Many people look at me askance when I describe how Workaway is set up and reveal that I sometimes work as ‘free’ labour, not able to see beyond a perspective which suggests a financial imbalance between business owner and worker. If I am honest, Workaway positions can be hit and miss, but there is one aspect to this option for low budget travel that keeps me coming back for more.
When I spent three weeks making felted hats in the heart of Istanbul the skin on my hands dried and cracked from being constantly immersed in water, the living conditions were far from comfortable, I ruined my shoes, worked longer than the official five hours a day, … and met some fantastic people.
The master felter with a heart of gold, a local actor who serenaded us with pop songs, the friend turned brother who’s ability to pick up new languages is mind boggling, a fellow traveller from the same town I lived in for two years in South Carolina (what are the chances?), and another nomadic artist who ventured past Istanbul with me on a two week sketching adventure.
Half a year later, on my way to the opposite pole of the continent, I arranged to spend six weeks trading my time at a boutique hotel for a homebase while I waited for the S/Y Fairwinds.
Just as there were aspects to the work in Istanbul that were far from ideal, all was not a bed of roses at Skagakaia either. What were the problems? You know, it does not matter, because the bonuses far outweighed the inconveniences.
I am not talking about the free room and board in a little house of my own surrounded by a lovely garden, nor the endless supply of homemade cakes and the best coffee in Vesterålen. Not the perfect setting launching perhaps one of the most creatively inspired portions of my travels to date, not even the chance to finally find out that I am a half decent waitress.
I met another bunch of fantastic people who became family.
These connections are worth their weight in gold for me as a long term, solo traveller. Yes, I love and crave the freedom of wandering without compromise, but I also like contributing to life within a community. I like listening to stories and unique perspectives, sharing smiles and laughter, even just sitting in companionable silence.
So, when my aunt recently asked me what has been a highlight of my time on the road my answer came quickly: meeting other travellers. Funky folks with paths that, for a short moment in time, have led them to the same spot on this gorgeous planet where my own feet have delivered me.
Workaway is only as perfect as the individuals who use it. Fortunately, there are some pretty awesome individuals travelling around this world who do. We learn from each other, grow together, expand networks and lengthen facebook friends lists, hug hello, hug goodbye, promise to keep in touch, sometimes do, sometimes our shared moments end there and that is ok, too.