I never thought I would be writing this blog post about my experience with Workaway but I feel like it’s about time for me to share my horror story with the world. Workaway, for those of you who are not familiar, is a global online platform that allows volunteers to connect with hosts for work exchange opportunities around the world. The volunteer work is done in exchange for free room and board provided by the host. After getting out of an abusive situation at home, I was forced to be homeless in order to protect my sanity and sense of self. I didn’t know where I was going to go after I left since all of this happened in the middle of a pandemic. So I did what any other woman would do and went online to look at my options. One day, while I was on Reddit discussing my situation in a post, one redditor recommended that I try Workaway. It seemed like a great idea at the time since I was living off of my savings bit by bit. If I were to work somewhere in exchange for free room and board that would be more financially feasible. On top of that, I didn’t really have any “friends” I could live with and no one in my extended family would believe me. So I did the unthinkable and created a Workawayer account to find a local host. Looking back, I can’t really blame myself for making this decision… I was desperate. But as of right now, all I can do is share my story with you all in the hopes that it never happens to anyone else.
Where I Ended Up
With a thorough search, I narrowed down my Workaway host options to one man who lived in Olustee, Oklahoma, Steve. He was the only host taking last-minute volunteers during COVID and his response time was very prompt. But, I will admit, I was really skeptical at first. I’ve never been to Oklahoma before and I had no idea where Olustee was!! If you look at the map I attached, Olustee is a town in Jackson County, Oklahoma that’s southwest from Oklahoma City.
Making the biggest mistake of my life
From what Steve told me via email, Olustee was nothing like NYC, it was more on the countryside. The only reason why I followed through with the exchange was because of the reviews. Steve had multiple 5-star reviews from many Workaway volunteers all over the world. In fact, I even messaged one of his past volunteers and he had nothing but nice things to say about the man. He enjoyed his stay with Steve and as a gift, Steve actually gave him the keys to his second house in NYC. Steve usually gives them out to all of his volunteers in case they need a place to stay in NY. So, in all fairness, everything on Steve’s profile checked out, I even video chatted with him over WhatsApp to gain some further insight on the area. He told me I would have my own private room and that there would be two other girls who were coming at the same time as me. I was beyond hopeful, but I was also worried about the diversity of the town. He told me that he’s had Workaway volunteers from NYC who were of African descent before. In fact, I even saw one review from one black girl on his profile and she was completely satisfied with her experience. So I’m guessing you’re all probably wondering how my first Workaway experience ended up being a nightmare. Well… it turns out Steve, my host, and a couple of the other volunteers I lived with were NARCISSISTS! However, Steve was more of a CODEPENDENT NARC!
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
If you’re not too familiar with narcissism you probably won’t understand why that’s such a big deal. But to me, my host and the other volunteers could have easily been Satan themselves. A (codependent) narcissist in my opinion is someone who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. He or she has an inflated sense of self-importance where they must rely on other people to meet all of their emotional and self-esteem needs. The cause of narcissistic personality disorder is unknown but I believe this disorder originates from the devil himself. To start off, when I first met Steve, he seemed pretty sketchy at first. I guess it was probably because he looked like any other redneck from the country.
How the toxicity started
He picked me up and two other female Workaway volunteers, Rachel and Erica, at the Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport with another woman by his side. I thought it was his wife at first but it turns out she was just another volunteer, May. When we were all in the car, for some reason, May started to gossip about the other volunteers we were going to meet at his place. It made me feel kind of awkward though. I mean… why are you talking so badly about people that we’re going to have to live with? It’s cowardly and it’s also very rude. And the funny part is… Steve didn’t even try to stop her. He allowed May to continue to gossip about his other volunteers with no objection. What kind of host is that? This obviously should’ve been my first red flag but… I pretty much just landed in Oklahoma. Where would I even go next?
Having no bathroom on-site
When we arrived at his place, Steve showed Rachel, Erica and me to our rooms. Rachel and Erica shared one room while I had another room to myself. In fact, even though Steve told me I would have my own private room, out of nowhere he randomly said that I might have to share if more volunteers come. Which…. isn’t really a huge deal to me.. but why say one thing to me before I arrive and then something completely different after? Well.., if it couldn’t get any worse, the house Erica, Rachel, and I were living in had NO bathroom!!!! And when I mean no bathroom… I’m talking about the fact that when Steve built the house he FORGOT to build a bathroom.
