We all travel for different reasons; maybe we even travel for no reason, but whatever it is that inspires us to travel we never come home the same person. Your eyes have seen new things, your body has experienced new feelings and your heart has felt new emotions. One form of travel that has taught me the most however is travelling with a purpose.
Exploring the world while doing exchange projects through Workaway has taught me lessons no other kind of travel has. You could say I’m an avid Workawayer, I have done quite a few of them over the last few years. And while I am not here to influence the way YOU travel, I want to share with you the lessons I have learned through the most fulfilling kind of travel I know; volunteer and cultural exchange.
Your skills, whatever they are, are valuable to someone.
When you think of your skills, you usually think of your most obvious ones. These might be construction, child care, communication or networking. You tend not to even recognise your less obvious skills. Those are the things that work exchange can bring out in you. You will be helping adults learn your language by laughing and joking with them or improving a kid’s music skills by simply jamming with them. You are completely at your best when you are in non pressured environments and you discover things you never thought of as useful before. I learned this while working in an orphanage in Peru, trying so hard to control the kids I realised the only way to get them to calm down was to show them all the different hair styles I could give them. Who knew french braiding could become useful in your 20’s?
You learn to ‘forget the plan’.
The phrase ‘no plan is a good plan’ has never been more appropriate. And really, why do you even need a plan? Go with the flow, let countries break your heart, places change you and people make you. Immersing yourself in a country or culture, especially through work exchange, leaves you open to new things and new paths.
People skills are at the top of your C.V now.
Ever tried to work and live with people that don’t speak the same language as you? Where simple sentences become a mixture of hysterics and hand signals? I did a Workaway in Argentina working on an organic farm where the owners only spoke Spanish. It was my first few weeks in South America and I had only picked up a few basic sentences, and even then I wasn’t too confident in using them. As the owner explained my job role in Spanish I felt like bursting into tears and running in the opposite direction. Her sympathetic smile showed she knew what I was thinking. So everything she explained from then on would be with hand signals then repeating the main word. I spent 4 weeks there in the end, and learned more than I could have in 4 years of school. When I left I gave myself a pat on the shoulder. I had managed to communicate with people speaking a language I didn’t know and had so much fun while doing it.
You are never alone.
That’s usually a guarantee. If there are not other Workawayers there, obviously you will have the hosts – and in my experience, all their family and friends. People who open up their homes to you, even in exchange for work, are usually a certain type of person. Somebody that sees the best in others, somebody that appreciates life and everything inside of it. You will meet beautiful souls. I promise you.
You find out what you really need.
And you wish you didn’t pack so much. You learn how to live with just the basics, and actually you really enjoy it. When I was doing a Workaway in Peru, there was 10 of us Worawayers sharing a room. There was no space and a lot of us. So we compromised, we shared what we had and actually ended up throwing away or leaving the things we didn’t need. We started a Workaway box for the next ones to come, sort of like ‘we realised we didn’t need this, you can take it, swap it or leave it right here’. With a lighter backpack you actually have less worries, less baggage and less things to lose! Try it.
Money is an object of exchange not an object of desire.
This one takes a while to learn. If you are reading this now it’s because you have internet, a phone or a laptop, maybe you are at work or having a day off. You probably live in a first world country. You and I both; we have been brought up in a world ultimately ruled by money. But then one day, you step outside of that world, you see that it really isn’t the case, that maybe you just perceived that. Money is important of course, but it is not what life is all about. Life is about making memories, making friends, seeing smiles, laughing uncontrollably, falling in love, being yourself and not needing those extra pair of shoes, that new computer game or an upgraded phone. Lets be real; you need money to buy a plane ticket, but that ticket will be the most valuable purchase you have ever made. Because with that ticket you will see the world and learn the real value of money from those who don’t have it, and those that don’t desire it.
There is no time like now! So don’t wait around..
I remember the moment I got to Hong Kong – it’s such a vibrant, exciting city. My immediate reaction was ‘Wow, this has all been happening and I never knew about it’. I felt almost like I had been missing out my whole life. This amazing city was so full of life, with thousands of people enjoying it, and I had only just got there. I decided there and then to not wait around for something to happen, for that right amount of money, that perfect time to leave, because really I knew that the only time to start experiencing the world was right now.
Great things lie on the other end of fear.
Maybe the idea of travelling terrifies you? Good. It should. You should to do something every day that scares you. But if you listen to just one of the lessons I have learned, let it be this one: The fulfillment and joy you will get from doing something that scares you (actually going through with it despite really wanting to quit), and then realising that it changed the way you will lead your life forever is one of life’s greatest gifts.
This is what travelling will do to you.
Believe in yourself.. I believe in YOU.
We are all individuals and our experiences are all unique; what a wonderful quality that is in human beings. Make your own lessons, starting now. See the world through your own eyes. We’ll be here for you – the proud parents waiting to hear about it… 🙂
Article by: Sarah Richard from coffeewithasliceoflife.com