Here at Workaway we now have an amazing 40,000 + (previously 20,000) hosts involved in our volunteer exchange projects and communities from all over the world. From agricultural help, scuba diving, yoga retreats and most things in between, we are so proud to be associated with so many amazing hosts. So, we’ve introduced 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 guy.
It’s been a whole year since we started interviewing our hosts, and what amazing people we have spoken to!
This month is no exception with Geneviève and Erick from France, at their organic farm community.
Hey guys, we are so excited to talk to you and find out more about your farm, it looks absolutely beautiful!
When did you start hosting Workawayers and how did you find out about us?
We started the farm about 7 years ago, and we have been hosting workawayers for 6 years.
We heard about Workaway from a friend, who is also a farmer. We needed some help, and were hoping that some people would be interested in our simple way of life. This is how we had the opportunity to host and meet lots of people; some of them struggled to get adapted to our unusual way of life, others were quickly at ease with our place and ourselves.
What does an average day look like for the Workawayers on the farm?
Well, there’s no average day. It depends strongly on the season and on the weather.
In summertime we are very busy and have around 8 to 10 people on the farm, including 3 or 4 Workawayers, us, and some other friends of the farm. There’s always a lot to do, including on saturday and sunday, even if we only do the watering and some harvesting for the market. So, everybody helps out daily. We usually begin early in the morning, have a small break, back to the garden, and then lunch. There’s then a big big break in the afternoon, it’s so hot that we can’t stay in the sun. Then it’s the river time, nap, walk, french lessons, reading books, playing music, etc. In the evening, 2 or 3 persons will be helping with watering again, then we have the dinner, and some go for a walk, watch movies, or just relax and enjoy the peace.
Sounds like the perfect simple life. What do the volunteers do in their spare time?
It totally depends on the Workawyers. Some of them find our way of living and eating a bit challenging so they walk or bike to the nearest supermarket and come back to the farm with a huge amount of low price french wine, cheese, chocolate, beer and cookies.
Most of them go for a swim at the river, take walks in the area, or go explore the country-side by bike. For those who are interested in learning French, we also give them French lessons. We hosted some volunteers who arrived here knowing only a few words of French, studied hard, and then left after 2 months with a great ability in the French language!
What a great skill to go home with! Did you travel much yourself?
Actually we are not travellers at all. We are both 48, and this year was the first time we went to England. Erick was invited by a friend from Japan and travelled there. Geneviève has never left Europe (except when going to England!), but this is why we love hosting people from all around the world, so we get to learn about their countries and cultures.
You’ve hosted so many Workawayers, what is the best thing you have learnt from one of them?
Some workawayers became friends, and then part-time residents of our farm community.
One of them taught us a lot about abundance, and we are now working on putting this concept in the farm while remaining fully respectful of our first convictions. It’s entirely possible to be happy with few goods, simple life, and, hopefully, open-minded. Dealing with people coming from different backgrounds is quite demanding, and we need to be patient, so we have learnt how to be more patient and, of course, are still learning new skills from all of them.
Patience is definitely one of the most important things you’ll need when hosting!
How has the farm changed since hosting volunteers?
One of the big changes in the farm occured a few years ago; in 2011, when our eldest daughter and one of the Workawayer fell in love with each other. Now they are living together, and travelled quite a lot and also did some Workaway in France and abroad!
And the farm has became a much more open-to-the-world place. We know now, seeing with the eyes of all the Workawayers staying with us, who came and accepted our deal (we set a rule to accept only long term workawayers who speak or really want to speak some french and those without diet restrictions), that this farm can truly be a wonderful place. Workawayers helped us realise and achieved this.
From what we can see and what we’ve heard you do have a beautiful farm! What bit of advice would you give to someone looking to do their first Workaway project?
As a host, know exactly what you have to offer to your Workawayers, what kind of people you want to host.
For example, we have a community lifestyle and we always share the same food. That’s why we explained it on our profile that we can’t really provide food for those with specific dietary requirements (like gluten-free, vegetarians, etc….). Before the Workawayers arrive in our place, we’d also send them some detailed information about the farm; how it works, what are the daily tasks, for instance explaining we have a daily time of house cleaning, how important it is to spare the water, etc. It helps to avoid any disappointment or misunderstandings.
As a Workawayer, it’s the best if you know exactly what you want to achieve from your trip and what your limits are. Be very specific, and be honest.
When are you looking for more Workawayers this year? (we have a feeling you’ll have a lot of requests)
We love having Workawayers all year round, except in December and January when we are having our family time. We usually need much more help from April to October, but if you want to come, it’s better to plan it in advance, as we do have a lot of requests. From time to time we organise some big collective effort (we call it Chantier collectif). You are welcome to join us too.
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!