For most of us, the pandemic has resulted in our passports gathering dust, but for Viviane she saw it as an opportunity to make a difference. Years ago, she decided that 2020 would be the year she’d quit her job as an exec at a Silicon Valley startup and adventure around the world. What she didn’t plan for was a global pandemic.
However, after much consideration she decided to adapt her dream instead of quitting it. In the last 12 months despite COVID she has enjoyed Workaways in Austria, Spain, Peru and Columbia. As this month’s Workawayer of the Month she shares how she made these epic adventures happen safely and how her gap year will always be one to remember.
In the last 12 months, despite COVID you have managed some epic adventures! I noticed on your profile you've completed Workaways in Austria, Spain, Peru, Colombia. I wondered if you took certain precautions, or did you have to adapt plans to make these adventures happen?
Yes, so Workaway was a godsend throughout the pandemic, because a lot of countries required you to quarantine, and a lot of Workaway hosts were allowing you to quarantine at their place. You had to take the normal precautions of getting into the country, a negative COVID test etc but once you were there it was great.
Or in July for example, I had arranged a six week Workaway, I knew I had a two week quarantine then I had four weeks to explore which was a huge relief as a lot of countries were really shutting down. Instead, I was in the middle of the forest with amazing trails to explore and I felt so lucky to be doing Workaway in such a beautiful part of the world.
As the world is now slowly beginning to open up, there's probably so many people who want to travel again, but also a lot of people who are quite nervous. Do you have any tips or advice for those that are nervous to give Workaway a try after COVID, or any advice for those that are nervous about getting their backpacks on again?
I think a lot of Workaway hosts do an incredible job of COVID safety. Some Workaways are kind of out in the middle of nowhere so once you're there, in my experience, you're there to explore the area around.You're not necessarily going into the town interacting with lots of random people so you are actually very safe.
I think the really beautiful thing with Workaway is that, you can just continue to explore the areas around you and hosts are really clear on their COVID guidelines. I've had no troubles with anyone having COVID in any of the Workaways I've been, or with any of the hosts. Or had issues with hosts not taking precautions and whatnot.
I've only heard good stories too, for example one guy who was at a Workaway right before the same one I was at in Colombia, he arrived and on day two, he got COVID. They quarantined him in his own little area so he couldn’t pass it to anyone else and he recovered quickly.
You’re currently at a Workaway in Panama. Do you want to talk a little bit about like, what you've been up to, what your role is, and what you do in your spare time?
Yeah, so I’m in a hostel that’s basically smack dab in the middle of Panama. It's really cool with a lot of hiking trails. It feels like we’re up here in a cloud as it's the rainy season so it's very rainy, which is good but the hostel is actually closed right now. It's by invitation only because there aren't that many tourists in Panama, so it just wasn't cost effective to keep it open.
But there's still volunteers who are here for the few guests that do come, and we are getting it nice and pretty for when they do reopen.
Normally this place has 40 to 60 people on site at any given time. Right now, there's around seven. So we’re really taking the opportunity to just clear out the entire area and make it ready for people to come.
There are also amazing waterfalls around here. There's a volcano that you can actually hike to the top of. I think it's maybe a 27 km hike about an hour away. There are just really beautiful things to see around here. It's a perfect pocket in Panama.
Do you have a highlight from your Workaways so far? Or maybe a host that stands out or a particularly special experience?
Man, that's a good question. They're all so wonderfully weird in their own way. My Workaway in Peru was particularly cool. So, I used to be scared of dogs, because I was a runner, and when you’re a runner dogs chase you. And I never had a dog growing up, so I just didn't vibe with them. You can't really tell people that because they get very upset ha!
So, I was like, I'm gonna do a Workaway with a dog and so I found a dog rescue place in Peru. My fear was that I was going to show up, and there's going to be like 20 dogs barking at the gate waiting for me.
Sure enough, I show up to this huge gate and there's like 12 dogs. I slowly close the gate and call the owner and tell them I'm outside. But it turned out to be one of my favorite Workaways and the dogs were so incredibly kind and so cool. The entire dog culture is so incredibly weird to witness with these alpha dogs and so on. I learned so much.
I’m glad you conquered your fear! I did a similar thing. Well, sort of. I was not a child person, they scared me ha! I did a Workaway with children in Switzerland and then I was like, I want all the children, children are amazing!
My next question is for your host, Andrew, who can't be in the call at the moment but we've got a little clip from him. The question is, do you feel COVID has affected your role as a host? Are you hesitant to accept Workawayers or do you feel safe now to continue life as normal?
During the pandemic, we’ve had the same amount of Workawayers if not maybe more. Because the property is so large it’s been good to keep a good atmosphere for those staying here and great to be surrounded by more people. We continue to have a safe environment, good atmosphere, good vibes and need all the help we can get.
My next question for your host is what's next for you and Workaway? Do you have more Workawayers joining later in the year maybe as the season picks up? Or are there particular skills that you are looking for help with?
I plan on having volunteers throughout the rest of the year, we could use some more skilled help but besides that we’re happy and hope to continue accepting volunteers for the rest of the year.
This one is for you Viviane. You mentioned that you're travelling again soon. I wondered what your next plans are and if Workaway is part of your next adventure?
Yeah, I'm going to Ecuador. Workaway will certainly be part of my adventure, I still have to figure out which one I'm doing. Every country I go to, for the most part, I like to do Workaway. I've found that it's so helpful to do a Workaway first because you meet people who are down to adventure with you. So yeah, I'll be in Ecuador but I have no idea where but who knows. Well, I guess I am kind of scared of cows too. So maybe on some dairy farms ha!
I remember that one! After Ecuador, I think I'm gonna go to Guatemala and explore there for a bit. I've been traveling since August of 2020 so I'd like to make it a full year. I think Ecuador, Guatemala, and then I'll finish off in Nicaragua as the last three stops and then I will be very ready to be home.
Can I just squeeze in one more question.. If there was someone reading this right now and they were unsure if Workaway was for them or not, what would you tell them?
I think Workaway is just so good. I'm hilariously mad that I didn't think of it myself as it's such a brilliant concept. I think for anyone, from a sixty year old to a twenty year old like me, you can connect with people from all over the world. You have so many different options. You can really create your own experience.
You can be in a family if you want to immerse yourself into the culture. Or you can be part of a whole community and meet fellow travelers. You can do all this while having time for yourself. After non-stop traveling for the last 10 months it’s such a beautiful relief. You get a little bit of routine and you really explore parts of the world that you would not have gone to or have even thought about visiting.
I think there's a Workaway for everyone. Anyone who's looking for any sort of adventure, I would really recommend you just try it, you know?
With plans on hold and planes on the ground for so long, positive experiences like Viviane’s are such a breath of fresh air. It is inspiring to hear of travel stories where our community are working together to make dreams happen safely every day. As the world starts to open up again, Workaway is the perfect opportunity to travel slower and appreciate the privilege of adventure which we’ve longed for during this chaotic time. Who knows, next month we could be interviewing you!
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