Helping to Build an off-grid Earthship home through Workaway

As travellers and workawayers, of course we hope to discover the world while leaving a positive and lasting impact during our journeys! But where do we start? With the numerous natural building and eco-projects popping up around the world, it is no longer a distant dream to get involved and learn how to build something useful and sustainable - especially with the guidance of experienced Workaway hosts. We were super inspired by the workaway Duo David and Austin’s experience building an Earthship in a beautiful part of rural Turkey from scratch, and we’re excited to share it with you all too!


The beginning of Erdem's Earthship

After flying out of Istanbul we arrived in Izmir where we plan to stay for the next 2 or so months. After landing we were greeted warmly by our Workaway host Erdem and his identical twin brother Levent, visiting from Germany. We immediately felt comfortable and welcome around them and spent our first evening in Erdem’s home with lots of laughter and a delicious dinner on the 5th floor terrace. The next day we travelled to his recently purchased plot of land located 40 kilometers from Izmir in the mountains near a small village where we will volunteer.


We toured the land and Erdem proudly introduced us to his realized fantasy/exciting new project: the Earthship (or Erdship, as he calls it). There will ultimately be two structures: one small house and one larger house that can also be used as an event space. The earthship is a low-cost, ecological building concept that utilizes reclaimed/recycled materials (namely old car tires filled with rammed earth, cement, deconstructed ship wood and glass bottles). From what we understand the earthship can be an accessible way to create a home while minimizing production costs and impact on the earth.


Learning about sustainable and self-sufficient building

Erdem is building the structures to fit into the landscape. Before our arrival he hired a backhoe to take a big bite out of the earth on a south facing slope of his property. He then began to make the walls of the structure, packing tires with earth using a sledgehammer, with help from Levent and some local labourers. The home is built into the slope of the land which will keep the structure at a constant temperature year round. This is where we came in, just in time to continue sledgehammering and stacking tires.


Currently the land is in need of some loving attention. There are grape vines, quince, and beautiful fig and olive trees, but the dry heat of the summer and heavy rains of the winter have washed away ground soil leaving only dust and rocks. Erdem has plans to plant soil-enriching flora and manage the land in a way that will restore its health.

We both find inspiration in Erdem’s excitement about this project and his ability to take action, to create and keep moving forward even though he’s never built a house before. It’s like he’s unburdened by a need for perfection or fear of making mistakes and isn’t afraid to learn as he goes or not be an expert. It is heavy work, but we do it together and the emphasis on fun and learning makes it lighter.


An excursion with our new family

We’ve spent the last week in a tiny village called Emek on the Marmara Sea. We are enjoying a mini-vacation with Levent and his mother at the cottage where Levent and Erdem spent their summers growing up. Austin thinks this is heaven. We have been hitchhiking to nearby towns, snorkeling, harvesting figs from trees, meeting so many kind people and we even went skin diving for a dinner of mussels!


Our Earthship days with Erdem lasted for 3 months and we have had a pretty great time. Apart from building the Earthship, we’ve also gotten to help make wine (with a local DJ spinning records as we hung out and ate delicious fried sardines), pick walnuts and olives, and found hidden spots to admire incredible views of the sea. We have made friends with Erdem’s neighbours on the land and many street dogs that are very sweet. Erdem's neighbor Emin is the nicest guy you can meet - we slept at his place most nights and he stopped by often for breakfast. He also took us for rides in his purple convertible jeep and we got to visit his wife's veterinary clinic and shared delicious meals cooked over a wood fire.

In between our stay we travelled to Istanbul, explored the Lycian way, discovered small nearby beaches and even stayed at Erdem’s family beach house for a week. 

We are so happy to have met Erdem's family and friends and spent time with them. They definitely attract positive and interesting people!  


A barbershop portrait with the family

Huge thanks to workawayers David and Austin for letting us share their blog! Check out their blog for more of their travels around Turkey!


​​​​​​​“We are David and Austin and we have left our jobs in the USA to travel, eat, work and meet people in Spain and beyond. We are hoping to learn Spanish, walk el Camino de Santiago and embrace whatever experiences come our way… Although we haven’t done a lot of construction/farming/carpentry, we are not afraid to get our hands dirty and we are very eager to learn. With a little guidance we catch on quickly. We are community minded and enjoy being around other people, but we are also comfortable working independently.”

eco buildingsustainable travel

About Contributor

We are so glad to have an active community of travellers and hosts who’ve been inspired by their Workaway experiences and want to share with us! Be it a funny story, interesting insights or helpful ti... show more...

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