workaway-retirement-volunteer-adventure

Meet the workawayer who swapped retirement for a lifetime of travel adventures!

ROTD monthly workawayer badgeAt 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:
retirees-volunteering-abroad-travel-exchange

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?

"How can you be afraid if you are living your dream? There is no room for fear!"

“How can you be afraid if you are living your dream? There is no room for fear!”

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 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.

"I was caught up with the importance of having stuff, a nice house and car. [...] But now I see that I don’t need any of that to be happy."

“I was caught up with the importance of having stuff, a nice house and car. […] But now I see that I don’t need any of that to be happy.”

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.

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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.

"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."

“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.”

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!

24 replies
  1. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    Great inspirational story Daniel and totally mirrors my own. I gave up a full time job, rented my house out and got rid of a lot of things to embark on my dream to travel. My kids had left home and I had lots of friends with serious health issues and having been to two funerals of people younger than myself that year, I decided that if I didn’t do this NOW, then I might not have the chance. I’ve been on the journey for 18 months now and have had many fabulous unforgettable experiences whilst also experiencing many challenges too. I also think though, that from every challenge there is a lesson to be learned. Some of the challenges were down to my own mindset, and some were just bad decisions I made, but if there’s a huge lesson I’ve learned from this it’s tolerance and knowing what my boundaries are. I’ve also learned that you can live without so much of the stuff that made up life as we knew it before i.e. material stuff. To accumulate experiences and memories far outweighs the nice house, fancy car, clothes etc etc etc. I’m mid 50’s and I too plan to continue with this journey either until I get bored, or until my health stops me which hopefully will be a good few years away. Thanks so much for sharing your story and proving that there are many of us more ‘mature’ volunteers out there. I too have a private FB group for my friends and followers which is like my online diary and charts all my ups and downs and keeps everyone at home amused and up to date with my experiences. The very best of luck to you as you continue your travels and I hope you have many more years of exciting times. Wendy

    Reply
  2. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    Hi Wendy,
    You are right our stories are rather similar. My plan is to visit every continents, I’m from North America and so far I’ve been in many countries in Europe, South and Central America and presently in Africa. I intend to go to Asia this year. Eventualy Australia. As far as I’m concerned WORKAWAY is by far the best way to travel. Happy traveling to you. All the best. Daniel

    Reply
    • Svetlana
      Svetlana says:

      Hi Daniel! If you are interested to visit Vermont or Siberia, Russia – please email me!
      Happy journey to you and to us all!

      Reply
    • Marie-Pierre DURAND
      Marie-Pierre DURAND says:

      Daniel, your experience is just uplifting and inspiring ! Travelling is about meeting people. I am getting organized to get again on the road, which is what i find most stimulating. European, i happened to be born in France and lived many years in other countries in Europe and India. I have been back to France for 4 years, but find it difficult (although the area where i live, la Vendée, is just lovely) to stop here. Vive les nouveaux horizons, vive l’inconnu et les découvertes, vive les rencontres sur la route, vive l’instant présent. Merci pour ton témoignage. Marie-Pierre

      Reply
  3. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    Great inspiration, Daniel. In case you desire to visit Uganda- “The Pearl of Africa”, am here to host you and enjoy the beauty of our nation and people

    Reply
    • Daniel Trepanier
      Daniel Trepanier says:

      Hello,

      Thank you so much for the nice invitation. But I’m in Rwanda until June and after going to Asia for one year.

      We never know for the future.

      Thanks again; all the best

      Daniel

      Reply
  4. Nadine Zabihi
    Nadine Zabihi says:

    What a bold life decision and exciting experiences you are getting to live in so many parts of this beautiful planet. You have acquire no doubt a unique view on humanity and on the purpose of life.You are such a inspiration to all.Best of luck with all your future plans and dreams!

    Reply
  5. Heidi Adriaanse
    Heidi Adriaanse says:

    Ohh what a great story … I am so happy white my opportunities. Also I’ve always wanted to travel, but like Danny writes: family, kids etc. Now on my ste 53 years I go on a trip! My first experience takes in Florida (Saint Petersburg) 3 weeks I will reside there. And than Im moving to a new address (I hope);-) I can get my luck that there are more older workawayers that do this. Do you have tips for this old lady 😉 Then I hear they really like:-) I wish all of you a beautiful, full of travel and happy life.

    Best regards,

    Heidi

    Reply
    • Daniel Trepanier
      Daniel Trepanier says:

      Hello Heidi,
      Thanks for the good words. I’m happy for you that you start the new adventures with Workaway, I think you will enjoy.
      Believe me 53 is young and the right time to start a new life for thoses who want to live free, away from the rat-race.

      All the best
      Daniel

      Reply
  6. Linda Cheryl LaBelle
    Linda Cheryl LaBelle says:

    Ahhhhh, I’m following in your footsteps … although, not nearly as long as you … and can’t imagine living any other way. Someday, somewhere, maybe we’ll meet up and can exchange stories. Enjoy the good life! Cheryl

    Reply
  7. Maggie
    Maggie says:

    Hi Daniel, ’twas good to read about your ‘workaway’ life in Tanzania. I just discovered this by chance today, looking at another website (about Lang. schools) but it sounds just like WWoOF’ing which I’ve done extensively around Australia. I also hitched and bussed around Southern Africa in my late 40’s for 2 months, after giving up on a Kenya to Capetown safari at Vic.Falls… I had so much more fun and met many more local people & ex-pats, on my own, but I didn’t know about Workaway in those days, cos’ seems it would have been an even more satisfying experience and trip! But Africa was till now, the highlight of my life, and incredibly empowering!

    I’m very curious to know more about your experiences in Sth America if you can share, as am hoping to go for 3-4 mths on an initial ‘reckie’ (reconnaissance) to Chile, Bolivia, Peru & Uruguay/Argentine, esp. the NW, B.Aires, Mendoza area and Patagonia. I plan to arrive in Santiago from down-under and then head Nth to take a Spanish course in Bolivia. Then criss-cross over the continent both by bus & by air (LatAM pass?). However, from this website/blog, I can’t see if there’s enough hosts in the sort of places I want to go. Also wonder if there’s any way to see what others’ profiles are like, before doing my own! (I’m an ex-Geog/Eng/Fr. high school (and more latterly in life) EFL-teacher and later again, a caregiver. I’ve done a lot of gardening, pruning, picking & grading fruit, etc. in my time, plus been a Camp Am. counsellor, and am still pretty fit, tho’ a little less ready to do v. hard physical work these days. l’d be grateful to know if I might find some ‘hosts’ in S.Am where I’d fit, please, and anything else helpful to me starting ‘on the road again’ in my retirement – & admittedly feeling a weeny bit intimidated by S. Am!
    Cheers & many thanks, Maggie

    Reply
  8. Maggie
    Maggie says:

    Hi reading about the experiences you guys have had has given me the incentive to apply to hosts. I am in my mid 60s but have felt that I may be considered too old, I am well travelled fit and healthy and regularly look after my two young granddaughters who are 2 yrs and 7 months.

    Reply
  9. Gabrielle
    Gabrielle says:

    Great story Daniel. My sister and I became workaway hosts last summer for the first time. We had no experience of it and being older women had to get beyond other peoples fears of ‘really, what you let strangers into your home?’ and other blocks. The experience has changed our lives in such a positive way. We have met some amazing people and now have new friends and opportunities to visit them in their own homes. We have had amazing skills, knowledge enthusiasm and positive energy brought to our lives. We have laughed, had meals cooked for us and had fascinating conversations with young and mature people. Our project is taking shape and we are having fun. We cannot recommend workaway highly enough.

    Reply

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