Here at Workaway we now have an amazing 20,000 + hosts involved in our volunteer exchange projects and communities from all over the world. From agricultural work, scuba diving, yoga retreats and most things in between, we are so proud to be associated with so many amazing hosts. So, we are introducing a new feature to help recognise what a difference cultural exchange can make to travellers and to hosts. Going by the name of ‘Workaway Host of the Month’ we will reveal more of what it is like to be a host and let you into their routines and how their projects have changed since opening their doors to you guys!
We are already 3 months into the year and we’ve interviewed some AMAZING hosts so far, this month’s Host of the month goes to brother and sister combo Devi and Ezra!
Their property has been owned by the family for almost 600 years. The farm was used as a traditional farm for fruit growing and livestock farming up to the 70s. After the closing of the traditional farm, the property was inhabited by an alternative-minded community of family members and friends. In 2000 the community life fell apart and the property started to be poorly maintained and was neglected for many years. Finally, Devi and Ezra, the youngest generation of the family, took over the property and brought it back to life.
Hey guys can you tell us a little bit more about your current project with Workaway?
Our Workaway project is a meeting place for people from all around the world. We host international guests through Airbnb together with the workawayers in the main house, which has the feeling of a guesthouse. It’s an idyllic place with a beautiful grotto at the Lake of Zurich in Switzerland. Together with the volunteers and guests we create kind of a community although nobody lives there permanently. We encourage people to share skills, be creative and try new things.
We are a brother and a sister who have both travelled a lot and gained valuable experiences in different countries around the world. This project gives us the opportunity to implement our knowledge and experience in our own project. We try to create the type of place that we would have loved staying at when we were traveling by ourselves.
It sounds like an awesome idea – we want to come to your community! How long have you been involved in Workaway and how many people have you hosted so far?
We started hosting in January 2015. I had heard before about volunteering platforms so I googled and found Workaway.
In one year we hosted about 50 + volunteers in which 30 of them came through workaway. It was amazing to experience such a big interest in our farm!
That certainly is a lot of volunteers, it must be so much fun! What does a normal day look like for you as a Workaway host?
We usually meet at 8:00 or 9:00 for the morning meeting (depending on season and weather). We discuss what tasks have to be done then distribute the tasks and coordinate the volunteers work.
Everybody can work independently and everyday a volunteer cooks lunch and we all eat together. After lunch break we usually work for 1-2 hours more and then finish in the early afternoon. After finishing volunteers have time to explore the area – In summer, it’s great to have a swim in the lake at our private spot! The volunteers work is different depending on the season, for example in spring we usually have larger renovation tasks like to make new floors, install a kitchen, painting etc. Spring is also the time to prepare the garden and grow vegetables that we can harvest in summer. In summer it’s high season and we have the most people in our place. Therefore, we organize social activities like themed cooking nights, BBQs or whatever the volunteers like to organize. Tasks are mainly helping in the garden, helping with the guests (greeting and welcoming guests etc.), artistic activities, general maintenance and all kind of little tasks to keep the place running.
Regardless of the season, we always like workawayers who make videos or write about the place. This is a way of showing the online community what’s happening in our village. We like to show what projects workawayers work on, let them express their experience and their personal thoughts about the place. Workawyers are always welcome to bring in their own ideas and start their personal project. We support them with what we can. It’s great to see how creative people become when they are in a place that supports their ideas.
Sounds to us the days are full of fun! What is the best thing about being a Workaway host?
You get to meet great people from all around the world with who you can share ideas. Since we also like to travel and love the international community, it’s a way of being in one place and at the same time having the feeling of traveling.
That’s a great way to keep your travelling spirit alive! What is the best thing you have learnt from a Workawayer?
Before we started the project, we didn’t know much about renovation and construction. The opportunity to work with skilled workawayers helped us to renovate the place. It wouldn’t have been possible without them. Often workawayers have simple creative ideas that help improve the place little by little.
Could you tell us more about how your place has improved since hosting travellers?
When we started with our project two years ago, the place was old, overgrown like a jungle and not maintained for many years. We had a lot of renovation work to do – large spaces full of stuff to clear out and financial pressure to keep the property. The workawayers have helped us with everything and became a substantial part of our project! Our place is basically run by us (brother and sister) and the volunteers. They bring here the feeling of an international community, which is great for the vibe of the place. Guests immediately feel at home when they arrive and they love to meet people from all around the world. With the volunteers we found a sustainable way to keep our project going.
That is brilliant! We could burst with pride with our Workawyers! Can you tell us any funny stories that have happened during hosting?
There are many stories that happen all the time. Everyday things happen like in a movie. But let me tell you about one I remember:
They were our very first two workawayers. They came as individual travellers, both from England – one was 19, the other 31. They didn’t expect that they would travel so far and the first person they would met would be another guy from England. The 19 years old, let’s call him L, was on his very first trip alone. He gave up everything back home, sold his stuff, bought a one-way ticket and had about 50 Euros left in his pocket. His aim was to keep traveling and earn money somehow on the way. The 31 years old, let’s call him T, was in a similar stage of life but had enough money to travel. However, after sometime working together, T got annoyed of L: “He’s so young, so inexperienced, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about…”. I told T that he couldn’t blame L for being young. He agreed and said he will try to see things differently. I don’t know what happened then, but somehow they became a great team. They started to have their insider jokes and insider language of how to speak with each other. They became really good friends and they both could benefit from each other – L from T’s experience, and T from L’s easiness of going through life and not take everything too serious. Up to today, they are still great friends and take planes to see each other!
On the day that L was leaving, he desperately wanted to make a “gangster picture” of us. This is what came out:
We LOVE that story!
Do you think culture exchange programmes like this are changing the way we travel?
For sure traveling has changed with the availability of such platforms. You no longer need a lot of money to see the world and gain great experiences. But for me it’s not the fact that it’s cheap that makes it great. It’s the great opportunity to learn new skills, share experiences and meet people from all around the world. These things are priceless and a great opportunity for both host and workawayer. Before I started the project, I also volunteered in many places. Not because it was cheap, but because I could learn “for free”. That’s how I learned how to become a host for volunteers and guests, how to run a guesthouse, how to establish community structures and many things more. Can you imagine If I had to follow expensive courses to learn all this (given that they would actually exist)?
That is a very good point! Can you give us one bit of advice for all our Workawayers out there looking for a host?
For us it’s important that the volunteers are genuinely interested to be part of our place and the reason they want to stay with us should be that they want to experience the place itself and not just because they’re looking for a cheap way of traveling. We want to know that people are enjoying getting involved and that they are motivated to contribute. If they just count hours until they can get out of the house, the concept of workaway doesn’t work. It just makes life harder for the host.
Therefore, I would encourage workawayers to show interest when contacting the host and be honest when naming the reasons for your travels. We are also glad when workawayers explain in detail what skills they have and with what they would like to help. A “I can do everything” sounds nice and shows your motivation but it doesn’t help the host to get a concrete idea of you and your skills. Providing more details helps the host with making the planning.
Do you want to be our next WA Host of the month? We are always on the look out for hosts who have a great story to tell! Email us over at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be in our next feature!