19 Sep Workaway for digital nomads and creatives
Now that you already know what Workaway is, let me share a little bit of my experience being welcomed by five different hosts in three different countries, and during two different moments of my life. I hope you get the feeling of how the routine is while travelling, doing work exchange, and still trying to build your own business and chase your dreams.
My experiences with Workaway
In the first three workaways my husband and I were more in a vacation mood. I was about to start a master’s degree in Germany, and I gave myself three months to take it easy and be ready for the busy season ahead. The last two experiences were here in the Azores, while shifting career, trying to find my creative voice, building a new business and consequently, building a new life for me. Two totally different moods, as you can see.
Gardening with a view of the Mediterranean, Côte D’Azur, France
In France we stayed four weeks in the beautiful Côte D’Azur, in a medieval city on top of a hill, overlooking the sea. We worked in a huge garden, helping the owners with weeding, pruning, planting, painting walls and furniture, and I even did some photography work for them. Our home there was what used to be a greenhouse, in the middle of the garden. It had a comfortable room, a kitchen/living room, and the bathroom. Outside only plants, flowers, and one amazing view of the Mediterranean. We worked from 7am until 12am, with a break for tea and cookies. All afternoons, evenings, and weekends were ours to do whatever we wanted. Of course, it was summer, and we were in Côte d’Azur, which means that afternoons were beach time, and weekends for trips. In one of those, we rented a car with other two volunteers and drove to Italy, spending three amazing days in Cinque Terre. Even though the Azores has been growing on me, until now the beaches we went to during this workaway were the ones I longed for when thinking about going to the beach. I had the most relaxing days ever while there. We also had a few pleasant dinners with the hosts and other volunteers, we visited local market and restaurants with them. But most days we cooked in our own little house. This type of arrangement usually means going to the supermarket and bearing the expenses with food, but it was more than worth it, I tell you.
Creating long lasting connections and gardening near the Black Forest, Germany
Then we went to the south of Germany, close to the Black Forest, where we stayed with a lovely family, helping them to take care of the garden and assisting with landscaping. Almost like guests, we always ate together, from breakfast to dinner. We stayed in one room inside their home, sharing the bathroom and all the other spaces with them. They truly welcomed us into their lives, and it was the best introduction to the German culture we could’ve asked for. The host, knowing that I was learning German, was always trying to help me understand those big words, teaching me with the care and patience of a mother. They took us to lakes, to hike, they invited us to family events, to ice creams, to music festivals. Even after we left, we came back to visit them. We stayed for three weeks, working during the mornings, visiting cities nearby during the weekends and exploring in bicycles they provided during the afternoons. In this case, accommodation and food were included in exchange for five hours a day of work. Meaning that we had the best experience, for three weeks, at almost no cost, except for travelling during the weekends and going out (and occasional beers, after all, we were in Germany!). During our stay, we met one of the host’s cousin and his wife, they lived close to the city where we were about to settle in for my masters. And through the next two years we connected and bonded with them and their friends, and they became our family abroad.
The double-edged sword of being self-sustainable in North of Germany
The next three weeks before we spent with a host in North of Germany, with a family that had bought a small farm and was trying to live as self-sustainably as possible. We’re very interested in experiencing that kind of life and learn about it. And we did. From weeding to harvesting to food processing and killing and preparing animals. The last part was not nice, but it was part of the experience we applied for. The cottage we stayed in was very nice, built by them, with a huge kitchen/living room, bedroom, and bathroom. We shared all meals, they invited us to community dinners, we got to know their friends and neighbors, all lovely and interesting people. In this stay we got the idea of how life in a sustainable community can be and we truly enjoyed the experience. Nevertheless, we regret not being able to speak German at the time, as we could have connected much more with the hosts and people there.
