If you’ve seen anything I’ve posted on Instagram or Twitter in the past month, you’ll know I’ve been banging on about my recent workaway experience in Spain. I was away literally two weeks and one day but it felt like so much longer.
The trip was a turning point for me.
I have a huge list of things I want to accomplish over the next few years (doesn’t everyone?) and it was time to get on with it. What I didn’t anticipate was how much those two weeks would simultaneously drive me forward and relax me beyond my own belief. I’m even starting to say things like “it’s going to be fine” and “it’ll work itself out.”
Am I a hippy now? What is happening?!
I feel more proactive and positive than ever that I’m heading in the right direction. Subsequently, I’ve stopped beating myself up about not already being there and I’m trying to enjoy the ride. Anyway, back to my workaway experience…
What is a workaway experience?
I’d been intrigued by the idea of doing a workaway (going on a workaway? Vocab is a minefield) ever since I read this post on the Travelettes blog.
It’s a website that allows exchanges between families, NGOs, businesses, anyone needing some work doing and the people willing to do the work. Usually, people receive meals and accommodation in exchange for five hours of work, five days a week. It depends on VISA requirements but you can do this all over the world!
How awesome is that for people wanting to travel long term?!
The types of job totally vary, it’s an endless list. Normally, you can find an abundance of farming and manual labour as well as childcare and hostel work. However, I’ve also found lots of fantastic social media and marketing positions so you really never know until you look.
Securing the workaway position
I’d been looking at the workaway positions since May and was initially holding out for a social media role on the beaches of Andalucia. However, when the lady running this workaway experience became awful at replying, I knew I had to jump on another opportunity in Southern Spain while it was still available.
I applied for a second job and was accepted. Apparently, that’s pretty lucky! You can be just waiting for people to respond for weeks. Sometimes, they never will. Aww.
The most important thing to follow when securing a workaway experience is your gut. You sign no contracts (though I think you do for some privately, bit odd) and are not legally obligated to anything. This is what makes workaway so accessible but more uncertain.
I mean, if you pull out of tonnes of workaways you get crap reviews and are generally a crappy person, but no one’s going to sue your ass.
Tracie, my workaway host, had received fantastic reviews from so many people and was very quick to respond. She had an established business and was looking for more than one workawayer, so that confirmed it for me that it was a good way to go.
Arriving at The Hacienda Retreat AKA Paradise
If you didn’t know, Spain’s a fairly decent sized country. So, if you’re heading into the middle of the Spanish countryside then chances are it’s pretty rural. My travels to The Hacienda Retreat went something like this…
Fly to Malaga Airport > Bus to Granada >Walk 30 minutes to hotel > Stop overnight in a hotel > Walk 30 minutes to bus station > Bus to Huetor Empalme > Picked up by Tracie and drive half an hour.
I also got to meet the two other ladies I would be working with once I was picked up. And of course, in exchange for not being near a city, we were rewarded with pure beauty. Precise rows of olive trees covered the hills for miles in every direction, the sun was beaming but not boiling and the retreat was sheer heaven on earth.
The retreat included an old school house turned guest house, an old dormitory turned into our dorms and linen room, an outdoor yoga and meditation space, main guest house, commercial kitchen, pool and two yoga studios.
Take a look for yourself…
For the first day, we could just relax in the pool and explore the area. This would be one of the only times we had the place to ourselves and it was PERFECT.
I was anxious about so many things before this trip.
One was the fact I hadn’t worn a bikini in so long. I’m so pale with lumps of fat in all the wrong places. And I’m generally a weird and awkward person, but it didn’t matter in the slightest once I got there. There was no way I wasn’t going to make the most of being at The Hacienda. I mean… You’ve seen the photos, right? It is PARADISE.
It was honestly just a gorgeous day topped off by watching the sun do down with a bottle of wine on one of the main house’s balconies with new friends. Even if it all went wrong for the rest of the trip, it would have been worth it. That day would have made it worth it.
A day in the life
After a couple of days cleaning and tidying and getting everything ready for the guests, the guests arrived! It was mainly a small group of women from the UK and the very lovely yoga teacher was from the UK but now lives in Spain.
We also got to meet Che, the chef! Did I mention that not only was our food included in this workaway but we’d have a chef making all our food?!
Now, I’d done my very best to learn as much Spanish as possible before this trip. No joke, I was on a 30+ day streak on Duolingo before I arrived. We were told that the Chef, Che, couldn’t speak a lot of English, which is totally fair enough. I will hold my hands up every day of the week for being an ignorant Brit who really needs to learn another language.
And newsflash: Not everyone speaks English! Not even in Spain! But Che was pretty good at kitchen related English: eggs, cheese, hot, cold, knife, etc. and these words were, of course, the ones I had learnt in Spanish. Super.
Our tasks on this workaway were pretty easy tbh. We essentially just made sure the guests always had breakfast and general snacky supplies in their kitchen, and then set up and cleared away after brunch and dinner. That’s it really! And if we weren’t working, one of us could take part in the yoga. It was totally at the discretion of the teacher but like I said, he was just the loveliest man.
On the very last day, the group had a small party by the pool and invited us too. We could even add tunes to the playlist. Hah! I have just the worst taste in music. Luckily, ‘Everywhere’ by Fleetwood Mac turned out to be a crowd pleaser. That’s my kinda crowd!
Since there were three workawayers and only two shifts, we got a lot of time off during the week we were there. For example, I worked the Monday brunch shift, Tuesday dinner shift and had Wednesday off. Then I worked the Thursday brunch shift, etc.
Brunch shift was roughly 9am-2pm and the dinner shift was usually 6-10pm. I would start by going to the kitchen to see if Che needed help with anything, but usually, there were just some pots to wash. Then, I would go to the main house while the group was doing yoga to fill up their fridge with anything they might need for breakfast and fill the tea urns and set the table.
Brunch was at 11am and dinner was at 7pm, so when the group finished their yoga class we would also eat at the same time. So technically we had five-hour shifts, but an hour break in the middle to eat.
After the meal was over, we’d literally clean up everything in the main guest house and then head to the commercial kitchen where the food is cooked. I usually put on my music and just took my time washing up, it was quite relaxing. And then you’d be done!
What are my overall impressions from my first workaway experience?
I’m now itching to do another workaway experience. Oh man, it was so good. You really get to meet people from all over the world: one of the workaway ladies was from Germany and one was from Finland. I feel so confident that in the years to come I will see them both again. And Tracie and Che were such great people to work with.
I’m sure I’ve been spoiled for any other workaway experience I take part in, but I’m glad my first was so positive I want to do it again and again.
The work was also so easy and the shifts seemed super short. If I was living in a city, you could easily go out and site-see the rest of the time. And if you’re starting up a freelance business you could also do that on the road! It would be difficult to do that at The Hacienda because internet connection is non-existent in the dorms, but it could be possible elsewhere.
For me, my workaway experience was more about immersing myself in a different way of life, even for a short time and seeing how I handled it. The otherworldly sunsets and walks through olive fields refreshed me in a way I couldn’t predict. It felt totally normal to just pick figs off trees and eat them. And my new voyage into a mostly make-up free life felt totally normal.
Unpredictably, I just want more.
If I had slightly more savings, I could happily bum my way (not literally, I am v. privileged) around a continent doing workaways, making friends and growing my blog as an online business and seeing as much of the world as possible.
Oh jeez, I am a hippy.
Have you ever done a workaway experience before? Was it as positive as my first experience? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
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