Meet the couple making the most of their mid-life with their Workaway adventures!

Change brings opportunities, and when Mike and Kara became empty nesters, these two lept at the chance to have an epic grown-up gap year (or 8+ years to be accurate)!) of their own. Read on to find out more below about how they made this life-changing move and extended their adventures through Workaway, some fantastic budgeting tips, and how to start realising your own bucket list …
A collage of three photos: a woman sawing a plank in the sunshine, a man smiling while driving a tractor, and a woman standing in a red kitchen preparing a meal.
So where are you now? Tell us your travel story!
We're currently housesitting near Nice in the south of France, it’s a beautiful spot. We’re about a year into our travels; we were on holiday in Sri Lanka in December 2019, just before COVID hit. We only had a month there, and when we left we already wanted to go back.
We didn’t want to escape reality exactly, but we realised there's got to be more out there . We started looking at the places we wanted to visit, and the list was getting quite long! So we thought…
How can we make this happen? We basically got rid of everything; we kept our house and rented it out, but all we have left of our belongings are two plastic bins in Kara's parents' shed. It’s just going to be boxes of mice by the time we get back!
We realised that you don't need to keep things, it's just stuff. I don't think people really believed how long we were going for either. But they believe it now!
A group of three people walking along a sandy flat, a woman is turning back to smile at the camera. There are mountains and a blue sky in the distance.
What did your family and friends think?
It was funny, no one was being negative at all. But my family definitely didn't understand the extent of what we were doing until it was done. They were all saying have a nice holiday ...
They were not expecting a whole eight years or so! The biggest surprise has been Mike's son, Jack. He's been the most supportive of what we're doing, which is really, really cool.
He's in his early twenties and he is travelling himself. I was apprehensive about going to the other side of the world and leaving the kids at home, but we've been really lucky with that. He's going to meet us in Europe next year.
A group of three people smiling and posing by a stream in a valley. A woman with long red hair is standing in the middle, two men at each side both wearing sunglasses. It is a wintry day and they are wearing warm jackets and sunglasses.
Do you think you’ll do a Workaway with your kids?
Yes, we have actually done one with Jack in New Zealand, to get his Workaway profile up and running. We'll probably do another with him!
He's very encouraging of what we're doing, especially now he’s done some travelling himself and knows how much you learn and grow. We have had an amazing opportunity, we’re super lucky.
How do you get around?
In Morocco, we didn't have a vehicle. We used public transport, but we found it a little bit restricting. Being a bit older, we wanted the security of being able to pack up and leave straight away if things didn't go to plan.

In New Zealand, we were there for around ten months, so we bought a van and took advantage of all the free camping. We ended up selling the van at the end of the trip for the same amount we had bought it for, so we only paid for the running costs - it was definitely worthwhile. 
You also see a little bit more when you have your own car.
Yeah, we have just bought another vehicle here in France, and yesterday we drove about 5 or 6 km for a walk. We went through some bushes and stumbled across some old ruins. Those little moments are the reason why we're doing Workaway. After you’ve finished your hours helping the host, you’ve still got half a day to go and explore the local area. 
A black and white photo of a couple posing outside a large white campervan with mountains in the distance.
How do you make sure you stick to your budget?
I wanted to make sure that however long it took us to save, we travelled for longer. So if we took two years to save, I didn't want to travel for six months and that’d be the end of it. 

Kara came up with a budget, which seemed unrealistic at first, but it does seem to be working. Our budget was $50 AUD a day for the two of us. We use a really good app called Travel Spend which we use to track everything, from the incense sticks that Kara buys, to fuel … and beer. It’s a bit revealing sometimes! (You can check out more of Mike and Kara’s budgeting tips on their blog here!)
It's a really good way of making yourself accountable and honest. It’s also a good way of seeing where you've travelled and where your money actually goes. Sometimes it's easy to forget, you know, and get a bit excited!
A collage of two photos - a group of people working in a sunny vineyard, and a couple standing either side of a large bison in a field.
Did you travel when you were younger? How would you compare it to travelling now?
We didn't travel when we were younger. Not like, you know, backpacking.
Yeah, we've done holidays, but I think the longest I’d ever been away for was six weeks. This type of travelling is very different … we're basically old backpackers, without the backpacks!

When I started looking at Workaway, I actually thought that I might be too old to use the site. But actually, it's quite the contrary! Hosts like the maturity and intuition that you acquire with age, and the skills you’ve learnt.
We’re a bit more in the moment, a little more sensible maybe … just having a few more years on younger travellers, and knowing how to do certain things, means you've got a bit more common sense behind you... most of the time!    
A man and a woman standing back to back in a kitchen each holding ingredients. They are smiling in a slightly goofy way at the camera and are clearly having fun.

