Last week we took some time out to visit a few hosts in Portugal. Sometimes it’s useful to be able to get away and really see the Workaway experience happening and be able to speak to hosts directly. It enables us to listen to opinions about the site and think about changes that maybe need to be made and of course to meet workawayers “in the field” to listen to their stories and hear about other Workaway experiences they´ve had.
Our first stop was at a large Quinta north of Lisbon, where a very charming couple, Branca and Antonio host Workawayers all year round. Volunteers help maintain and develop their beautiful Portugese Quinta farmhouse and are also involved in a holiday centre Branca and Antonio run with an international charity. This charity brings children from all over the world to stay over the summer months, where they take part in a “cross cultural activity holiday” learning from each other and with each other about their different cultural backgrounds.
In the height of the season they had up to 20 Workaway volunteers helping out, playing, cooking, gardening, teaching, swimming and enabling these courses to take place. It was inspiring to see how much work was being done and how passionate Branca and Antonio were about this. Their place was a lovely mixture of Portugese tradition, Workawayer randomness and felt full of life and activity.
We loved the way that everyone would get together for a big lunch to discuss their day, swap travel stories and enjoy the company of people they would maybe never otherwise meet. Between us for one lunch we were: a Venezuelan, 2 French, 1 German, Antonio the host, his mother and Portugese friend, a Mexican, Irish and myself the token Brit. Great people, great conversation and lovely food.
Heres a clip of the dinner table:
It’s the randomness of these chance meetings the contacts made that I love about travelling and Workawaying so much.
A couple of days later after a 2 hour search through what seemed like the middle of nowhere we found our next hosts just back from Odeceixe, a beautiful part of the Portugese coastline.
Now I must admit from the host description I was expecting something a liitle less grand than the Portugese Quinta we had left, however as we rounded the corner and drove up the hill what we found was both inspiring and motivating. We’d arrived at a small community ran by a couple of Dutch brothers and their partners.
They had spent the last 4 years building some incredible structures which drew much admiration.
The first made from a mixture of straw bails, hemp and home fired clay bricks was used as a workshop and housing for the batteries for 3 largish solar installations. Now I’ve seen a few attempts at straw bale building in my time, some successful and others not so much but the quality and finish of this “workshop” really was top notch. Both professional builders and workawayers alike had been working together to produce something really worthwhile.
Next we were shown the apartments which were being finished by volunteers, some of which had produced amazing mosaics as pieces of artwork to be hung on the walls, displayed in the bathroom or even hung from the ceiling above the bed.
I guess what I liked about these hosts was the positive they saw in everyone, believing that everyone had a skill inside them and it was just a matter of working with them to realise that untapped potential.
Mostly sustainable products have been used for the building work, from the amazing vegetable garden, the beautifully decked out yurts and the communal workaway accommodation to the the artistic apartment and the hosts own home using energy efficient heating and electrical systems.
It was a lesson to us in what can be done in a short space of time with a few willing hands, lots of enthusiasm, a dream and real drive to carry out that dream and make it come true…