Please tell me how you can build a house without building a bathroom??!! The public bathroom itself was also shared by 8+ people including the volunteers. So not only did we all do our business there but we also had to shower there. Can you imagine?? I had to wake up every morning at 8 am in my TOWEL to walk across the street to take a shower. My host also had no boundaries whatsoever. I feel like there were multiple times where I just wondered if he had diarrhea of the mouth. He would constantly talk to all of the volunteers about how his ex-wife left him for another man. Like… hello.. we don’t need to know this! And if you thought that was the worst part… you’re mistaken. Things definitely started going downhill my second day in Olustee. Steve needed help painting one of the rooms he was building so he asked Rachel, Erica, and I to do the task. Although I didn’t have any experience painting, Rachel and Erica did, so I figured they would all just teach me what I needed to know to get the job done.
Being Gaslit and Emotionally Drained
As we started painting the room, Steve wanted to paint the door with acrylic paint so that we could use the latex paint afterward. However, as I was painting the door, I got some of the paint on my palms, legs, and fingers. And the WORST part about it was…when Steve saw what had happened to me he told me I couldn’t rinse it off with water. I was shocked! He should’ve told me this earlier before I started painting. I had no idea acrylic paint would take longer to get off my body. If I knew that earlier I would’ve been more careful with the paint. But here’s the part where narcissism makes its appearance. Out of nowhere, Erica, one of the other volunteers, chimes in and says “Well… I remember him telling us the acrylic paint would be harder to get off” and I told her “Well.. I don’t remember him saying this to me” and then Rachel goes “I think he only told me and you Erica”. Erica starts to have a fit “Well, I remember him saying it to ALL of us”.
After that was said, I knew deep inside that Erica was gaslighting me. Only a narcissist takes pleasure in making sure you doubt your memory for their own benefit. This was my first incident of narcissism during my time there and it surely wasn’t the last. Once I was done painting the door, Steve wanted me to finish up the corners and the edges of the walls. It didn’t look too hard at first but while I was on the ladder painting Steve started to highly disapprove of what I was doing. All I remember was him constantly shouting at me every time I tried to paint. It was uncomfortable and yet so emotionally abusive at the same time. By the time we were done painting, it seemed like I was the only one who was oddly tired all of a sudden. I didn’t even have the energy to socialize or eat afterward. It was like my body was this close to fainting and at the time it didn’t really make sense to me. But now, looking back, I can definitely see how my host was an energy vampire and a narcissist at the same time.
While he was emotionally abusing me he was slowly feeding off my life source like a battery. This is the reason why I felt so drained after I was done painting, without realizing it, he took something vital from me. And so, as a result, I needed to take the space I needed from everyone to recharge. Steve wasn’t happy about this at all. By missing lunch and dinner, he couldn’t drain me anymore, and I wasn’t going to let him. In fact, when I was fully recharged in the evening, I thought that things would change somewhat between him and me. However, when I went to go ask him a question, he still had that same stern demeanor towards me. I even remember him shouting at me again and slamming the door in my face. What a nightmare! Honestly, I wish could stop there but it just continued to get worse.
Going grocery shopping with the devil
The following day, my host, Steve, decided to go grocery shopping. He wanted there to be more food in the house since Rachel, Erica, and I just arrived. We went with him in his car so that we could all get the food we wanted at Walmart. I know this might sound weird but it was really hard for me to walk around with them at the supermarket. They all gave off this really negative energy that repelled me. In fact, once I got some groceries in my own cart. Erica wasn’t too happy about that. She actually told Steve not to pay for some of my groceries because there was already some similar food in the house. Honestly, I should have expected that. Erica, like any other narcissist, was super nosy and obsessed with what I had in my cart. I should’ve never went with them to the supermarket in the first place. It was only a matter of time until my boundaries started to get crossed.
Having my boundaries violated
As we were all driving back home in the car, Steve started to ask me some personal questions about my family. As a domestic abuse survivor, my family was the last thing I wanted to talk about so I did what I could to set a boundary. I remember Steve asking me “have you called home to talk to your family?”, I told him “no, I haven’t” because honestly, I didn’t want to call them. But of course, he pushed again, “are you sure…. you can use my phone?” and I said, “no that’s okay I’m fine”. However, when you tell a narcissist “no” they’ll try again until you’ve reached your breaking point. For the last time, Steve said “take my phone now” and I just got so triggered. Rachel and Erica were even encouraging him at that point. I ended up bursting into tears on the ride home. I didn’t want to talk to Steve, Rachel, or Erica, they were pretty much nonexistent to me.
Mocking Black Lives Matter
The racial climate in America was also not in my favor while I was in Olustee. Since I was the only black volunteer, I was the only one who was deeply affected by George Floyd’s death. The Black Lives Matter movement had enough of the racial injustice. Their uproar led to several protests and riots that a couple of the white volunteers disapproved of in the midst of everything. I even heard Erica mocking black people right outside Steve’s house as I was washing the dishes in the kitchen. The windows were open and her voice was not quiet. I remember her saying “oh you don’t know nothing about oppression” in a mocking way. It made me feel uncomfortable but also confused. If they hate black people so much why are they trying to be so friendly with me? But then again, it’s definitely possible to have white friends who are lowkey racist. Implicit racism is just as serious as explicit racism.
