With another long University Summer ahead of me I decided to try out au-pairing as a way to live for free and explore a new part of Europe for the summer months.
I made an account on Au-pair World and got in contact with any family who were looking for an English au-pair for a couple of months.
I struck lucky when an Italian family of four, a Mum, Dad and two young girls aged six and three contacted me. After a few Skype conversations, we agreed on a date and I booked my flights to Treviso, Italy, where I spent the summer in a tiny town called Fontanafredda, about 20km from Venice.
I think I was particularly lucky because I was welcomed into the family with open arms, I quickly became friends with both the parents and the children.
I only ‘worked’ from 8 – 2:00 pm each day, I lived and ate for free and made €100 a week, enough to travel at the weekends without having to spend any of my own money.
In the afternoon when I had finished playing with the girls I was able to catch a train to Venice, it was amazing to have this freedom and to be able to explore the magic of Venice on a Wednesday afternoon.
It cost me €7 for the one hour train where I could then spend the afternoon wandering around the canals, viewing the sites, drinking red wine and eating seafood Cicchetti before the sun set and I took the train home.
The fact that I could travel to and from Venice in one afternoon was amazing as it meant that I saved a lot of money on accommodation and was able to avoid the weekend crowds.
On many occasions when the Mum returned home from work at 2 pm, she would invite me to come on trips with the girls.
Fontanafredda is located at the bottom of the Dolomite Mountains so we would drive about 40 minutes up the mountains and explore the small mountain village of Barcis where we could go on walks and swim in the lakes and mountain rivers.
On the weekends that I didn’t spend with the family, I met up with another au-pair using the Au-pair World Facebook page.
Facebook groups are an amazing way to meet people in a city where you don’t know anyone, don’t be afraid to do this!
I travelled to Verona with Amelia who was from New York and who had been working her way around Europe. We spent a weekend eating pizza, drinking Aperol Spritz, exploring Verona and sharing experiences.
By complete coincidence, my friend, Fabrizio who I met in Prague lived in the neighbouring town to Fontanafredda, Spilimbergo.
After seeing my Instagram photos, he got in touch and regularly we would spend the long evenings swimming in the mountains and having picnics with his friends. This is another great reminder of how amazing social media can be!
On weekends that I wasn’t exploring with my friends, I spent time exploring with the family.
This was amazing because they took me to places I would never have visited on my own, one weekend we stayed at their apartment by the beach in the holiday town of Bibione Pineda and another we stayed with their parents in Padua and Trieste.
I can’t repeat enough how lucky I was to be welcomed into this family with such love, we still keep in touch regularly and I actually returned to Venice to visited them the following winter.
Although I only have good things to say about my experience as an au-pair, I have friends who weren’t so lucky.
Some of my friends felt isolated from the family and ‘worked’ longer hours for less pay.
Although I do think a lot of how your au-pairing experience pans out is down to luck, I would advise being slightly picky with your family.
Don’t take on more than you can handle, you don’t want to be responsible for two babies and two toddlers if this is more than you are comfortable with.
Try and ensure that you are located somewhere near a big city so that you have the freedom to explore on your time off.
And also, try and set boundaries, if you agreed you would stop ‘working’ at 4 pm, then stop, go to your room, or sit outside and read your book, make sure the family know that you are taking a much-deserved break because although looking after children is great it can exhausting and very testing at times!