Meet the workawayer travelling through 100 countries and building incredible friendships

‘Travel’s not a choice, it’s a lifestyle!’ It sounds like a slogan on a tacky t-shirt in an airport gift shop, but it’s true; especially if you choose to travel the Workaway way, and do things a bit differently. Lei’s long term travel goals are ambitious to say the least - ten years, non-stop, through one HUNDRED countries! We managed to catch our latest Workawayer of the month, and whirlwind of a wanderer, for a quick chat about her unexpected encounters on the road, lifelong friendships she’s made along the way, and how to experience the world with a trusting heart…
Where are you right now?
I’m in the South of Turkey staying at a lavender farm. It’s very interesting because I've never done anything like this before. I've been to other farms, like vegetable farms and animal farms, but never a flower farm! Today was very exciting because it was my first day. 
Working in the fields was very interesting, and the smell! Even though it's not the season yet, every time you touch the plants, this wonderful smell comes out. We were just digging out the weeds and preparing the soil and it was a very, very nice day.
Workawayer working in the fields on a sunny day at a lavender farm in Turkey
How did your big round-the-world adventure begin? 
I made a big plan a few years ago to travel around the world for ten years. My goal is to visit 100 countries during this period. I started my journey and left Brazil about five years ago, and I've been using Workaway for the last four years. 
So I'm half way through! I've been to 46 countries now. I'm still very excited - sometimes it feels like I've just started, so I’m really happy to see my adventures continue!

Related blog post: 10 things to do right now to achieve your travel goals next year

collage of workawayer lei in various volunteer projects
Has there been any particular project you’d like to highlight where you have learned a lot?
In March 2020, I was in the Czech Republic during the first COVID lockdown, and I stayed with this family for almost four months. Everyone was so uncertain and nervous about what was going to happen, but this family was so amazing. 
Fergus is British and his wife is Czech, and they have a daughter, who was twelve at the time. I was helping them with construction, renovating their apartment… gardening, too. They were always teaching me something new every day and I learned so much about so many different things. 

They both encouraged me to try some art projects, which I have never done before, and I didn't know I could! We started making dried flower collages, it needs a lot of patience and time. But they would just keep telling me, ‘Oh, you can do it. It's going to be great!’ The whole time they were so supportive, and they turned out so nice! They asked me to make more and I ended up making five or six really big ones. 
It was amazing for me to discover something new, and also discover people that were like a family, by my side. They are wonderful people and we’ve stayed great friends. It was an incredible experience. 
workaway artwork two framed pressed flower collages
What has it been like travelling through Europe at the moment?  
I have seen a lot of things, and many of them surprised me a lot. You can watch the news, you see what's going on, and you’re aware of the situation, but it’s different seeing it in person.
I was travelling in Hungary and I passed by the train station, and there was a huge amount of people coming from Ukraine, looking for help. Two things surprised me - the sheer amount of people, but also how organised and helpful the government of Hungary was. Everything was sectioned into different areas like healthcare, documents, food, and there were so many people there trying to help . That was a big moment for me, because I was not expecting it.  
Workawayer teaching English to a group of students in a classroom in Ukraine
When you're on the road constantly, how do you maintain your friendships and balance that with your other responsibilities? Do you ever get homesick?
Right at the beginning of my travels, during the first few months, I remember wondering ‘Oh, what's going on? What is this feeling?’, and then I realised I was homesick. 
It's a bit tricky, but that’s why Workaway is a great thing for me. I try to spend a whole month in every country I visit so I can really experience the culture and connect with the people.
I always volunteer with a local family for about three weeks, so I can learn about their country from them. I try to put my things in order and get organised during the three weeks when I’m volunteering. It’s mostly answering emails, keeping in touch with all the great people I've met all over the world, or writing about my travels. It allows me to settle down at my host’s place as well, because it's quite a rushed routine changing countries every month. But it works for me!
Then I travel around for about one week, ten days and explore - I mostly go to the countryside and smaller places. I try to write on my blog everyday. It's easy because so many things happen, every day it’s something new! I hitchhike to different spots, like a small town, or sometimes a bridge or a particular place. 
I try to keep up with my blogging, so I don’t forget anything. My friends, family and people I meet on the road also use it to keep tabs on where I am and what I’m up to!
Group of volunteers posing for a photo at a refugee shelter in Bosnia & Herzegovina
What was your most unexpected moment of connection?
I've been very lucky with my travels and my Workaways. I have met so many amazing people everywhere I’ve been . It has happened a few times!
I was in Poland at a permaculture farm, and it was a beautiful, very peaceful place to be. There was a couple; and especially the lady, Camilla; we got along so well, so fast. It was like we had known each other for such a long time. I admire her so much for her strength, and her great heart - they both have great hearts. We were always exchanging secrets, and we talked about how it felt as if we had known each other for such a long time. It was amazing. 
Also very recently I was in Romania and I met a lady, Gabriela. I was helping her with her dog who has some special care needs. It was like she was my friendship soulmate - had so much in common when we were talking, I felt like I was talking to a mirror. She was such a lovely lady and we're still in contact all the time. I know it sounds cliché, but for me that’s how it was. 
I found someone who I could be friends with forever, or for a long time. But it happened quite often, I have to say. Many, many places I’ve been to, it's been so difficult to leave! It's hard to say goodbye. I’ve cried many times.

Related blog post: 10 Tips and Resources to Meet People While Travelling Solo

Workawayer posing with a family in the sunshine at a permaculture place in Poland
What have you discovered about yourself as you travel? 
Even before I was a very independent person, but through travelling I realised that I'm stronger than I thought . A lot of unexpected things happened to me all the time, and I have learned how to deal with them. I had no idea that I could be so strong, and make the right decisions when I needed to.
Most importantly, try to always see the bright side of everything, even when it's not such a good experience. I am very proud of myself for having figured that out. If you keep thinking positively about everything, it seems to me that you also keep attracting that to yourself. Just believe in yourself, know that you can do it and everything is going to be alright.

Related blog post: Handy tips and advice for the solo female traveller

A group of volunteers enjoying the sunset in the deserts of Jordan
What would you say to somebody who is considering opening up their home to a stranger, but feels hesitant?
I've been travelling for five years now. I hitchhike everywhere. I've been to 46 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and I have always met incredible people everywhere I go. They’re always so happy to help, without asking for anything in exchange, without even thinking about it. The connections I’ve made with people are so special, whether it’s been an encounter of two minutes, two days, two hours or two months.
Unlike what’s often portrayed in the media or the news, the world is a much better place than we are made to believe. Generally, people are good. The only way you can actually experience this is to either travel yourself, or open the doors of your home. It's such a gift to meet different people, to get to know their culture, their lives, and how their world can be so different from yours and still so amazing. 
Just trust that there are wonderful people out there for you to meet and believe me, you will never regret it!

Related blog post: 18 ways travellers perceive the world differently

Workawayers exploring and making friends in the jungle at a hostel in Israel
What an uplifting answer, thank you so much for sharing your stories and sage advice with us!
Would YOU ever travel to one hundred countries, non-stop? Let us know what you think about Lei’s story - or tell us your own! - below in the comments!  Lei also has a fantastic blog where she shares about new cultures, new countries, and new people she’s come across on her travels. If you’re looking for some inspiring stories and handy travel tips, make sure to check it out!

Check out our full interview with Lei here!

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