Here at Workaway we now have an amazing 28,000 + hosts involved in our volunteer exchange projects and communities from all over the world. From agricultural help, kite surfing, renovating castles and most things in between, we are so proud to be associated with amazing hosts on every continent. So, we’ve started a feature to help recognise what a difference cultural exchange can make to both travellers and hosts. Going by the name of ‘Workaway Host of the Month’ we’ll help you discover more of what it is like to be a host as we peek into their daily lives and learn how their projects have changed since welcoming you into their homes.
This month, we talk with Juan who helps run a guest house in Ecuador on a remote beach in Santa Marianita. Drawing on his experience hosting over 100 Workaway volunteers, he shared valuable wisdom and his compassion for helping others. We’re already imagining the beautiful breeze coming off the waves and know you’ll be wanting to book a flight ASAP!
A small, quiet beach off the coast of Ecuador…. sounds like paradise! What makes your guest house unique? What kinds of travelers come and stay?
When my boss first came to this beach a little more than twelve years ago, the beach was decorated by many donkeys as locals from the area would let them go grazing and walking around the area. It seemed to her very attractive and she decided to stay and start running this guesthouse. There are still some donkeys passing by the beach, but now not as frequent as before.
I think to travel is to look for life and feel the experience of everything all around us, and I think a lodging place makes that experience more or less pleasant. It is the reason why at the guest house we make everyone feel part of our family, from our volunteers, guests, local helpers, customers and our beloved animals. Where can everyone feel comfortable, safe, happy, and calm to share in a privileged and beautiful location.
Our guest house is for all kinds of travellers, we have rooms and dorms available for all types of needs and with appropriate facilities (weekend travellers, backpackers, families, retired, athletes), however our strongest targets are kiters and retired people coming for longer stays.
You’ve had over 100 Workawayers volunteer with you! Can you share what that’s been like and the impact they’ve made on your community?
Since we’ve started, working with volunteers has been focus of attention for the community. We have always been a reference for promoters of tourism, due to the amount of people who have visited us. Helping others (which we love) in situations where people need support for certain situations- we have been ready to do so. We are lovers and protectors of animals (we have a veterinary assistance and temporary home for animals). In addition to that, we are recognized for the best breakfast in the city and its surroundings. 😉
Many Workaway volunteers are interested in starting their own hostel, guest house, or eco-lodge. Can you advise us about some of the challenges of working in hospitality and some lessons you’ve learned along the way?
The biggest challenges in the hospitality will always be contingencies. You can be prepared for any situation that is anticipated, but when a new situation appears the attitude you have will be what defines and make you grow every day as host.
Ecuador is such a diverse country. Tell us about the culture around Santa Marianita and how it might differ from other places in Ecuador. What are typical meals like? How are the locals?
Santa Marianita is located in the province of Manabi, the province with the largest number and most beautiful beaches of Ecuador, close to the town of Manta which is one of the most important fishing ports. The beach is in a cove with 5 km which makes it a beach long and extensive; ideal for tourists and the practitioners of kite surfing. It is a beach that is composed of a multicultural community: the beautiful, quiet and good people of Santa Marianita, families for artisanal fishing tradition, and people that take living and preserving these lands for ancestral times.
Gastronomically it is recognized as the best of Ecuador with products such as the “camotillo” a fish that feeds only on shrimp therefore their meat is delicious, the “tuna” your product emblem, unmatched in this part, the ceviche of “picudo” and the immense variety provided by the Pacific.
What are some local traditions volunteers should be aware of?
There are people with interesting traditions that integrate all the people of the village, as in the celebration of St. Pedro and St. Pablo, saints and patrons of fishermen who have devotion and faith that show them in their annual festivals organized by the “Presidents white and black.” Two delegated people collect, store and organize all the orchestration of the celebration. This includes music, food and drink for a couple days. It is really a great and fun experience. (If you are invited to dance it is very kind that you do).
Thank you so much to Juan for sharing about this lovely project in Ecuador! Do you want to be our next WA Host of the month? We are always on the lookout 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!