At Workaway, we absolutely love getting to know you all, whether it’s meeting you on the road, at a Workaway trip or hearing about your adventures through e-mails and social media. We couldn’t be prouder to be involved with such an inspiring community of travellers, which is why we just have to share some of the stories you tell us!
We recently came across the story of workawayers Anna and Marcin, a Polish couple who are pretty much living the dream. They quit their jobs for a life of slow travel, cycled from their home country all the way to Greece – AND brought their dog along on their adventures! We just need to find out more about their awesome journey.
Hey Anna! Hey Marcin! Nice to meet you both! We were pretty amazed to learn that you guys have been travelling together for 15 (!) years. What made you decide to take the leap to start a life on the road?
We’ve been spending most of our free time and money on travelling since we first started dating, which was at the end of high school! Up until 4 years ago, we weren’t living a life on the road yet. We went on both shorter and longer trips whenever we could, first between university and then jobs. In 2013 we decided to quit our jobs, got rid of a lot of our things, left our dog Lima in good hands went backpacking in Asia. This trip was supposed to satiate our travelling appetite, yet it accomplished quite the opposite… Why did we decide to take the leap? We tried to follow the more traditional path, but it didn’t make us happy. We felt in our bones that our life didn’t look quite the way we wanted it to look, and we wanted to have time to unplug from social expectations and explore what makes us happy. After so many years of shorter travels it was only natural to go and do more of what we love doing. We were dreaming of travelling at a much, much slower pace: to go deeper, never hurry, and stay in places we love as long as we feel like staying.
Where did your journey start and how many countries have you been to as of today?
We have visited about thirty-five countries so far. We will probably never break any records because we like to stay in one country for months! Our last and current adventure started two years ago in Cieszyn, a town on the border of Poland, our native country, and the Czech Republic. Anna’s parents offered to drive us there, which we happily accepted. But there was one problem: we were totally not ready yet. It was our first long-distance cycling trip, we had no time to practice and get Lima used to the trailer. We never even tried cycling on bikes packed with our heavy luggage! But we went for it. Anna’s parents left us, our luggage and dismantled bikes on a random lawn in Cieszyn. Marcin put everything together, we were missing some screws, but we were able to buy them. When Anna tried riding the loaded bike, she was on the ground after only one minute! “Great!, ”we thought. “How are we ever going to make it?”, but luckily the second try went much better, so off we went. Lima, who was only used to running next to the bike, seemed determined to jump off the trailer, so every couple of minutes we had to stop and put her back in. It took us forever to cycle the first ten kilometres to our host, and when arrived our clothes were drenched with sweat. But guess what? The next day everything went smoother already, and on the third day both us and Lima were comfortable with the whole set-up. This showed us that everything is possible if you really want something to work.
Why did you opt to travel by bike, as opposed to other forms of transportation?
We decided to travel with Lima and we knew public transportation would not be an option in many countries. Since we both cycled regularly in Warsaw, our hometown, and Marcin has some experience working as a bike mechanic, it was an obvious choice for us! Cycling gives us lots of freedom and allows us to keep our pace slow and the costs as low as possible. Apart from cycling in a rather flat city, we had pretty much zero experience with touring around… But we were able to do it, so we believe that anybody can!
What have you learnt from travelling this way?
If you want to change continents or quickly jump to another faraway place, travelling by bike with a trailer and a dog is the worst and most expensive choice. However, if you’re into slow travel, cycling simply is the best! You don’t have to wait for the public transports or negotiate fares, you can go whenever, wherever you want to. You’re never only “zooming” through: cycling from one workaway to the next also allows you to stay close to nature and people. You’ll definitely get to explore more places that are off the beaten path. When we were backpacking, we used to complain that we’re moving from one tourist spot to another, simply because it’s the easiest choice transportation-wise. Now we are finally able explore places that we wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise. We love it!
Speaking of travelling off the beaten path… how did you find out about Workaway, and why did you decide to join our community?
We read about Workaway on other blogs about long-term travelling. By our fourth month in Southeast Asia and another two more to go, we realised that even though we were loving the trip, we were craving more interactions with local people, rather than simply moving from one beautiful place to another. We like that the Workaway membership gives you access to all countries in the world. We registered while cycling to Greece and have been using Workaway ever since.
We are glad to hear that! How many and what type of Workaway projects have you done so far?
We are currently staying with our 11th Workaway host! We are quite picky and prefer to stay with local families as we love to learn about the traditional ways and dishes of the place we’re visiting. It’s small organic family farms that we tend to gravitate to. We had our first encounters with farm animals on one of our Workaway exchanges, and now taking care of them is one of our favourite things to do.
