I am traveling South America as a woofer, which means I am working for roof – in other words volunteering for food and accommodation. I am a member on the platform named ‚helpx‚, that provides many opportunities for travelers to work and travel. Platforms like helpx or workaway offer a range of places that need help with work.
There are many advantages when traveling this way:
- spending more time with locals (no tourist attraction marathon)
- getting to know the area you stay and live in
- no constant journey planning
- no hop on hop of buses
- making friends, because you are able to spend more than just a few days with the people around
- having unique experiences and getting the opportunity to discover new fields of work (I share with you my new experiences in my Project summaries on this page)
- saving a LOT! of money
To the last point:
when traveling, most of the money from your savings goes to food, accommodation and transport.
Souvenirs, clothes, postcards, alcohol, candy, your special treats and bad habits – that’s something I would consider as luxury. Other categories are cosmetics – shampoo, soap, toothpaste… but that’s minor expenses. Always keep in mind that something might get stolen or something breaks, so of course you need some extra savings just in case.
Your Host when volunteering will provide you with food and accommodation. So you don’t need to spend money on that at all.
Again: That’s where you spend most of your money. Seeing it from the Hosts perspective: For them it’s you that makes it worthwhile for them and vise versa. If both parties are aware of this, it’ll be a blast!
I imagine that it’s also lucrative for the Host to invite a Helper to his place: No wages to pay at all. Plus, he can ask the Helper to work wherever work is needed.
I actually prefer saying ‚volunteer‘ instead of ‚work‘, because that’s really what it is. All the ‚work‘ I do, I do voluntary.
If I don’t like the place, I change my plans and leave. No working contracts, just an agreement based on trust.
This all comes back to intercultural exchanges, learning from other people, sharing experiences, having conversations about topics you would never have thought of back home, and last but not least:
meeting people on your way, every now and then, that are similar to you in a way.
Why did they decide to go travel? Do they also have a website or blog? Where do they go and where do they come from? Thinking about this, you start reflecting your own actions and thoughts trying to see the whole picture. It’s like putting pieces of a puzzle together. No wonder many people say that after a long journey they feel different, or even appear to be different to others. More ‚experienced‘. It’s because
the journey is not just a journey like a holiday trip. It’s also a journey to your true self.
And that’s what I want to share with you on my website. Because not everyone has the privilege to take a journey like this. (Honestly speaking, I could dive in deeper to this topic, but I won’t for now – what’s your opinion?)
MUCHAS GRACIAS CASA BOTHA!
My first volunteering – a summary, and what I’ve leaned…I am writing this as a short story, because I know that my Hosts daughter Joy which I made good friends with likes these.
click on the collage for full size view
When speaking to my Host David on the phone for the first time, I knew nothing about his place. To be honest, my first question to him was „do you speak English?“ – not knowing that he was a native from South Africa. If something could embarrass me, this would be one thing – but I consider it being funny more than embarrassing.
„Yes, you can come to my place, take the bus to Casablanca, switch to a local bus that goes direction Santiago and hop out at Kilometer 68. My Restaurant is right at the highway.“
That sounds like an adventurous trip I thought.
But I managed without a problem.
Crossing the highway with a backpack is a bit dodgy, a thing I never would have done in Germany. But hey, I survived. When I arrived in the restaurant, the first to welcome me was Charles Bronson – one of Davids dogs. Then we sat down on the terrace outside, and he introduced all types of different dishes to me: Ceviche, Tartar Atun, a mixed Salad, meat, potatoes, creme brulee, white wine, red wine –
„we have to finish all these opened bottles“,
he said. And after an extended lunch with a long talk and getting to know each other all the bottles and plates were empty and we were full. I spent my first two nights in the restaurant and after that his daughter Joy arrived with her travel companion Jade from England. They both were on an extended holiday trip through countries in the north of Chile for some weeks, and
raving about Ecuador, nature, people, home stays, Spanish lessons and hikes in the jungle.
In the afternoon of the third day I got invited to come and stay in their house. David built both the house and the restaurant himself. When arriving at the house I thought
„wow, this looks like a giant turkish lamp.“
Many windows in different colours and shapes, a lot of wood, a big space in the middle of nowhere in the hills of Casablanca. We got out of the car and had one dog after another welcoming us. „David, how many dogs do you actually have?“ I asked. „Nine.“ Nine dogs? I wondered where they all came from.
„I rescued them. They came to me. This is Jude, she came to me starving and dying by rat poisoned food. This is Charles Bronson, he came to me as a puppy running after our car. Bob Marley was waiting patiently at the gate for three days until I decided to rescue him. The people here drop their dogs off at the road and leave them there. They just don’t care. If I left the dogs there, I would just be as bad as these people are. Celeste, she came to me covered in blue paint. That’s why I named her Celeste, because she was blue like the sky. And then the other dogs… Mitchy and Babe, both imported from South Africa ten years ago when David moved to Chile. Blacky, one more old dog in the dogs Armee, and Sirius, the Police Woman that stays up at night making sure everyone’s safe. And the last one – he joined the crew recently, Hush Puppy. He’s an old dog as well, very loyal.