So from your experience, Workaway is not just for twenty-somethings?
Definitely not, no.
It's amazing. Workaway is the best thing we did.
One thing we didn't realise beforehand is how important it was to connect with people. I think the hosts we've had have been amazing because they have travelled themselves. 
You're in their homes and their lives, so you can't help but connect with them. We've found a lot of hosts who are travellers that can't travel at the moment. They're inviting people in to get that essence at home, so they can still see the world without travelling.
We’ve seen beautiful places, but it's connecting with those people when you're in their home and they're cooking you food, which is just … yeah, it's amazing. You can’t go to cafes and restaurants with our budget, it's not something we do often. So when you actually have a home-cooked meal from someone, oh, it's the best.
A woman bent over in a leafy green vegetable patch, hard at work. She is wearing summer clothes and a large floppy straw hat.
What would your biggest piece of advice be to people who want to start travelling the way that you do? 
Just do it. A lot of our friends said, ‘Oh, I wish I could do that’, but they can! In fact, some of the hosts that we've stayed with have spent a long period, at least a year, travelling the world with multiple kids.

The last host we stayed with said that their favourite ever photo, their best memory, was of their two youngest children sitting on the beach doing their homework, halfway around the world from home. 
It is possible, anyone can take time out of their normal life and the kids out of school to just go and explore the world. It's all well and good to say, ‘Oh, do it when the kids leave home, or when we've got a bit more money saved, or when the house is paid off’. But you never know what's going to happen.

Maybe I personally wouldn't have done it any earlier, because I feel like we're at a really good time in our lives to fully appreciate travelling. But the worst thing that can happen is you don't enjoy it, and then you just go home to your normal life.
A collage of three photos: a woman working on a metal structure in a field, a man digging a hole with a large shovel, and a woman in a studio building a clay oven.
Tell me about some of your favourite destinations or experiences!
My favourite would be when we went to the Sahara Desert. It’s been on my bucket list since I was a kid. 

But there are so many, we’ve been to at least ten or twelve hosts now. We even went back to New Zealand - we’re both from there, but we have lived in Australia for the last 15 or 20 years. Travelling in our home country through Workaway was a really unique experience because we saw a lot more of it than native New Zealanders normally would.
I don't know what mine is! We’ve been to so many, and you start thinking about it, and it might not be the place, but the people …
A man and woman smiling and posing for the camera in a sandy desert. The sun beats down from behind, both are wearing headscarves and dark sunglasses.
Do you have a favourite host?
We met and we just clicked. His profile said he had a wife but she wasn’t there when we arrived, so at first, we didn’t believe she existed. We thought he had enticed us there under false pretences! We did meet her in the end, it was very funny.
It was a really good, solid Workaway experience. It was the epitome of what a Workaway should be. He was the host we stayed with for the longest, right through the lockdown.. at one point, I think he had 13 Workawayers at once!
Oh, no one had anywhere to go because of the lockdown. So he was just like, come in! We were there with two other Workawayers, so we got to connect with other people from around the world, which was really cool. Being in lockdown, you were sort of isolated, so it was nice to be with other people. He was one of our first Workaways and he cemented the idea that there were cool opportunities to be had through the site. He’s been hosting for a long time, he is just an amazing man who had some awesome stories. 
We could say so much about all the hosts that we've had, they've all been wonderful. That's one thing we didn't realise is that when you're travelling, you actually say goodbye a lot. You make these new friendships, then you actually have to say goodbye realising that you're probably not going to cross paths again. 

But a lot of our Workaway hosts we still keep in contact with, and they’ll follow us on Instagram. So they're still seeing our journey and what we're up to.
Having an online presence means our actual family can also follow what we're doing… and know that we're still alive! A lot of them don’t travel, so they get to see the world vicariously through us.
A group of five people posing outside on a deck in the dark. They are grouped closely together and are wearing winter working clothes.
Do you ever plan to stop travelling? Have you got an end date in mind?
Not an end date. If we stick to our budget, we've got about another seven years. Workaway has turned a potential two-year trip into six to eight years, so it's really given us both the means and a purpose to travel.
There is so much to see and do, and every place you go you're learning something new , which is amazing. 
Yeah, that's something that we hadn't really anticipated the extent of. We're not the sort of people that can sit around still for too long. We had been renovating our own home before we left, and we’ve used those skills and continued to share them with other people. 

I think we'll definitely get to a point where we want to settle down again and become Workaway hosts ourselves, but we don't know where in the world that might be! 
A smiling couple posing in front of a blue lagoon in a salt flat. It is very sunny and they are both wearing hats and sunglasses. Behind them are mountains and a clear blue sky.

Wherever you end up, we're sure you will make amazing hosts!

What do you think about Mike and Kara’s story? Check out the video below for the full interview and find out more about their experiences ... or if you’re ready to take the plunge and start your own adventure, click to  sign up here!

travelling as a familysabbaticalmid-career breakgap year

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