All of this was back in 2015. Last year we decided to workaway trough Portugal, during the pandemic – the mainland was in lockdown when we left. And we were building a business and changing profession, no vacation mood this time. So we decided to stay longer in the same place and were lucky enough to find a host in the Azores, one of the destinations we were curious about for a long time (more about the archipelago here)
Transforming, gardening and slowing down on São Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal
We arrived in the beginning of 2021 planning on staying for three months and ended up staying seven. They have a beautiful traditional family house and garden that they transformed in a sustainability driven business, renting the place and the rooms for tourists that care about the environment. As you can imagine, they were going through a rough time, after a year of pandemic, no tourism, and no idea of when – or if – things would pick up again. They needed help with house and garden maintenance, and they had many rooms available for us to stay. We started working in the garden and ended up engaging in other projects, just because we believed on their cause, and we knew we had the knowledge to help them. Host and volunteers came together to create a project to transform the house in a coliving and coworking space, that they will launch in October. We stayed here so long that this is almost home for us, we embraced their plans as if they were our own. And it’s amazing to know that we’ll leave behind a project we helped to bring to life, here, in the Azores. During the summer and with vaccination rates climbing, the tourism picked up and we had to leave a few times because of whole-house bookings. And we knew this could happen, everything was discussed during our interview before coming here. This led us to look for another host here on the island.
Bamboo walls and gardening between a waterfall and the beach, on São Miguel Island, Azores.
This host welcomed us to the most unbelievable place. The property begins in a waterfall and ends at the beach. It’s a preservation area and I never felt so immersed in nature as in this place. It was a wonderful surprise. As it is a private property, we’d probably never have the chance to get to know this place if it wasn’t through Workaway, let alone spend weeks there. We met such nice people as well, we had dinners, we danced together, we enjoyed every moment. I built my first wall made of “bamboo” – actually a type of cane very common in the region. So, in this case, I can say a bamboo wall built by me stands in the Azores, in this piece of paradise. And for a long time, I hope (my architect- self went crazy with the structure of this one). This host provided a private cozy cottage by the sea and a financial contribution for groceries. We worked very strict hours here, but the work was joyful, the place was amazing, there were wonderful beaches, waterfalls and hiking trails close by, which we did our best to explore. We stayed just for a few weeks, and in this arrangement, it was difficult to keep on with our personal work and projects. But we understood the moment as a vacation, and I tried to collect as many inspiration as I could. It was totally worth it.
Collecting inspiration and taking the time to find my creative voice – what I did best these past few months. I even challenged myself to find a new flower every day for 30 days. If you missed it, they are on a highlight on my Instagram profile: Flowers4you.
In these two last experiences we were both working part time for the hosts and part time for us. Well, at least when we were brave enough to resist the calling of this beautiful island. I had this idea that working part time and advancing with our projects would be easy and that everything would happen faster than actually did. Just after arriving and getting to know the place was when I realized we could not rush our way during our time in this island. When we finally slowed down it was clear that a few things were not so important, that others were being neglected and we’ve been adjusting our plans and projects accordingly. While also meeting people, getting to know new places – life is not the destination after all. And for the first time I feel like I’m living to enjoy life, not only chasing accomplishments.
Now I’ve been preparing for a new chapter, outside of Workaway this time, just because a wonderful opportunity knocked on my door, through a fellow workawayer. Once you get down this route and let yourself connect with the people you find on your way, so many beautiful things can happen. The Workaway community is full of inspiring and lovely people, when you engage with an open heart, you’ll always find someone new to count on.
Looking forward to share the next adventures with you.
A side note: Workaway is not just nice for those who travel, it can also be a way for you, house-garden-property owner, to get that extra help you need, or that extra help that is missing to bring a project/dream to fruition. All while sharing a bit of your life and culture with people from all over. Most volunteers we’ve met through work-exchange are experienced professionals, like architects, engineers, journalists, gardeners. Whatever kind of help you need, there’s a good chance you’ll find it through Workaway.
By joining the Workaway community through this link you get an extension of your membership!