It’s amazing you are taking Lima your dog with you on your most recent adventures! She’s so cute. What is it like to travel with her? How has it changed your travel experience?
It has changed in so many ways! Travelling with Lima forced us to do more of what we love most: to stay close to nature! We do much less traditional sightseeing, and Lima is an excuse to skip many touristic attractions we don’t care much about anyway! She is also an excuse for us to stop by every single body of water for a swim. She is totally into simple pleasures of life, and so are we. We love spending time with her, so it’s not a big sacrifice that we have to use the outdoor seats in cafés or that one of us needs to wait outside the shops with her while the other does the shopping. Having said that, we do hope that dogs will be allowed into more places. Even though she is about nine years old, Lima is still full of energy. She loves running next to our bikes, but is only allowed to on dirt roads. When we let her out of her trailer after a day of travelling, she will do her crazy dance and run in circles until she loses some of that accumulated energy. She never wants to sit completely inside the trailer: she always has her front paws on the edge, looking out to the left and right as if she was surfing. And when we first started our travels with her, we saw her clenching her paws while asleep, reliving her adventures in her dreams!
We just melted a little – that sounds adorable. What has been your favourite Workaway experience so far, and why?
We can’t decide, we have six favourites! Picking olives on the Greek island of Lefkada, living the small village life on Evia, another Greek Island, helping the most amazing 70-year old woman in the Algarve, Portugal, connecting from the heart with ‘our’ Portuguese family near Coimbra, and our current Workaway host, a weaver and basket maker, in stunningly beautiful Galician Ribeira Sacra! But staying with a family in Crete has probably the most influential experience for us. This family has a well-functioning organic farm growing fruit, vegetables, grains and also keep animals. There we have learned to take care of goats: we raised two adorable baby goats by bottle feeding them, and we’ve been wanting our own ever since! Our Workaway hosts there did many things that interests us – like establishing an organic farmers’ cooperative around Heraklion – and we were able to meet many of the members. They also really kept the local traditions alive, so we have learned a LOT about Cretan food and customs, celebrated Easter together and went to local festivals. We ended up staying with them for 5 months!
What is the funniest thing that has happened while travelling?
The first thing that comes to mind is having to chase a long-distance bus with a taxi in Mexico. Because the buses there are always late, we decided to take it easy and arrived at the terminal five minutes late. Well, the bus was not there, so we went to the cashier and she said it had already left. It was close to the end of our trip and we had to make it to the airport on time. Upon seeing our puzzled looks, she started exclaiming: “coche! coche!”, which is Spanish for ‘car’, and wrote us the number of the bus on a piece of paper. We ran to a taxi, threw our backpacks into the trunk and said… well, this time it wasn’t “follow that car!”. We mumbled some words about our bus and showed him the paper. It was outrageously funny and exciting until the driver stopped the bus and quoted the price for this ride!
Haha, oops! Well, at least you did manage to catch the bus… Were there any other challenges that you had to overcome while on the road?
There are always some challenges, but generally things are going quite smoothly because we are more relaxed and happy when we are on the road. Language barrier is a constant challenge, but after all these years we have become masters of non-verbal communication with a few freshly learned words thrown in. When we were travelling on a tiny budget, we couldn’t afford to get ripped-off, so usually what followed was a battle of calculators and maps- it works. But we like travelling in a country where we can speak the local language so much better. During our fifth month in Portugal we realised that being able to join the conversations of local people in the villages and cafes has made travelling a lot more interesting.
Where are you now, and where are you planning on going next? What is your dream destination?
We’re now in the amazing Spanish Galicia and are scheming a jump to… Bulgaria! We are thinking of setting up a base there and maybe one day we’ll be Workaway hosts, too. We are dreaming of going on a Morocco-Algeria-Tunisia-Libya-Egypt trip, and Anna is feeling a call to go to Mali. These countries have to wait though. We also want to explore more of Turkey and visit family in Uzbekistan.
You are truly living the dream..and our dream! What advice would you give to aspiring nomads?
Don’t read too much advice: trust yourself and your choices!
Anna, Marcin and Lima, thanks a lot for sharing your inspiring story with us!
For those who are interested in following their cycling/ farming adventures and find out how Lima is doing, be sure to check out their blog, Instagram and Facebook page.
Do you want to be our next Workawayer of the month? We are always on the lookout for inspirational Workawayers who have a great story to tell! Email us over at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be featured next!