Hello nice people! In the article “WHAT IS WORKAWAY?” I introduced you to how the platform works and why you should try it. If this wasn’t enough to convince you to jump into this adventure, you are welcome to continue reading this article and check out my personal Workaway experiences.
Whoever decides to leave for volunteering abroad is trying to find answers to a certain inner call. Last year in March I decided to answer one more time to this call, but I wanted to do something different, outside my usual schemes. For this reason, I decided to give a change to Workaway.
In my life, I don’t want to live to work, but rather the opposite. Spending my time and my skills for what I really believe in, changing my routine escaping out of my comfort zone, not only makes me feel alive but also help me to discover new aspects of me I didn’t know.
Shortly, I registered, sent my first message and started this new life journey.
WELCOME TO CATALUNYA
When I was searching for the first experience, I had no specific country in my mind. I was focus only on finding a place cheap to reach and surrounded by nature. That was all that I needed at that moment.
Neither a few hours after my message and Donny, the owner of the mansion “Can Cruyanes” located in the stunning setting of Spanish Pyrenees answered positively to my request.
Basically, my task was of handyman and gardener, mostly taking care of the villa’s outdoor in order to keep in good conditions for guests coming there for a vacancy.
In the change of my time and services, I was accommodated into one of the beautiful apartments of the villa, except when it was fully booked, and I was receiving a 40€ pocket money for food each week (this is not a very common solution among my experiences).
I don’t want annoying you with too many details about the job. I was cutting the grass, painting the house, building some fences and a small wood house and I did this for 5 weeks, 4-5 hours a day with 2 days off.
Naturally, I didn’t spend all my time working, but since I am a trustful person, the host was lending me his Irish car time to time (my first time driving on the right) to visit the surroundings. I can say only “Catalunya is amazing”. From Tortella to Girona, passing for Besalù and the Costa Brava, I had a great time here working outdoor and enjoying this beautiful land.
I worked hard, but never reluctantly, I had autonomy and flexibility, but just one thing, I would have liked to build a more friendly relationship with the hosting family.
HOMESTAY IN BRUGES
In Catalunya, I had certainly the freedom to organize better my ideas. There was a place in that time I was obsessed to visit, Bruges in Belgium. My chance was just there, a super cheap flight Girona – Bruxelles and an even more interesting 5€ Flixbus, Bruxelles – Bruges!
My host would have been a sweet mother of two kids, living a few minutes outside Bruges centre. My tasks were to look after Yasin and Cheyma, cooking, accompanying them to park and any occasional simple tasks around the house.
Here I felt like in a family, even just for a week. I prepared delicious Lasagne and Tiramisù, which I am sure the guys are still remembering. I had so much fun here, barbecue session outdoor, photo shooting with Super Mario and Princess costume (not dressed by me), that the last day the kids were crying I was leaving.
If Oznur you are reading here, a big thank you and hug as well!
And Bruges…Bruges is exactly as I expected. I had the opportunity to go to the city centre every day, walking or by bicycle, enjoying the quiet early hours of the morning.
If I have to mention one thing wasn’t going good, it’s for sure when I was organizing my staying with the host.
We agreed I could stay for 3 weeks and just after I book my trip tickets, she had the understandable worries to bring a strange man in her house. After a video call and a lot of assurances, we fixed the situation, finding a compromise in one week staying.
During these months, I decided with my girlfiend to go for a long trip in Southeast Asia in the winter. So I needed to save some money and have a break from volunteering for a while. This is how I spent 2018 summer working in a kitchen in London.
How did I jump from London to the countryside in the North of Thailand? I will write soon an article about my journey to Southeast Asia. For the moment let’s come back to the Mindful Farm. This place was started by Pi Nan, a retired Buddhist monk became a farmer after 20 years in a monastery.
This piece of land is located in the region of Samoeng, 4 hours ride from Chiang Mai. If you want to reach the Mindful Farm you need to catch the only daily yellow bus available (100 Baht) at Warorot Market and be ready for a devious trip.
Once arrived at the Farm we have been welcomed by Pi Nan, who told us to decide in which hut we would have liked to sleep. To take part in this project the host ask a contribution of 200 baht/night (this is more common in less developed countries, up to you saying if it’s worthy or not).
I want just to underline how my opinion has been affected by emotiveness and inner emotional situation, so I don’t take any responsibility for anyone decided to go here and judging badly this place based on the quality of the accommodation or the “unusual” behaviour of the host.
In the Mindful Farm, you won’t find only plenty of papaya and avocado trees, delicious vegetables growing using only love and natural fertilizers, but you are able to find that inner peace which will let you listen better your thoughts, making you aware of the power of mindfulness.
I had the luck to spend this week with other amazing travellers, having enriching discussions directly with Pi Nan and work side by side with him in a few projects. Thanks to these inspiring people I discovered new interests and a part of myself I never explored.