Dealing With Narcissistic Entitlement
After days of grey rocking, Rachel, Erica, and Steve, they finally voiced out their frustrations at me at a group meeting we had on a Saturday. This group meeting wasn’t really optional but at the same time, I knew I was going to regret going. Rachel and Erica started attacking me because apparently, I don’t say “good morning” to them. OMG, are you kidding me??? Why would I want to say “good morning” to you, you’re toxic!! If you’re upset over two words I didn’t say to you then you are definitely a narcissist. On top of that, Rachel and Erica were also annoyed at how I don’t help them with the dishes or clear out the dish rack. First of all, I WASH MY OWN DISHES! If you need help washing the dishes you should’ve just opened your mouth and told me directly. That meeting overall was practically an ambush for me and Anastasia, another volunteer. We were the only two called out because we could see through everyone’s else narcissism. In the end, I walked away from that meeting feeling attacked because of their sense of entitlement.
Relying on a toxic tarot card reader
Out of all of the volunteers in Olustee, I was really close with Anastasia. Like me, she is also a domestic abuse survivor and she came to this Workaway to get away from her family. Although we bonded over our past trauma, Anastasia started to exhibit narcissistic fleas that made me uncomfortable. For example, one time in conversation she told me that Steve was a member of the Freemason society. Knowing this by itself explains his narcissism and his energy vampirism. The freemason society is a cult but Anastasia started gaslighting me about it. Since she had trouble trusting herself, she wanted me to doubt myself too… but I wouldn’t let her. She was also a tarot card reader which contributed to the issues I had with her. Because of my faith, I know that reading tarot cards can give you demonic power. She was aware of what I knew but it didn’t stop her from doing it. Besides that, even though her fleas were toxic, I still needed Anastasia if I was ever going to get out of Olustee. I don’t know how to drive and Workaway doesn’t provide any assistance for uncomfortable Workaway experiences.
A Cultish Workaway Experience
Although we were both truly unhappy at Olustee, Anastasia and I were willing to wait it out as long as we could. However, it didn’t take long for Steve to threaten to kick us out. Apparently, Steve went to Anastasia’s room one afternoon and told her that we needed to leave because we were “not happy”, according to him.
He couldn’t control us emotionally so in his narcissistic mind what fun would we be to him? Although, when Anastasia told me this I was a little taken back. Where would I even go? I didn’t even have a plan. All I knew was the worst was yet to come. This Workaway experience was definitely a cult.
A fake truce
As hours go by, Steve was so angry at us I could tell he was boiling on the inside. He wanted us to speak to his friend Zoey so that we could sort this out. Anastasia was fine with leaving but she needed more time so that she could find a Workaway placement. We both didn’t have anywhere to go and yet I was the one who was so desperate to stay. At this point, my only way to stay was to comply. Zoey wanted me to work it out with Rachel and Erica so I told her she could schedule a meeting with all of us. However, this wasn’t my first time compromising with a narcissist so I wasn’t too excited to speak with them. In our meeting, Rachel and Erica pretty much played the victim role while I was the villain. But, in my opinion, the worst part was having Zoey be on their SIDE. It was like out of nowhere they were able to turn Zoey against me. The conversation was more of a three against one while Anastasia sat there quietly. Also, the way, Rachel and Erica, spoke to me in that meeting, was truly demonic. Erica would even have these weird temper tantrums every time I gave her direct eye contact. It was like she was a toddler trapped in a grown body. Rachel, on the other hand, had an immense demonic presence around her. It was surely evil. But.. long story short, the meeting that we had didn’t really solve anything. It was only a facade for what happened next.
Workaway Racism At Its Finest
One evening as I was listening to worship music in my room, I overheard Rachel, Erica, and Jeremy, another volunteer, talking in the kitchen. Erica was complaining as usual but for some reason, she was extremely loud about it. She said “OMG Anastasia, YOU THINK I DON’T KNOW THAT YOU’RE EAVESDROPPING. LIKE, I CAN SEE YOU. I had no idea what she was talking about as I was listening inside my room but it sounded like she was upset at Anastasia for eavesdropping. I just don’t know when it happened and why. Then all of a sudden the worst thing happened. I overheard Rachel tell them “WHEN IS THAT PIECE OF S*** GOING TO LEAVE?” and Jeremy replied, “IT’S LEAVING TOMORROW”. By far, I knew that was the most racist and traumatizing thing I have ever heard in my life. My body didn’t know how to react to it so it started to shake uncontrollably. I didn’t know how to calm myself down but it definitely felt like a brutal demonic attack. I couldn’t even listen to the other racist things they said next. All I remember was shaking uncontrollably as I put my earbuds in my ear. I never thought that traumatizing moment would scar me to this day but it still does. It’s racial trauma and that event by itself gave me racial PTSD. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sleep tonight so I waited for hours until Rachel, Erica, and Jeremy left the kitchen.
