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Taking a gap year in your 50’s

ROTD monthly workawayer badgeAt Workaway, we absolutely love getting to know you all whether it be meeting on the road, hearing stories through emails or by actually going on a Workaway trip ourselves. We couldn’t be prouder to be involved in such an inspiring community of travellers! So we just had to share some of your stories you tell us!

This month we talk to our Workawayer(s) of the month Sue, 56-year-old, who is currently unemployed after her boss said “Mexico or job?” (Mexico won!) and her husband Adrian, a 50-year-old self-employed electrical contractor and all round lovers of life and travel!
retired-couples-travel-dream

Hey guys, we are so excited to talk to you and learn about your adventures. What was your first workaway placement and what kind of work did it involve?

workaway silver surfer age travelOur first placement via Workaway was at a place called Huayacocotla (pronounced “Why-a- co-cot-la) in Mexico – we stayed there for just over three weeks.
Adrian: My work included sanding, varnishing a chest of drawers, altering some support legs for a raised vegetable garden, cleaning off the old paint and re-painting a 300 year old chapel.
Sue: I trimmed some to the topiary animals in the garden, a little bit of cooking in the house – I introduced the hosts to my egg muffins! Luckily, they really liked them! I also helped Adrian on the chapel repainting.

So how did you first hear about our website?

We first heard about Workaway after reading a magazine article in the UK. It was written by a well-known presenter in the UK. She was asked how she spent the long, dark winter months…. One of the things she wrote was that she often logged onto the Workaway website and dreamed of warmer countries, working with local people and learning more about their culture and customs. Intrigued, I had a look at the website…

We have to admit this is what we do in winter too! How did you decide on the destination?

As we knew we wanted to visit Mexico for three months, this seemed an ideal scenario for us too! We have visited Mexico for many years (we even married in Mexico City six years ago!) but wanted to have a closer look and better understanding of the Mexican way of life. It’s fine travelling to a country but to understand the people’s everyday lives should be an important factor too.

What other countries have you visited together? And how do you feel travelling with Workaway is different from other forms of travel?

locals experience travel lifelong friendshipWe have visited many different parts of the world – Sri Lanka, India, South Africa, USA and many parts of Europe. Yes, you can meet local people…. On buses, restaurants, sitting in a city park but these are fleeting moments, hours – if you’re lucky like us, be invited into someone’s home for a meal, but these are still short lived moments (by the way, we are still in touch with the Iranian family we met in Istanbul who invited us for a meal!). With Workaway, you get time to build a new relationship in a natural and free manner as you get to know your host/s. If you are lucky, (as we were!) your host will show you things in the local area that tourists/travellers will never see!

Do you ever miss anything from home or have any bad travel experiences?

We were not ill, did not miss anything back home…. With the small exception of missing our grandchildren occasionally (we missed our granddaughters first birthday – oops!) but that was alleviated by the use of FaceTime and Skype twice a week! Our hosts helped me enormously with my Spanish language – which raised my confidence as we continue to travel through Mexico.

How about funny things that have happened while living in a non-English speaking country?

I also asked for cocaine ice cream (helado coca) at the beach one day instead of coconut ice cream (helado coco). The look on the seller’s face let me know I’d made a BIG mistake….!

Oh, whoops! You must have lots of tips for other travellers, what are your must-haves while travelling?

Two really good things we brought with us that may help others are:
1. Rechargeable emergency power supply – about £20 on Amazon for example. Especially useful on long bus trips.
2. A small speaker for our iPhone to play our music (as we worked)! 😉

workawayers volunteer abroad advice

And how about some quick-fire bits of advice for our Workawayers?

Give the best of yourself (you are representing your country!)
Enjoy it! Many “wish” to do this but don’t. You are lucky enough to be trusted by a complete stranger in their home, don’t ruin it for others.
Be open and honest with your host – they are not mind readers!
Get to know your host – it’s not a one-way exchange. They are interested in you, your country, your experiences!
And if you’re lucky like us, your host may just become your newest friend for life.
Last but not least, LAUGH AND SMILE!

Our personal quote (which we have in our kitchen at home) is: "Making a big life change is scary. But do you know what's even scarier? Regret."

Our personal quote (which we have in our kitchen at home) is: “Making a big life change is scary. But do you know what’s even scarier? Regret.”

Guys, we absolutely love your mindset! What are you next travel plans?

