Have you already heard about sites like WWOOF, Workaway or Helpex? We’ve been planning to use one of these for a long time and I can’t tell why we managed to do it only recently. It’s all based on the idea of cultural exchange, connecting people who need helpers with travellers willing to do some work. At the same time we can have an opportunity to learn more about the country we’re visting, learn the language and immerse ourselves in the local way of living. In exchange for a few hours of work a day there’s food and board, weekends off and a possibility to become a part of the local community for a period of time. WWOOF is strictly about organic farms, the other two websites have a wider range of hosts – from hostels and guesthouses, all kinds of farms, helping at home, babysitting to language teaching etc.
For people like us, travelling long term, who instead of sightseeing prefer experiencing all that’s new and different, learning, meeting people, observing their everyday life and peeking into their plates, such an exchange is a fantastic opportunity. Equally important is the fact that this way of travelling does not cost much at all and enables us to spend whole months in amazing places with a very small budget. We also think this is a priceless opportunity to be able to transplant ourselves into a new reality and for a while experience all it entiles, instead of buying a farm, opening a guesthouse or moving to another country and bearing all the consequences and costs of that. Even if you don’t have any such plans, it’s amazing to simply be able to check how life can be completely different from your own!
Using the Workaway site, we already had an opportunity to become a renovation team, olive pickers, village estate and animal caretakers, as well as permaculture farmers. All of these in the surrounding of stunning views, amazing people and of course the Greek sun… Even though this may not be for everybody and usually requires more than two weeks of vacation, we are absolutely delighted with this form of exchange and totally recommend it!
Meanwhile, check out what we’ve been doing for a month on the Greek Lefkada <our highly professional map included>.
We’ve reached this stunning Ionian island by crossing the floating bridge, obviously on our bikes. Still along the way, the views put as in an euphoric state and we continued to feel so once we got there. As we arrived a few days before the prearranged date, we took the opportunity to stay with a British cyclist living in Greece. This amazing nearly-septuagenarian recently cycled 3600 km from his hometown in UK to Greece in February/March, sleeping most nights in a tent! Montainous Lefkada is a hell for cyclists and we were barely able to reach the top of the hill and his village with all our stuff, yet he rides this route back and forth every week to visit his friend!
After a few days we checked in in Kariotes, with our new Workaway hosts – a Greek-Swiss couple with a toddler. On the property there are three freshly built stone houses. The first is occupied by our host family, the following two are guesthouses for rent. The two of us, along with one more volunteer, occupied the second house, while the third, still not finished, became our workplace. The days passed peacefully among the idyllic views, accompanied by the neighbour’s sheep rhytmically jingling their bells. The weather this November was exceptionally good. We started each day with a breakfast on the terrace, worked for 5 hours and prepared lunch, which we usually ate in full sun as well. After that, we still had plenty of time to rest.
After the renovation work, we started picking olives. Even though every day we came back home very tired, it was wonderful to work together in the sun, together eat on the grass lunches prepared by the grandma and celebrate the end of the harvest.
The bucolic atmosphere was only interrupted by a strong eartquake (6.5), which left behind a lot of broken glass, some fallen furniture and a cracked wall in a connector between the houses where we freshly renovated a bathroom… This was definitely one of the most intensive experiences in our lives. A very exciting one, at least until our ear labirynths went crazy with the aftershocks that kept coming regularly over the following two weeks.
At weekends and afternoons we were able to visit some of the most beautiful beaches of the island, swim in the still warm November sea, survive murderous uphill climbs that led to spectacular views of the surrounding islets, see the waterfalls, pop into the town multiple times, try sailing our host’s yacht as well as infinitely stretch the shared meals with conversation, wine and heads facing the sun. Does it get any better?