Being Racially Gaslit
When they were gone, I texted Anastasia to tell her about what happened. We decided to meet up at the public bathroom so that we could talk about it. However, all of that shaking from that trauma made me want to pee on myself so I told her I would use the bathroom first before we could talk. Anastasia was really appalled by their words when we talked. She told me that after dinner, Erica was talking to one of her friends about me over the phone. Erica apparently told her friend that I had a “thick” wall and Anastasia overheard everything. However, it didn’t take long for Anastasia to gaslight me again. I remember her saying “are you sure what they said was racist? I mean… if they said that to me I wouldn’t think so”. “Well yeah… you’re not black Anastasia”, I said in my mind. The last thing I needed was to argue with Anastasia. She was my only way out of Olustee. So that night, we made a promise that we would leave first thing in the morning in her car. I even packed up my things that night and made our reservations at a hotel near Elk City. We both knew this time would come but I guess we didn’t expect it to happen like this.
The Day I Left
The next morning, as we were about to head out of Steve’s place, it seemed like the only people who were awake were Anastasia and me. Which in my opinion was oddly weird. Usually, Rachel, Erica, and Steve were the early birds of the day but that morning they were nowhere to be seen. They were most likely hiding like the punks they were. All of them were extremely racist and I was ready for any sort of confrontation. But unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Anastasia and I left that morning with our heads held high excited to write our reviews.
My Workaway Review
Writing my Workaway review for Steve was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was very open and honest in my review and I definitely wanted the Workaway staff to see it. After submitting my review, it didn’t take too long for Workaway to get back to me. They wanted to apologize to me over email about what I went through during my time at Olustee. My review also wasn’t that detailed so they wanted me to expand a little further on the racism I experienced over there. I basically told them everything that happened with Steve, Rachel, Erica, and Jeremy. All of their profiles were immediately suspended from Workaway and that was end of story.
Is Workaway legit?
Although Workaway took action when I reported all of them for their racism, I still believe the platform is very flawed to this day. Here are a few reasons why I would never recommend Workaway.
#1 Workaway’s Review System Sucks
As I mentioned earlier before in this post, I did look at Steve’s reviews on his Workaway profile and each one had 4 to 5 stars. How am I supposed to know if these reviews are even legit? I even reached out to one of his past volunteers and he had no red flags for me. But apparently, from what I’ve heard from Anastasia, who was volunteering there longer than me, she said that some people were afraid to leave negative reviews because the host could see them. Workaway should have a BLIND review system but they don’t. How is a volunteer supposed to be informed about a host if they don’t see a mixed version of reviews?
# 2 Workaway Provides No Support for Workawayers
If you’re unhappy with your experience, Workaway won’t do anything to help you. You would have to come up with your own escape plan if you want to leave. Because of this lack of support, it made it 10 times harder for me to escape. I was in the middle of nowhere and I didn’t know how to drive. Workaway should at least provide volunteers with some kind of temporary housing if their experience doesn’t work out.
# 3 No Background Check on Hosts
Workaway also does not perform any background checks on their hosts. Are you kidding me? Do you not care about the safety of your platform? By performing background checks on the hosts not only does it make the platform more credible but it also ensures the volunteer that Workaway is safe.
# 4 Most Workaway Experiences Were in the Middle of Nowhere
I’m not sure if this was because I was looking for a host in the middle of a pandemic but… a lot of the hosts I tried to reach out to last-minute lived in the middle of nowhere. And when I mean middle of nowhere I’m talking about a non-urban space. I’m from New York City, so it would’ve been nice to volunteer at another city. If I had volunteered at another city, it would’ve been a lot more easier to develop an escape plan.
# 5 Workawayers Have to Pay
Last but not at least, I had to spend $44 dollars to become a member on the platform. So I essentially paid $44 to be traumatized in the middle of nowhere. LOL! How come Workaway hosts don’t have to pay to be on the platform? They’re literally getting free labor from you. Monetize it.
Final Thoughts: Is Workaway Safe?
Overall, after reflecting about what I went through in OK, I do not think Workaway is a safe platform for Black Indigenous People of Color. If there are other narcissistic racist people on their platform it will never be a safe space for black and brown people! Workaway needs to take better action to ensure that BIPOC volunteers and hosts feel supported and heard.
All in all, I hope you guys enjoyed reading about my Workaway nightmare from hell. What did you guys think about my story? Have you had a horrible experience with Workaway? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments down below. 🙂