The dogs were wonderful. I love being with animals, and I’ve never had the chance to have my own dog. David has a big property with more than enough space for the dogs to run around, chase rabbits and be free.
At that time no one of us knew that I was about to be staying for so long.
My intention was to spend some days and research to find my next destination. My initial plan was to travel further north to get to the Bolivian border. In the meantime I helped out in the house with some gardening and watering plants or cleaning the kitchen and sweeping, vacuuming the living room. Also I worked restaurant sweeping and mobbing the floor, setting the tables, cleaning the glasses behind the bar, well – all that needs to be done in a restaurant. I worked side by side with Joy and Jade and we had a great time together talking, laughing, working, joking around, helping each other, giving travel advice, sharing ideas and finally we all agreed that I actually could stay longer.
„We love your energy. You are a very big help to us. You can stay as long as you want, Miri.“
– Probably the most wonderful compliment on my journey and motivation for making the best of it so far. Thank you again, David and Joy, for your hospitality and generosity. And thank you Jade for the accompany.
In the end I stayed for five weeks. Joy took me to the movies in Viña, to the beach, to visit Pablo Nerudas House, and we met her friends, we helped Angela & Marco who own a winery in the same area with labeling their wine bottles. David took me and Jade to Cecilias Chicken Farm. Thanks to him I can call myself a former waitress of Casa Botha now as well, serving tables, taking orders, in English as well as in Spanish, and on my last evening cooking cookies with no other than himself in the restaurant kitchen. I had the chance to speak to quite a few interesting and even popular people there. Chilean actors, pilots, embassadors, and many travelers from all over the world.
What did I learn?
- be patient, don’t rush. Don’t force yourself to do something you were planing on doing if it’s not the time for it yet
- trust in your intuition
- stay positive
- be generous, appreciate what’s been given to you and give it back somehow
- serve in a restaurant and speak Spanish to the costumers
- how to operate a debit machine
- what’s the perfect mixture for mobbing wooden floors (don’t use too much olive oil)
- how to serve people
- enjoy food and wine and not say no to what’s being offered (although I think looking back one of my challenges was actually learning to say no, which I didn’t accomplish. Haha…)
- don’t worry, just pet a dog and it’ll be fine.
- have a closer look and listen more carefully to what people try to show or tell you. It is useful in most cases because there’s a reason why they tell it to YOU.
- finding new ways to work on my blog, being introduced to new tools that inspire to continue on my project
Things I’ve done for the first time:
- working in a Restaurant in Chile
- living with a South African family in Chile
- experiencing what it’s like to live with nine dogs
- having a dog staying in my bed overnight
- self made gnocchi
- labeling wine bottles on a winery
- experiencing a traditional brazilian barbecue
- going hiking with dogs
- making my own cortado
- having a taste of the best wine in the region
- finishing a bottle of gin with an english woman at night and…
- …teaching her how to draw mandalas
- designing menues with my artwork
For those who scrolled down to the bottom of this story:
The bottom line is: I could not have had a better beginning for my Southern American adventure.
This stay gave me a lot of confidence, and an overall positive view on things. I serve the ‚postre‘, the desert now to my volunteer colleagues in the Hostel – my present location. I know how to treat others and make them feel like Madams and Sirs because that’s how I’ve been treated at Casa Botha. Thank you Sir for this wonderful lifetime experience. This sentence, David, I can fill in for you: „You’re welcome, Mam. You’re welcome…“
// SNEAK PEAKS
Designing Restaurant Menues
Casablanca, Chile, November 2015
Recently I’ve been given the opportunity to design the Casa Botha Menues. It will come out in spanish and english. Every single one will look different. All with mandalas, do you like what you see?
STREET ART FEAT. TIKUTOPIK
In: Valparaiso, Chile, November 2015
What do you think?
Tikutopik is a street artist from France who came with his friends to work and travel in South America. We met in the Pata Pata Hostel in Valparaiso. I saw his art and was impressed! I showed him my Mandalas and he invited me to join a day of painting one of the many walls of Valparaiso, the Street Art paradise in Chile. I already put some of my favourite pieces on the Street Art page. This one I saved for my Project page. It shows the first project I was involved in: My Mandalas on the wall in Valparaiso. The big blue Monster was made by him and his friend. I added the Mandalas as a frame and background. It took us about 2 hours, including painting the wall orange first. Hope you like it! Go visit his page for more of his monsters! He’s got a huge family on his flickr account! Thanks to TikutopiK for the chance to get involved in some street art experiment.
TIKUTOPIKS STREET ART MONSTERS: https://www.flickr.com/photos/130432684@N02/