I have heard of Workaway a lot of times through many backpackers I’ve met during my travels. I have always wanted to give it a try, and I figured as I would have plenty of time during my long term travels in South East Asia, I would figure I would give it a shot. Below, I will let you know about my Workaway experience in Malaysia.
What is Workaway?
Workaway.info is a website that allows members to contact one another to organise homestays and cultural exchange. In exchange for lodging and/or food, volunteers are expected to contribute an amount of time per day to help out their hosts.
There are opportunities in most countries you can think of. The types of volunteering available include farming, animal care, language help, hostel work, babysitting, as well as more unique ones such as helping out sail to different islands to distribute medical goods!
A full year membership to the website is a reasonable $38 USD for an individual account and $48 USD for a couples account.
Where did I do it?
I did my Workaway experience at Map Travelodge hostel in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. Situated between Penang and Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands is popular among travellers for its tea plantations, hiking trails, orchards, and cooler temperatures. Temperatures rarely rises over 25 °C (77 °F) and can drop to as low as 9 °C (48 °F), which can be a nice break from the hot weather in the rest of Malaysia.
What work did I do?
As I had previous experience working at front desk in a hotel, the hosts gave me the opportunity to help out with the check in process. I worked 3 hours a day around the 4 pm to 7 pm time frame. I would mostly take guest’s information, process their payment, show them to their beds, and introduce them to what they could do in the area.
As the reception is also a cafe, I was able to learn how to make lattes and cappuccinos. While I am no expert yet, I was able to make this latte art. Its my attempt at modern art.
I spent most of my time “working” interacting with guests. I enjoy talking to other people so it was pretty easy and fun for me to do. After a couple of days there, I was able to lead groups to do activities such as steamboat (hot pot) dinners and a night market tour.
What did I get in return?
- A bed for 10 nights (a value of 30 MYR ($10 CAD) per night)
- Laundry (it was timed coincidentally where this is the only place I did laundry in Malaysia)
- Coffee, tea and other refreshments
What did I do in my free time?
On my first day, I did the full day tour of Cameron Highlands for 90 MYR ($28.14 CAD) which included
- BOH Tea plantation & factory – got to see tea plantations and how tea gets processed
- Mossy Forest – a boardwalk at forest covered with moss on top of Gunung (Mount) Brinchang moss.
- Time Tunnel (The Local Museum) – a memorabilia “museum” that showcase what life was like in Malaysia
- Butterfly Garden
- Strawberry Farm
It was also the Nine Emperor Gods Festival during my time in Cameron Highlands. The festival is a nine-day Taoist celebration beginning on the eve of 9th lunar month of the Chinese calendar, which began on October 8th, 2018 and ended on October 17th, 2018.
Only a 3 minute walk away from the hostel, the local Chinese temple was the scene of the festivities. Each night was different performances such as singing, dancing, lion and dragon dances. The last night concluded with everyone doing a fire-walking purification ritual (walking on charcoal)!
Along with that they provided FREE vegetarian meals for everyone in order to purify our bodies.
Many people come to Cameron Highlands to just trek. There are many trails ranging in different difficulties. Prepare to sweat as the humidity and some steep incline will make the hike tough!
I greatly enjoyed my Workaway experience in Malaysia. Aaron was a really good host as he was pretty easygoing and very welcoming. The staff that I worked with in the hostel were also great. They helped me learn about the Cameron Highlands area, how to make lattes. and were great people to talk to! Some drawbacks of my experience were that the bed that I slept on was very thin. The first couple of nights was pretty hard to sleep through. As I am more of a city person, I found myself pretty bored after a week in Cameron Highlands. This is why I ended my Workaway experience early. The initial agreement was to work 5 days a week (3 hours a day), get two days off, for two weeks. I ended up working the 10 days straight as 3 hours of work was not a long time for me.
If you are curious to see what else I did in Malaysia, click here!