It was about 9 months ago that I first read about Workaway (a program where travellers exchange work for accommodation and often food) in the online travel section of a local Australian news site.
The article was part interview, part account, of a young Australian couples experience as Workawayers in both France & Italy, highlighted the obvious financial benefits for both parties, but also the potentially rich and immersive cultural experiences (not to mention language learning opportunities) that could be had.
I kept it in mind, and when our then potential global trip became something more substantial, I signed both Sarah and I up thinking it was something we could utilise, not for our whole journey, but at least for part of it.
Again, as our trip got nearer and its bones began to flesh out a little more, I looked up what opportunities were available, saved a few potential hosts, then put it on ice for a time until we were on the road with a better idea of where we might be able to dip our feet in the experience.
The Mexican city of Guanajuato provided us with just that opportunity.
I’d saved Dermot, an Irish host in a Mexican city for several reasons.
His Workaway rating was 100/100, which certainly looked pretty good, he had some glowing feedback reports, and finally, as my Spanish is still very basic, I thought it perhaps prudent to try for an opportunity where language wouldn’t be a barrier/lead to any confusion (after all, this was our first go at it).
So about a week out from our likely arrival in Guanajuato we shot Dermot a message from the website (short notice we realise, however ours has been the sort of trip we’ve rarely known where we’ll be until pretty late) and thankfully heard from him pretty promptly, sorting out the necessary particulars from there.
Immediately after leaving our Taxi near the Pipila (a monument which overlooks the city), we quickly learned why he’d asked us to call him on arrival, rather than just given us his address. A confusing maze of stepped paths served these homes perched high above the city, and any attempt to try and give us an address, would have likely seen us lost for some time!
We shortly met Dermot, had a tour of his place, met another Workawayer who’d just arrived from Alabama in the US, admired the exceptional views that his home possesses, before a quick trip with him to the local supermarket helped give us a better idea of the lay of the land (we didn’t really get stuck into any work until the following day).
So, how was the experience, and what did we do?
Well Sarah and I were eager to get stuck straight in (our preference was ideally to start work early before the day would heat up, also allowing us some free time to explore the city in the afternoons), so kicked things off with some painting, assisting Dermot later in the day with some plant shopping before concluding with the un-enviable task of lugging said plants down many flights of stairs to his place!
As you may have guessed, our first day ended up a little longer than the expected 5 hour shift, but we certainly didn’t complain, it was great to be busy.
That set the tone for our week. Dermot’s intent is to rent 2 of his 3 floors out as apartments, and he is incredibly close to reaching that goal.
As such, the tasks were a variety of odds and ends, not one single week of monotony which we were very thankful for (there was plenty of shopping, planting and cleaning).
We shared the cooking with the other Workaway guest, and it was great having the facilities to be able to cook some of the flavours we’d been missing from home.
To compensate us for our efforts, our host Dermot was incredibly generous.
All our food needs were amply met, and he was more than happy to reward us at the end of a days work with a few cold beers, enjoyed together with his wonderful terrace views.
Playing the true host, he was also eager to show us some of the town (especially the nightlife), taking us to several of his favourite bars downtown, where we were able to really mix it with some locals.
It was a great way to really bond, letting our hair down together after the effort we’d put in each day.
Dermot was also very receptive to opinions and ideas, eager to hear our thoughts, and keen to take on board all that he could to make his place as good as possible for his future guests (it also really made us feel a part of it).
True, there were sometimes frustrations, but this inevitable when so many ideas are being bounced around (for some reason we all seem to want things our way), but nothing too bad.
It was a great way for us to start our Workaway journey.
* Check them out for yourself at www.workaway.info
* The sign up fee is €23.00 for a single person or €30.00 for a couple (both for a 2 year period)