Taking a gap year in your 50’s

At Workaway, we absolutely love getting to know you all whether it be meeting on the road, hearing stories through emails or by actually going on a Workaway trip ourselves. We couldn’t be prouder to be involved in such an inspiring community of travellers! So we just had to share some of your stories you tell us!

This month we talk to our Workawayer(s) of the month, Sue, 56-year-old, who is currently unemployed after her boss said “Mexico or job?” (Mexico won!) and her husband Adrian, a 50-year-old self-employed electrical contractor and all round lovers of life and travel!

couple travels after retirement
Hey guys, we are so excited to talk to you and learn about your adventures. What was your first workaway placement and what kind of work did it involve?
Sue & Adrian:
Our first placement via Workaway was at a place called Huayacocotla (pronounced “Why-a- co-cot-la) in Mexico – we stayed there for just over three weeks.
Adrian:
My work included sanding, varnishing a chest of drawers, altering some support legs for a raised vegetable garden, cleaning off the old paint and re-painting a 300 year old chapel.
Sue:
I trimmed some to the topiary animals in the garden, a little bit of cooking in the house – I introduced the hosts to my egg muffins! Luckily, they really liked them! I also helped Adrian on the chapel repainting.
workaway silver surfer age travel
So how did you first hear about our website?
Sue & Adrian:
We first heard about Workaway after reading a magazine article in the UK. It was written by a well-known presenter in the UK. She was asked how she spent the long, dark winter months…. One of the things she wrote was that she often logged onto the Workaway website and dreamed of warmer countries, working with local people and learning more about their culture and customs. Intrigued, I had a look at the website…
We have to admit this is what we do in winter too! How did you decide on the destination?
Sue & Adrian:
As we knew we wanted to visit Mexico for three months, this seemed an ideal scenario for us too! We have visited Mexico for many years (we even married in Mexico City six years ago!) but wanted to have a closer look and better understanding of the Mexican way of life. It’s fine travelling to a country but to understand the people’s everyday lives should be an important factor too.
What other countries have you visited together? And how do you feel travelling with Workaway is different from other forms of travel?
Sue & Adrian:
We have visited many different parts of the world – Sri Lanka, India, South Africa, USA and many parts of Europe. Yes, you can meet local people…. On buses, restaurants, sitting in a city park but these are fleeting moments, hours – if you’re lucky like us, be invited into someone’s home for a meal, but these are still short lived moments (by the way, we are still in touch with the Iranian family we met in Istanbul who invited us for a meal!). With Workaway, you get time to build a new relationship in a natural and free manner as you get to know your host/s. If you are lucky, (as we were!) your host will show you things in the local area that tourists/travellers will never see!
locals experience travel lifelong friendship
Do you ever miss anything from home or have any bad travel experiences?
Sue & Adrian:
We were not ill, did not miss anything back home…. With the small exception of missing our grandchildren occasionally (we missed our granddaughters first birthday – oops!) but that was alleviated by the use of FaceTime and Skype twice a week! Our hosts helped me enormously with my Spanish language – which raised my confidence as we continue to travel through Mexico.
How about funny things that have happened while living in a non-English speaking country?
Sue & Adrian:
I also asked for cocaine ice cream (helado coca) at the beach one day instead of coconut ice cream (helado coco). The look on the seller’s face let me know I’d made a BIG mistake….!
Oh, whoops! You must have lots of tips for other travellers, what are your must-haves while travelling?
Sue & Adrian:
Two really good things we brought with us that may help others are:
​​​​​​​1. Rechargeable emergency power supply – about £20 on Amazon for example. Especially useful on long bus trips.
2. A small speaker for our iPhone to play our music (as we worked)! 😉
house renovation workaway

And how about some quick-fire bits of advice for our Workawayers?
Sue & Adrian:
Give the best of yourself (you are representing your country!)
Enjoy it! Many “wish” to do this but don’t. You are lucky enough to be trusted by a complete stranger in their home, don’t ruin it for others.
Be open and honest with your host – they are not mind readers!
Get to know your host – it’s not a one-way exchange. They are interested in you, your country, your experiences!
And if you’re lucky like us, your host may just become your newest friend for life.
Last but not least, LAUGH AND SMILE!
Guys, we absolutely love your mindset! What are you next travel plans?
Sue & Adrian:
We are currently travelling south through Mexico. A lot of places were suggested by our host but we also had an idea of where we wanted to go. Our timescales have changed frequently. If we enjoy a place, for example, Campeche, we have lingered a little longer. Our only fixed date is the dreaded flight home – 9th June. On this trip we have visited Mexico City, Monarch Butterfly reserve (Cerro Pelon), Huaya (as us locals call it!) Papantla, El Tajin, Tecolutla, Xalapa, Villahermosa, Campeche (recommendation – visit Edzná!)…. Mérida for two weeks (staying with our host’s daughter and family for a few days – we met them in Huaya too) then hopefully Chetumul, Tikal in Guatamala, Oaxaca, Mexico City (we may be staying with some friends of our host who we also met in Huaya). And home! Boo! We plan to do Workaway again in two years time when we go to India for three/four months.

A lot of people think that Workaway is only for the young, but this wonderful couple has just proved to us that travelling and volunteering is also for the young at heart. It’s so inspiring to learn about how people push against boundaries to follow their dream and passion for life..Thanks very much again to Sue and Adrian for the interview!

Are you also an inspired Workawayer hoping to spread the love? If you want to be featured as our next Workawayer of the Month, email us!

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