We often get enquires about whether it’s possible for families to use the website and workaway.
Whilst of course sometimes it can be more difficult to find a host (look for hosts who also have children) it’s by no means impossible. Many families have enjoyed and benefited from volunteering in all corners of the world.
Here’s a story from a Workawaying family who ended up in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica:
And now for something completely different
My partner and I decided that we wanted to spend the summer doing something really different.
We had met travelling 15 years before, but since then we had put all our energies into building our own house in the country and bringing up our two kids. We missed travelling, but with young children the spontaneous “get up and go” mentality isn’t so easy. We looked into “workaway” and realized that this could be a good way for all of us to travel.
The kids get tired and fed up if we spend too much time moving from place to place…as my son once reminded me, “Why do adults always want to travel around. We prefer to stay in one place, know where we are and not keep changing.” In many cases Workaway allows you to set up a home from home, to have a base from which you can really get to know a place and its people, and more importantly for the kids, to make friends.
We looked at all the possibilities. At first it was hard because there are so so many great destinations and wonderful opportunities on offer, but then we decided to put the kids first. What would they really like? They are 7 and 4, so we wanted to choose somewhere that would have an impact on them…a memorable experience. So we curbed our focus away from historical monuments, spiritual havens, yachting trips and city life and eventually decided upon a tropical destination, vibrant colourful plants, animals and people!
Deciding on our destination
Costa Rica sounded perfect, it is full of natural parks, wildlife and conservation areas. There are arid zones, volcanoes, thermal springs and the Caribbean coast where we enquired about working. We soon received confirmation that help was needed at a beach lodge and bar near Puerto Viejo. Yippee! It was so easy…we had a plan…and a destination, and someone who was waiting for us on our arrival.
Coming all the way from Europe, and changing flights in Florida, the journey was a long one for the kids. We brought plenty of games, gadgets and snacks with us to keep them entertained and of course half the time they were able to sleep. Knowing that we had a bed and a friendly welcome awaiting us was enough to keep us all motivated.
It really worked for us to have a base. The kids soon adapted to their new home, found their way to and from the beach and to the local grocers shop.
They made friends with the local kids and were sometimes invited out for the day by the tourists with children staying at the lodge. They also learnt to help out, whether it was picking bananas, doing a bit of gardening, helping to make lunch or doing small errands. I worked in the reception area of the lodge, whilst my partner tried out his carpentry skills by improving the beach bar.
Integration and culture
We very quickly became part of things…it is so different being behind the scenes, rather than being a tourist. We had so many adventures and experiences, gaining insights into how it is really like to live in a place…the up side and the down side…which I think is really what most travellers want to know anyway. Locals treated us differently too, we were charged “mates-rates” and people tended to confide in us… we were one of them rather than one of “those.”
As far as giving the kids an opportunity to be impressed, we certainly succeeded and both of them have lasting memories of their time there.
The highlights range from being kept awake at night by howler monkeys, watching enormous brightly coloured crabs scamper away with our washing, having a blue morpho butterfly resting on my daughter’s arm and seeing an enormous live tarantula caught by a neighbour and put in a jar! There are weird and wonderful creatures everywhere, from humming birds, brightly coloured frogs, exotic birds , raccoons which raided the kitchen at night like masked bandits and sloths which are huge but often loiter invisibly. My daughter was taken on an outing to a sloth sanctuary to see some of the casualties…those who had snoozed too deeply and consequently fallen out of the trees!!
Having rice and kidney beans every morning for breakfast was a novelty for all of us. My son spent his days wandering round in red pants and climbing palm trees looking like Mowgli. My little daughter would be found at the hottest part of the day swinging in a hammock, her blond hair braided in corn-rows by one of the Columbian helpers who had taken a shine to her.
I helped out at the local school, reading stories aloud in English and making pirate and princess outfits for a school party. My son even went along to the school as a visitor for the day. Like I said, we were all given opportunities which we would never had had, if we were tourists.
Still time to take a trip
From the lodge we also took time out to make a couple of trips. We became “tourists” for a change and did a road trip of central Costa Rica, and then a backpacking excursion to Panama. This is another great thing about workaway…you often have weekends free to explore, and you can also discuss the possibility of taking time out to make a trip with the view of returning some days later. This was one of the most fabulous journeys I have ever had, and we were able to share it with the kids…when under normal circumstances it may have proved too ambitious. They certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if we had been constantly on the move, looking for accommodation and a place to eat at every stop.
Being a very economical way to travel we were able to afford a longer stay away…which made the 2 day journey there so much more worthwhile!