As a writer and artist it can be difficult finding both the time and space to get creative in the standard working week back at home. Workaway provided me with the perfect place to get inspired, be motivated and create whilst having a healthy balance of work on the farm alongside personal projects. It’s a fair share work exchange site where traveller’s stay with different hosts and help out in exchange for food and board.
I started my Workaway journey in 2014 after graduating college. My head was clouded with feelings of obligation, like I should be finding a graduate job or I should apply for a masters–but my heart was yearning for something else, for connection, space and adventure.
I turned up in France alone with my backpack, work boots and a curious step. I remember the moment where my first host, Dina, greeted me smiling and welcomed me with open arms into the community of creatives that had been drawn to her farm.
We started every day with some dance yoga in the morning and ate delicious vegetarian food, taking turns to cook and clean up. Sharing daily household tasks makes it a lot easier to have time to follow your own projects, when I’m at home cooking/cleaning for one a lot of time is lost. Work on the farm could be anything from weeding the strawberry beds to renovating one of the rooms in the old farmhouse.
Working alongside others provides a great opportunity to discover more about fellow travellers and different cultures. In opening up and sharing with others I learnt more about myself too. This is important when it comes to self-expression through art because it invites various ways of communicating a story which can be translated into creative projects. At Dina’s farm I did more creative writing in 3 weeks than I think I’ve ever done in such a short space of time.
Dina also has a big art studio and a dance studio. She encouraged me to try out print making by carving into plastic, as well as improvised dance, which are things I hadn’t done before. We also made a video together with one of the other volunteers, allowing us to explore the local areas.
The whole experience was so positive that my mum was inspired to do her first Workaway and went to the same farm whilst I was off travelling elsewhere. She had a wonderful time and ended up using work exchange to travel France for a few months, proving that there’s no age limit to this kind of travel. I even went back to Dina’s farm 2 years later this summer with a childhood friend who’s a dancer and she said it was one of the most transformative weeks of her life.
After working on the farm, my friend and I spent hours in the studio dancing and making a short video for a poem I wrote there about transformation. Dina also has lots of experience running workshops so we were lucky enough to partake in one of her workshops for women, a valuable experience that helped us both to grow and connect.
With work exchange travel I’ve built bonds across borders and been inspired to tap into a vibrant source of creativity, one which can be hard to access from the restrictions in modern day city life. The great thing about it is you can fit the volunteer placements into your own schedule. You can work, travel and create for years, months or weeks depending on your commitments back home. The things I learnt at the farm will stay with me forever and I can’t wait for the next project that I get to jump on board with.