Travel, It’s not all about sipping pina coladas from coconuts, all night parties at the hostel or lazing in a hammock, reading your favourite book. While the thoughts of all of these are sometimes the reasoning behind scouring the internet for hours upon end, looking for last minute flights deals, sometimes travel is a lot more than the picture perfect beaches and sun-kissed skin, it can be a lot darker and dangerous.
You can’t predict the outcome, you can plan and save and have enough money and even have back up money and back up money for the back up money but you will never be fully prepared for the World.
I know I wasn’t, sometimes shit just happens and it is out of your reach. You can be stranded, alone and without money and I say this because, at some points in my travelling life, I have been. It is from the good of people who have extended their hands and helped, complete strangers, that are the reason I have more belief in the World and it’s people.
Workaway and similar companies aim to help you travel wiser and to see more of the world. I first used them in America when I had dropped off my campervan after 3 blissful weeks of road tripping and was now relying solely on the American public transport system.
I was in a motel is Orlando (the run down city, not the Disney part) trying to work out where to go next. I had completely under budgeted myself and with over 2 months left until my flight back to the UK and only around $600 left, I was in deep trouble. I not only had to get from Florida to California in those 2 months but I had to do it with only $600 to my name.
This is where Workaway came in. I remembered that I had an account that I never used, so after a few attempts at remembering my log in details, I was in.
I messaged nearly every single person on the host list, and by sheer luck somebody in Tennessee replied. They were based in Central Tennessee but were in Memphis for a couple of days due to one of them having an operation.
Even though they had personal issues themselves, they offered to meet us in Memphis and help us find somewhere to stay.
5.30am and we were dropped off by the side of the road by Megabus, sitting on our backpacks, blankets wrapped around us waiting for some strangers in a car to pick us up. What were we doing? The streets were eerie and quiet, apart from a few people sleeping rough on the benches next to us and a lady being sick behind us.
The hosts finally arrived and from first impressions, were sane and normal. They drove us to their daughters house, where they offered us a warm shower, breakfast and some coffee, followed by a 4 hour ‘locals’ tour of Memphis, even stopping by a typical southern BBQ and grill house and treating us to some BBQ ribs. This was southern hospitality at it’s best.
Workaway was the answer, the only way I had a real shot at making it to California without having to give up and fly home early.
I painted houses, cooked meals and cleaned up walnuts, I was not just seeing the sights, I was living with families, mucking in where I could and seeing things that I wouldn’t of known about had I been just passing through.
My trip ended earlier than I wanted it to but only by a couple of weeks, not the 2 months I would have had to have cut it short by without the volunteering I did. I ended my trip just outside San Diego, helping in a small dog rescue centre. I was living in a back of a black and white Chevy van over looking the San Diego Foothills and in return for walking, feeding and just giving all round love to the rescue dogs, I got to experience living and eating for free in a beautiful part of Southern California.
The stories I have are endless but all I can safely say is that If you are looking for a cheaper, safer and more insightful way to travel, have a look at www.workaway.info if not just as a back up. Money can help you get there but it doesn’t always create the memories you will cherish forever.