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!
After 52 years of employment and family life Canadian Daniel decided to sell his house, his car and all his possessions and fulfill his dream of travelling the world. Nowadays his sole possessions are in his backpack, but even after two years on the road Workawaying he has never looked back. I was fortunate to spend over an hour video chatting to this charismatic man, who is so full of enthusiasm for life and faith in humanity. He is now in Tanzania, although this wasn’t one of the destinations listed on his Workaway profile page:
Hello there Daniel, it’s great to speak with you at last. Thank you for taking some time out to be interviewed today! How is it that you are in Africa now?
I hadn’t originally planned on going to Africa, but then I came across so many other travellers who have travelled and lived here and had such positive experiences. I was intrigued to find out for myself and it has been fantastic so far. Even though I consider myself as an informed non-judgemental person, I think that I had been led to feel afraid of visiting Africa. My way of thinking now is that Africa is not promoted as an attractive destination by the West, as it is not in their interests politically or economically for it to become popular. Instead of appreciating its raw beauty and traditions, we are often scared by news reports of danger, disease, famine, war and shootings. I prefer to ignore the news fed to us from official media – I don’t trust it, instead I get my information from other sources!
We can’t agree more! You can only really begin to know and understand a place by experiencing it firsthand. Your visit to Africa was more of a spontaneous decision. In fact one of the questions that we had for you was how much your travelling is planned and flexible?
Well, in fact I don’t plan very much at all. I sometimes have a vague idea of places that I want to go to, but sometimes I don’t decide until 24 hours before! I go wherever the wind takes me. I love being free. My relationship with time has totally changed, and yet it’s hard to get used to having that freedom too.
Yes, we bet after 52 years of working to a timetable the change must be incredible. Has travel changed your perspective in other ways too?
Definitely. My attitude towards consuming, possessions and money in general is now totally different. I used to earn a decent amount and saw myself as a big spender. I was caught up with the importance of having stuff, a nice house and car. That became a focus, but now I see that I don’t need any of that to be happy. Now everything I own is in my backpack, I can’t buy more stuff because it just won’t fit, not even an extra book!
My attitude towards other people has changed too. I am more open and trusting, I used to be more reserved especially when meeting new people. I have developed more faith in humanity I suppose.
So, let’s go back to the beginning of your story. What initially motivated you to leave the comfort of your homeland/ family and friends behind you and travel?
I have always wanted to travel, but in my 20’s I was busy starting a family and career and once you embark on that path, it is hard to get off. Not travelling is one thing I had always regretted. When I retired I saw this as a unique opportunity. If I didn’t head off now when would I do it? I am the youngest of 11 siblings, I had seen people of my generation and older who had accumulated wealth and possessions, but on retiring didn’t know how to be happy with what they had. They had no plans, no projects, just a bank account. I saw some of them age and become ill. Perhaps I saw in them my own possible destiny, and it was a destiny I didn’t want. With my children and grandchildren settled, my partner and I made the decision to live our dream and travel the world. The plan to travel with my partner didn’t work out, we separated, and that’s when I came across Workaway.
So, how did you stumble upon us?
I came across Workaway completely by chance, whilst googling ways to travel the world on a budget. It appealed to me straight away and I made the decision to leave very soon after that.
Had you travelled much before?
Yes, I’d travelled, but as a tourist.
What differences did you see between being a tourist and Workawaying?
Being a Workawayer is a totally different experience, a different way to travel. You enter other people’s lives, share their world– exchange knowledge and ideas. I would never go back to tourism, I couldn’t. I would get bored after 2 days.
I have been travelling and workawaying for 2 years and I never get bored. Workawaying gives you the initial contact with someone who lives locally, and this often leads to other opportunities. I have had offers of lifts to new destinations and even invited to be interviewed by a local newspaper. My life now unfolds in this way and it is truly fantastic. I think Workaway is such a great initiative.
Aww. Thank you Daniel, it means so much to hear your enthusiasm and positive feedback. Do you plan to continue travelling in this way?
Without a doubt, this is my way of life now and I’m going to continue as long as I can, another 10 years, 20 years, even to 100. I would if I could that’s for sure!
Do you think travelling keeps you young?
I suppose you could say that yes!
You have a great deal of life experience behind you I’m sure, but what strikes me about you is your curiosity and desire to learn from other people. Is that the case?
Totally, I am learning all the time, from everyone I meet, regardless of their age. Last week I spent time at a school in Kenya. The kids ranging from 10-14 years old taught me that the secret to being happy does not depend on what you have, as they have so little. What they do have is a sense of community and shared experiences.
How do you manage financially?
I earned quite a lot during my working life…but I have spent it all haha!! However, I have my pension. It is not a large amount by Canadian standards, but it’s an income which allows me to keep travelling extensively, as does Workaway. I tend to choose destinations which have a lower cost of living, so that I can get by. Workaway is also useful for visiting places which would be outside my budget, as I can save on accommodation costs.
Yes, and that can really add up! What type of Workaway environments do you look for and how long do you usually stay in one place?
I have maintained my own homes over the years, so have some basic skills. Often the places I go to are remote, as there are no other distractions I get immersed in the projects. I don’t consider myself a gardener, but I have developed an interest in it since I started Workawaying.
As far as the length of time I stay at each place, it depends, on average a month, which is enough time to get to know the people there and the area. I am so full of enthusiasm for seeing places that I keep on moving, but in the future I’d like to do house-sitting through Workaway with a friend, and stay in one place for up to 3 months.
I have noticed that many hosts prefer older travellers because of the knowledge and experience they can offer, do you find that to be true?
I don’t put my age on my profile page, as I don’t want people to judge me on that basis. Fortunately I am healthy and fit, but all they have to do is look at the grey hair in my photos and they know that I am older! It’s probably true that there are hosts who like mature volunteers as I get many invitations from Workaway hosts, particularly to house-sit.
What do your family think of your new way of life?
They are happy about it. Although they don’t travel so much, one of my kids is planning a Workaway trip now with the family.
So you are inspiring them to travel? That’s cool, it’s often the other way round!
Yes, I suppose I am!
What about your friends, what do they think?
I have a great following on Facebook from my friends. I’m not sure why. They say I am lucky.
Perhaps they are able to enjoy the adventure of travelling through you? What do you think stops them from doing the same?
They are afraid. They always ask me how I can leave everything behind, that it must take so much courage. My reply to them is “How can you be afraid if you are living your dream?” There is no room for fear!
Have you ever faced any difficulties or challenges?
Fortunately I can say that I have never had any difficulties with any of the hosts where I have stayed. My main difficulty is dealing with the language barrier, sometimes in shops, but especially when it comes to transport. Through misunderstanding I almost ended up going to Northern Italy, when I wanted to head South! I am sure I have a guardian angel who is there to jump in and rescue me when I need her most!
Daniel, we are so inspired by your spirit. You are a shining example to many people who put off living their dreams because of fear or the limits they put upon themselves. Do you have any personal “motto” which sums up how you like to live your life?
Yes! “Happiness is NOW!”
And perhaps it really is just as simple as that! Daniel, thank you so much for sharing your story and your wisdom with us today. I’m sure your face will become quite a fixture in the Workaway pages as the years roll by!
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 and you could be featured next!