Do you have cabin fever? Or a serious case of wanderlust? With over 40,000 Workaway hosts in 170 countries there are endless places to dream about visiting to help you get through the daily grind. With such a huge amount of projects to choose from, we thought we’d dive a little deeper and help you explore all of your options! Each month we invite ourselves in for a closer look at what’s behind the scenes by interviewing just one of our many hosts. Think of it as a teaser and an excuse for you to join in on the fun. Going by the name of ‘Workaway Host of the Month’ we’ll help you discover more of what it’s like to live in their shoes as we encourage you to take the plunge and find out more for yourself!
This month, we had the pleasure of getting to know a lovely family living in the UK. Drawing on their experiences as journalists and travellers, they told us how they’re creating a new project that moves beyond recycling toward something even better. Get out some scissors and glue and tap into your inner child for this special interview!
We’ve read on your host profile that creativity, imagination, and reusing materials are big themes for your project. Can you share how they are all connected for you? How did you get the inspiration for the design studio?
Having moved directly from Casablanca, Morocco to a small town in beautiful Somerset, we realised that our new community was struggling with some major issues concerning reuse and creativity. Living in Morocco made us keenly aware that although plenty was thrown out, very little was ever wasted. Rather than being melted down, buried or incinerated, as is so often the case in the UK, discarded items in Morocco are reused.
Having moved to this rural heaven, we realised that reuse is a far more powerful message to get across to children (and adults) than mere recycling. Our inspiration for creative ‘junk’ came from our desire to get children away from their screens and devices, in order to release their creativity, in a space that is inspiring, stress-free and practical. And that’s how our community design project was born.
I think sometimes people really believe they are not the “creative” type because they are not painters, musicians, writers, etc. What would you tell someone who swears they’re not creative?
Ask a very young child to make a scrap paper angel and he or she will get to work, triumphantly holding up a creation within minutes. This masterpiece, complete with asymmetrical eyes, wobbly bits, lopsided wings and tattered tinsel will delight them. They’ll lose no time telling you how beautiful it is, how clever they are and how great they feel. They’ll name that angel and treasure it and quite possibly weave a whole story around it.
Ask an older child to do the same, or even an adult, and unless they consider themselves to be a member of the ‘arty’ set, the chances are that they’ll hesitate, become self-conscious and mumble something about ‘not being any good at art.’ We strongly believe that creativity isn’t just reserved for the few. It is a thrill awaiting all of us. It’s simply a matter of creating an exciting, fun space in which people feel comfortable and un-judged.
Tell us more about your experience living in Morocco (one of my favorite countries by the way :-))! How was it different from London? What made you return and how have you integrated the two cultures?
Morocco is haphazard, full or colour, chaotic and unexpected. An attempt to complete any chore, no matter how mundane, never goes to plan in Morocco. The days are filled with a randomness that is exciting yet exhausting! Living one’s life in a culture in which anything can happen makes one see the possibilities of a situation. It is very important for us to preserve this positivity and creativity, now that we are back in the UK. Luckily for us, children are masters of this.
We have had no trouble reintegrating, even though we are living in the countryside. In fact, we think it’s incredibly important to introduce people from other countries to our local community. Culturally, children from the rural families around us might never have travelled, or might never even have the opportunity to travel. By finding energetic, kind, fun-loving, enthusiastic people from abroad to come and contribute to our project, we believe that we will present local children (and adults) with a valuable cultural exchange.
What inspired you to host Workawayers?
As a family we are lucky enough to have travelled a lot, both before and after our children were born. Ian (my husband) and I were journalists in the old days, and would expect our children to keep travelling and gaining new experience of peoples and cultures. We love the scope that Workaway offers, and are adamant that as many people as possible should be given the chance to travel, broadening their horizons and making friendships that will help them grow and foster understanding.
The small town where you’ve decided to open the studio sounds very picturesque! What are the locals like? What are some traditions or interesting characteristics about the area?
The people in our town are honest, decent and at times fairly down to earth! Having said that, they are welcoming, as this used to be a coaching town in the days when stage coaches came through on their way to Bath and London. We have the most beautiful buildings in this town – a surprising number of them being listed (protected).
The countryside rolls away in hills and fields, and if I’m honest I’d admit that there’s the odd day when it smells of the surrounding farms! This area of the UK, the southwest, is far less homogenised that the more crowded southeast. We are fairly near Stonehenge, Glastonbury, the Georgian city of Bath, and not that far from the Jurassic coast (packed with fossils and crumbling cliffs).
From a host perspective, what is some advice you can give to a volunteer who wants to stay with a family like yours? What helps ease the transition of getting to know each other and living/working together?
If you are shy don’t be afraid to make connections with families; you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to deal with new people when you are volunteering. If possible, try not to always surround yourself with people you already know. Trust your instincts and make sure that you always speak up if you are not happy in a situation. A considerate host should never ask you to shoulder a responsibility for which you are not qualified or ready to accept. Make sure you have plenty of time for the cultural aspects of your travels.
Thank you to Safia for sharing with us! Now turn off your computer and go make something! Even better if you reuse something discarded to do it. Don’t forget to send us a photo of your creation!
Do you also want to share your own hosting story? We are always on the lookout for hosts with interesting perspectives to share! Email us to tell us all about it and you could be in our next feature!