I found my second workaway experience a lot more successful than the first. This is partly because I became accustomed to the Workaway lifestyle, but mainly because the work was better suited to my abilities.
I worked at a children’s summer camp on an organic farm in Thamsbrueck, central Germany. The hosts were amazing and really got to know me, treating me as a person rather than just an employee. I really got insight into their way of life, and was more than happy to work for them. They made a real effort to show me around the area, and I had the weekend off as well as plenty of time to relax and enjoy the sunshine.
The pace really suited me, as the atmosphere was very relaxed and they allowed me to have breaks in between my work (which was really just washing and clearing up and helping prepare meals, I didn’t find it hard or difficult). I felt that, unlike my previous workaway, this was a true exchange with benefits for both parties. I loved teaching the children felting and jewellery making, and playing with the rabbits was certainly the best part of my day. I even got to spend a night in a tent inside a barn, so I can now say I’ve camped in Germany! I shared a room most of the time, and I actually miss that a lot. It’s weird not having a whole conversation about everything I do!
It was a truly wonderful experience, and everything I had hoped it would be. For a successful workaway, I recommend doing something you already have experience in, and going for a shorter time to make sure it’s a good way for you to travel. Since the hosts often live in rural areas, research travel connections and find out the nearest option for you to stay if your workaway doesn’t work out. But I don’t want to be too negative because my week there showed me how wonderful workaway can be!
I finished my first Workaway a week ago, and although I had a good time, it was not quite the experience I had expected it to be.
Workaway is an opportunity for people to volunteer in exchange for food and accomodation. The maximum number of working hours is 6 per day, with usually 2 days off a week.
I did at least 6 hours a day in the hotel. There was one week I was not even given one full day off, let alone two. At best, we had one day and 2 half days off and we sometimes had to do the work of the paid staff on top of what we normally did.
The work was quite hard, but the worst part of the experience was having hosts who were not interested in interacting with the volunteers. They were unappreciative, which is discouraging if you’re a volunteer. Rather than having the freedom I was so excited about, there were only certain days we were allowed out in the morning before work, and we were never allowed out after 9.30pm in the evening. They promised me I would be speaking lots of German, but only English was spoken in the workplace.
I did, however, learn a lot from my time there. Sharing a small apartment with people from around the world – America, Thailand and Australia – gave me a new perspective on travelling and working. I did have free time to explore the beautiful Black Forest, and I loved being able to go out alone and just walk in any direction. The area was beautiful, and had good transport connections despite being so rural.
I did get a bit sick of the trees though – they really blocked the view!
I can look positively on my first workaway. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I met some really wonderful and inspirational people and got to see a different lifestyle. I feel that I can’t complain too much as I did receive free accommodation and food for a month! My advice for anyone starting workaway for the first time would be to ask questions and communicate as much as possible with your host before you go there. I would also recommend a shorter stay for your first workaway, maybe 2 or 3 weeks, as there is less pressure when it is a shorter time.
On my day off last week, I went to Freiburg. I promise I’m not antisocial, but it can get quite crowded in our apartment so it was lovely to have a day to myself!
I really enjoyed seeing all the famous parts of the town. The market is lovely, and fantastic if you just want somewhere to walk around. One of the more unusual things I notice about Freiburg is the small rivers and streams in small gutters exposed in the street. People were dipping their feet in them!
I had to visit the cathedral, as it is one of the most famous sites in Freiburg. I wasn’t disappointed: it is very impressive from the outside and beautiful inside. Something I noticed was that it was strange, going sightseeing alone. While normally I love seeing cities by myself, this time I kept thinking that my parents or some of my friends would really enjoy it.
I then went to an Italian ice cream parlour, because Freiburg is one of the sunniest places in Germany and can get really hot in the afternoons! I sat and watched people taking photos of the cathedral, and at that point really appreciated my solitude.
Lastly, I decided to walk up Schlossberg, a park on a hill overlooking the town. It’s very impressive and the views are amazing!
I’m really settling into my Workaway placement here in Feldberg. There are four volunteers in total and our accommodation has a definite ‘summer camp’ atmosphere!
My trips out are a lot more fun with other volunteers. On our first day off, we walked to Bärental. It’s the closest town to where we’re staying, and has some lovely walking trails.
The best part about this area is being able to walk everywhere. And, even though the forest is beautiful, it does completely block the view. I’m staying at Ben Nevis height, but can’t really see anything until I’m even higher!
I’ve been using my time off to explore the area. A particular highlight was Windgfällweiher, a lake very close to the hotel. It really reminded me of Scotland, and I’m getting a lot more comfortable with swimming in lakes!
I’ve been in the Black Forest for over a week now, and have completely settled into the rhythm of my work here. On a Workaway placement, you volunteer abroad and receive meals and accommodation, as well as enough time off to go and visit the area you’re staying in.
The first few days were quite hard, as I was the only volunteer, but it was an excellent chance to speak German and get to know my host family. It was also lovely to have time to explore the area myself and I’m pleased to have seen a lot of the places on my list already!
The hotel I’m working at is completely surrounded by forest. It’s very beautiful, and I would absolutely describe it as being in a fairytale.
I went to the Falkau waterfall, which was a pretty walk, but I found the waterfall a bit disappointing! I’m sure it’s more impressive in Spring with the snowmelt.
And of course, I’ve already had some of the local beer, Rothaus. Apparently, it’s very high quality for a small local brewery.
The last few days in Switzerkand were lovely. The old town was very beautiful, with views right over the city. For the first time I learnt that Zurich was an important town in Roman times, which has given me plenty more ideas of places to visit.
I ended my time in Zurich with a trip to Clouds, the restaurant in the Prime Tower. It was the tallest building in Switzerland when it was first built!
On my last day, I took the train to Solothurn to visit a Scottish friend who was also saying in Switzerland with relatives! It prepared me for the long but fantastic train journey to the Black Forest, where I am now doing a Workaway placement for two months.
It has been more than a year since I last posted an update, but I’m really happy to be updating the blog again. I’m having a really exciting year and I want to share some of what is happening at the moment.
2017 has already been amazing. I spent a week in Berlin with my friend Vivien and had the chance to see some of the Berlin districts and go to places I wouldn’t immediately think of. This was my fourth time in Berlin, but it’s great to see some new places there (as well as revisit my favourite ones). Some highlights were Prenzlauerberg and the older parts of Berlin such as the Nikolaiviertel, which are quieter areas of Berlin away from most tourists.
I’ve also had a couple of ‘holidays at home,’ spending a week in a guesthouse in Beauly near Inverness at Easter time and then another week camping near Dingwall in May. I love travelling in Scotland because I feel there are beautiful places to visit, gorgeous beaches and impressive history, just a few hours away from Glasgow. Having grown up with a membership to the National Trust for Scotland, I’ve discovered that I still love to visit castles and historic sites, just like I did as a child. Camping is always lovely and relaxing as well, although it is weather-dependent and we had to leave a day early because the ground had turned to marsh!
I also had a really wonderful opportunity to go to a conference at the Goethe Institut London for a day! It was a long day of train travel, and I was completely exhausted by the end of it, but it was so worth all the travelling because I spoke so much German and I was even able to see some of London! I love walking through cities on my own, because I can take my time and feel really anonymous. I felt really independent, particularly as I only got lost once!
Tomorrow is the start of a year filled with adventures, starting with a week in Zurich in Switzerland. I’m thrilled to be keeping a blog to update on everything that is happening and to keep track of all my experiences this year.