We are currently travelling south through Mexico. A lot of places were suggested by our host but we also had an idea of where we wanted to go. Our timescales have changed frequently. If we enjoy a place, for example, Campeche, we have lingered a little longer. Our only fixed date is the dreaded flight home – 9th June. On this trip we have visited Mexico City, Monarch Butterfly reserve (Cerro Pelon), Huaya (as us locals call it!) Papantla, El Tajin, Tecolutla, Xalapa, Villahermosa, Campeche (recommendation – visit Edzná!)…. Mérida for two weeks (staying with our host’s daughter and family for a few days – we met them in Huaya too) then hopefully Chetumul, Tikal in Guatamala, Oaxaca, Mexico City (we may be staying with some friends of our host who we also met in Huaya). And home! Boo! We plan to do Workaway again in two years time when we go to India for three/four months.

A lot of people think that Workaway is only for the young, but this wonderful couple has just proved to us that travelling and volunteering is also for the young at heart. It’s so inspiring to learn about how people push against boundaries to follow their dream and passion for life..Thanks very much again to Sue and Adrian for the interview!

Are you also an inspired Workawayer hoping to spread the love? If you want to be featured as our next Workawayer of the Month, email us over at sarah@workaway.info!

20 replies
  1. Jill Christian says:

    My husband and I are 37 & 43. Workaway is for SO much more than a gap year ! Loads of hosts like having older Workawayers for different reasons. We have lined up the next 4 months with Workaway positions in amazing parts of Europe we would never go to without workaway. If you’re thinking about going travelling, we 100% recommend doing at least 1 Workaway.

    Reply
    • Jill Christian says:

      Jenny Hayes There are lots of hosts that will take older people for Workaway. (Not that we consider ourselves old!) It comes down to what you can offer them as far as experience etc vs what they need. We still do a lot of manual work, but that’s because we contact a lot of remote area hosts, and we like the physical work. We’ve also come across hosts who are willing to take children, so the key is just to read profiles carefully and then keep contacting people 🙂

      Reply
  2. lisa
    lisa says:

    We are starting a project in Northern Italy in September. Any “more experienced” in lifers are more than welcome with us!!!!

    Reply
  3. Graciela Moreno says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. I am 57 and I being looking through your page for a while. Stories like this encourage me to get out or my comfort zone, I know that one day I will enjoy the Workaway community.

    Reply
  4. Anita
    Anita says:

    I did it last year with my 2 son’s 16 25 I was 56 …DAM fantastic year 10 work aways 20 countries 6 Continents. ….many stories will be in my book I Touched A Tigers Testicle. .. A lot of danger…. excitement …laughs…hard work and arrests …..yes you heard right …..

    Reply
  5. Peri
    Peri says:

    I’m on Workaway and close to your age. I think we have an advantage as we have so much more life experience that younger people don’t have yet. We had more time to develop more skills. As long as you are healthy, I suggest this at any age. One of my host families hosted a 74 year old woman and loved the exchange with her.

    When I owned a very successful business I traveled in a very different way. Nice hotels, tourist sites, a few days here and a few days there. When business went way down during the recession and I decided it was time to close it, I didn’t want to give up my love of travel and adventure and Workaway was introduced to me. I enjoy this type of travel so much more! For the first time I really get to experience the true culture. I have stayed with one family three months and another two months. I have three more adventures already scheduled for this year. I have always been a hard worker and it is very important to me to do a good job for the hosts. I get back just as much from them.

    Really enjoyed reading your blog. Happy Travels!

    Reply
  6. Felicia Tyus says:

    I totally agree, I am 44yo and am also traveling and doing workaways in many of the countries I will be visiting. Many host appreciate older volunteers for the maturity, reliability, and varying experience we have. I booked my workaways months in advance and had no problems obtaining bookings. Workaway is allowing me to extend my time in various countries.

    Reply
  7. Wendy Glassock
    Wendy Glassock says:

    Hey there I too am a mature workawayer. At 54, I have never done anything like this before and I am giving up a full time job at the end of July and renting my house out to fulfill my dream of travelling and learning about different cultures. Discovering Workaway has been the most exciting thing to happen in years and I have my first hosting in South Africa at the end of August for 6 months – after that …… who knows ……….. but i am in touch with a host in Vancouver where I will be going in the Spring next year and hopefully maximising my time there – life feels very exciting and scary at the same time but I know without a shadow of a doubt, this is something I was meant to do 🙂

    Reply
  8. Vera B
    Vera B says:

    Hi everybody, i’m 52 and I would like to do this, I love to travel and to know about other cultures. I’m Thinking doing it at the end of next year. Does anybody can give me any tips? (sorry about my english) :)!

    Reply

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