Work in Progress

“In the best travel, disconnection is a necessity. Concentrate on where you are; do no back-home business; take no assignments; remain incommunicado; be scarce. It is a good thing that people don’t know where you are or how to find you. Keep in mind the country you are in. That’s the theory.”
–Paul Theroux

I'm just a girl who loves the world, finds beauty in the unknown, and can't keep her feet on the ground. I like finding unique (and cheap) ways of making my way around the globe. Interacting with people while living, learning, and loving the culture I'm surrounded by.

This is my attempt to keep my friends and family updated, to keep track of my experiences, and to serve as an inspirational resource for all those travel addicts like me out there.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Simple Exchanges

Montefegatesi, Bagni di Lucca - Italy


When I found out my working opportunity over the summer fell through knew I had to get creative. Nothing would stop me from getting on that plane, especially not having enough money.

Workaway.info is a database of people and families around the world who are willing to exchange work for accommodation. There is something for everyone on workaway... from gardening to teaching English, nannying or helping with a bed and breakfast. 

I spent a good few weeks sending out inquiry emails, all very short notice considering my circumstances. It was hard for me to set something in stone for my first few weeks in Italy, but shortly before I left it all came together. It definitely helps to start planning in advance if this is the type of thing you are interested in. A lot of the ideal hosts book up their workawayers quickly. Most tend to prefer long term stays, at least a few weeks at a time. 



An Italian-English family hosted me in their Tuscan village with a total of 143 permanent residents. Montefegatesi, as the highest village in Bagni do Lucca, is situated at the top of a hill and overlooks magnificent Tuscan mountains. I watched over two kids (six & eight), 5 hours a day 5 days a week. In exchange they set me up in an small apartment they owned in the village and stocked my fridge. It was the exact thing I needed. My own, beautiful space. 


There were two other workawayers being hosted while I was there. A girl from New Zealand and one from Germany. It was fun being able to connect with people all around the world for those few weeks. They definitely made lasting impacts on me.


In the evenings the other workawayers and I would make dinner together, drink wine at the Dante monument at the tippity top of the mountain, and play games and share stories with old locals. I learned so much about the history of the village by talking to people. Hearing personal stories. One of my favorites comes from my soulmate Candido. I'll write him his own separate post soon. He is that special. 

We were able to travel on the days we weren't working and planned a trip to Florence! Also deserving of it's own blog post. 

I loved this experience. It gives me the warmest feeling when I think back to the time that I spent there. I felt so comfortable and at home from the beginning. I was able to really submerge myself into what I was doing, not thinking about things back home. No stress. I loved waking up in the morning to tend the garden in the crisp, mountainous air. 


Above is the view from the top floor or my apartment, which was at the very top of the village. You can see the surrounding villages tucked away into the hills if you look close enough. The other picture is from a community camping even that family took me too. It was quite cold outside, despite it being summer - so we indulged in mulled wine (my first time, ever!) and watched the daring walk across fire. 

DIG DEEPER AND GET DIRTIER

If you have the time to do plan something  like this into your adventure. DO IT. Whether you do it for a week or for six. Don't pull a Tiffany the Tourist. Don't follow your free city map to all the main attractions. Don't eat at that restaurant right on the beach. Dig a little deeper and get a little dirtier. It is much more meaningful and exhilarating to be challenged while outside of your comfort zone, trust me. You'll get more out of your experience.

This extends beyond just traveling. In all aspects of your life, don't settle. Don't graze over the surface effortlessly, letting life pass you by. Life happens in the challenges, when you try a little harder and put more of yourself out there

With that being said, sometimes the "leave it all at home" approach to traveling doesn't suit everyone. If you have been dying to visit the Eiffel Tower, you wait in that line for a few hours to get to the top. I was just as happy to sit underneath it and drink a bottle of wine to myself ;) My advice to you touristy types: don't try to do it all. You can't, and you will wear yourself out trying. Prioritize and mix things up! Leave space in your plans to be flexible, it will make your trip a lot more enjoyable.