A TYPICAL DAY IN THE MINDFUL FARM
I was waking up very early around 4 am, in order to take part in Yoga sessions led by Aitor, a great Spanish dude volunteering there, he is a crazy good teacher.
After a delicious breakfast enjoyed in silence looking at the peaceful field, it was time to start working.
Here the job was very flexible, no pressure at all and totally freedom about the organization. The easygoing environment pushed me to give my best and during my stay, I helped to fix a house destroyed by a tornado, I have taken care of the fields and built my own “Mindful Sicily”, where I planted tomatoes.
I had the greatest gratification building a meditation terrace straight in front of the rice field, so suggestive.
My favourite task? Cooking all together! I love cooking for friends and especially when I can use first quality food. Tapioca roots, morning glory, sticky rice, tropical fruits and so much more, fresh and straight from the field. The best vegan food I have ever tasted.
During the hottest part of the day, I was going swimming in the lake or resting in the shadow enjoying the simplicity of life. The work was split into two short sessions morning and afternoon and it was up to Pi Nan directives.
Working on different tasks I learnt a lot about living in a rural environment. For example, after several jokes of Pi Nan, I finally get how to light up a fire, for which I gained the “certificate”.
After dinner, almost all the nights, our “Master” was inviting us to his house for a meditation session, showing us how to properly do it and giving inspirational teachings of life, not only strictly related with Buddhism but easily accessible by everyone.
“Our mission in this life is to Respect our planet , Respect all the animals, Respect all human beings”
Surely this is not a place for everyone. The living conditions are very basic, you live at close contacts with spiders and other insects, the huts wouldn’t pass any hygienic control, but, yes there is a big “but”, here you are able to feel the real taste of nature and inner peace.
Since it’s passed a few time since I stayed here, I highly suggest you check the website of the project. If you are planning to go there, maybe you will find me!
TEACHING ENGLISH IN HO CHI MINH CITY
This is a very typical Workaway experience, teaching a foreign language. I spent 3 weeks in Ho Chi Minh City, in the south of Vietnam, collaborating with an English school.
I won’t mention the name of the school, to not advertise this association, since I didn’t like the approach having towards the volunteers, treated mostly as free workers.
The experience finally was very formative, I had the chance to talk a lot with local youngsters, discovering their stories and so much about Vietnamese culture. The top of the experience was when we went to a Christian monastery for 2 days teaching English to the priesthood, a great unique experience. I will never forget the football matches under the rain and the meals shared all together.
So, why am I this critic about the school?
Well, even if I had no big expectations about the accommodation, my room was 2 x 2 meters with no windows, mould in the corners, ants and the conditioner losing water constantly, a kind of tropical micro-environment.
Moreover, the food was so low-quality which very often I decided to neither take it. The schedule was planned by a timetable and the responsibilities with the students were high, considered the conditions offered to the volunteers.
Moral of history? Each experience will teach you a lot, the important is to take the best out of them. When you plan the next adventure in Workaway, have prepared a plan B in order to be flexible in case of cancellation or bad host.
Ho Chi Minh City is worthy to be experienced. It’s a jungle of vehicles and people, moving fast through a pollution smokescreen. Unique, crazy, perfect for street photography, great coffee bars, but maybe 3 weeks were too long.
MEDIA CREATOR IN KHAO SOK
I wrote a whole article regarding my experience in Khao Sok National Park, and I invite you to read it if you are planning your trip to Thailand.
This was more like a professional exchange than a typical Workaway.
Naturally, I didn’t get a traditional payment for the services I offered, which included photos, video of the tours and a blog article, but I received in exchange a unique experience which usually I wouldn’t consider during my low budget travel.
Despite the dreamy resort, the well-organized tours, what I appreciated most was the communication with the owner of the place, Bohdi.
We discussed openly his needs and mine, and we found easily a compromise on the dates. All the details in the announcement have been respected and his professionality made this nice collaboration a perfect one.
LOST IN MALAYSIA
This has been the last trip organized through Workaway so far and one the most intense.
The project I took part was born to save the remote island of Pulau Bidan from irresponsible use, promoting sustainable living through the permaculture.
The permaculture is a set of principles focused on the development of a sustainable environment, from the point of view of the resources and the community.
THE OYSTER FARM
Before arriving at the island, we spent 3 days in a oysters farm, part of the same project of sustainable tourism, supported by a local Malay family.
Here we had the chance to give our contribution to the preservation of the Malay ecosystem, planting several mangroves in some specific area. These plants are the base of the food chain and offer protection from different catastrophic events (tsunami, tropical cyclones, shoreline erosion).
An unexpected surprise was an invitation to a local wedding, mostly because it was the “weddings season” and usually here in Malaysia all the village is invited.
Reaching the island of Pulau Bidan is possible only by locals (1/week) or fishermen. Finally, the day arrived, not that we were getting bored, but the excitement was high!
For the moment is all from Workaway world! Stay tuned on these pages for new travelling experiences and don’t miss to subscribe to the Newsletter to not miss any new article! Thank you for reading, see you soon!