.
Years have passed since the time we were in Crete but we still have many of the people we worked together that summer in Facebook. Every time we see a post of their current life it reminds of those good memories working together, having beach parties and barbecues after work, going for adventures and much more.
These people are a part of one of the best summers of my life and therefore I’m happy I got to meet them as part of the Work Travel Greece program.
5. GET IN-DEPTH KNOWLEDGE ABOUT A NEW CULTURE
The average length of a Work Travel program is usually 3-6 months and that’s a decent time to get to know your new home quite well. For us it was enough to learn main Greek phrases, also to polish our English and even learn some words of different other languages but that depends on what nationality people will you have sharing this experience with you.
Everyone who came with their suitcases full of stuff needed for living 3 months in a foreign country also brought with them a small part of their culture which others got to know over the time. I remember how interesting it was listening stories about other people’s countries, hometowns, what got them to come here and what’s their story in general.
We ended up having new taste of music and learning new phrases of at least 4 different languages. We also made a list of new destinations where we’ll have to go to visit our new friends when the program is over.
It is so unique how quickly people adapt to new cultures, new environments. The more different your surroundings will be from what you have used to the more beneficial it will end up for you.
6. GO FOR ADVENTURES AND TRAVEL
We spent a lot of time away from hotel in our days off. Over the period of 3 months we had hiked the nearby villages in the mountains and on the coast, we had cycled hundreds of kilometers across the Crete island, we had rented a car to go see the main cities with our friends.
Our hotel was right on the beach of Mediterranean sea so we’d often go to climb rocks by the beautiful beach side nearby or spend hours snorkeling to see the underwater world with colorful sea creatures and impressive underwater rocks.
During the month when we had to move out of our hotel and live in the guesthouse up in the mountain village we got to have some different magnificent experiences.
Small streets, Greek architectural elements on the buildings around and the picturesque mountain view on one side and Mediterranean sea down the hill on the other side and green olive trees all around still makes me nostalgic.
It was a perfect experience which allowed us to learn the culture of the island and go on many adventures that Crete has to offer. When participation in Work Travel program you usually get a decent time off especially if you start to work early in the spring just before summer kicks off or if you are able to stay late till October when the season is cooling off.
The high season in Crete usually is second part of June, whole July and beginning of August when there will be more work because of high number of guests.
During that time you might end up not getting days off as much as you’d like but still there will be enough time to travel the island, go on adventures, get to know plenty of new people and do all other fun stuff mentioned in this post.
Summer in Crete was the first real trip abroad without our families for both of us during which we got to experience a real taste of adventure travel. And the best part was that after this trip we ended up having savings to go for many more adventures around the world.