50,000 opportunities in 180+ countries there are endless possibilities of places to marvel at and people to inspire you. The
‘Workaway Host of the Month’ feature gives us a chance to meet some of our favourite hosts and find out what it is about their personality and project that created such an appeal amongst fellow travellers.
This project is for anyone who wants to see that it IS possible to live a different life and realize the dream of building your own home in a truly sustainable manner!
Today, we are going to meet Will, who has a dream of a better world and is doing everything possible to make that happen for himself, his family, his community, his country and beyond. He has made his home
in the centre of Koh Lanta island, believed to be one of the most beautiful islands in
Thailand, or perhaps the world with its tropical beaches, jungle and mountains. Within easy reach of the popular Krabi and Phi Phi islands, but away from the hoards, Koh Lanta is peaceful and secluded, and a true paradise especially for those who dream of living an idyllic island life!
Hello there Will, it’s lovely to meet you! Could you tell me a bit about yourself, where you are from and how you became involved in this project?
Yes, well I am originally from Bangkok. I was born there and I went on to study and work there too. It was a continual cycle of working all day every day for a salary and then spending it all on supporting your lifestyle -- to pay the mortgage, run a car, pay the bills. There was no time for anything else.
I decided that
I wanted another life with more freedom, so that is when I decided to buy a piece of land in the middle of the island by a river so we could live off the land as much as possible.
That was in 2009, about 13 years ago.
You can learn to live responsibly with the nature, learn about sustainability, bamboo, plants, forest and so many cool art projects. I feel so lucky and grateful to know them and have a chance to be in their eco-friendly cozy home.
From the feedback many workawayers describe their stay as an adventure, to be immersed in the jungle and learn about sustainability first hand. Why do you think that experience is so meaningful?
People love to explore the jungle and the sea. This is fascinating for them…and also trying the local food.
We have many visitors from many other parts of the world and what I can say is that it is the opposite to the way of life they live.
People are used to living inside, whereas here we live outdoors and close to nature alongside the monkeys, the lizards and the snakes.
And do people manage to make that step into a new way of life?
Most can adapt, yes, but some cannot. It is a question of expectation.That is why it is so important to talk to the volunteers first and explain all these things.
What type of volunteer help are needed from workawayers at the eco-community?
It depends on the time of year. From November or December to May it’s our busy season and we need help organizing our events: activities and educational sessions for the visitors and children.
It’s the rainy season from May through to October. This is when we can grow plants and do maintenance work.
In general the volunteers would help with our work for about 4-5 hours, and then they are free to explore the island and do whatever they want to for the rest of their days.
It seems like there is so much to explore both on the islands and in the sea- from mountains to mangroves and from underwater caves to coral reefs teeming with marine life.. What do people like to do in their free time?
I think most people who visit us are attracted to the ocean. We take them to the beach for sunset, or to go diving, they sometimes try out the restaurants or rent a motorbike for 5 dollars a day and head off to explore.
From your hosting experience, how can you tell if a workawayer will be suited to it?
I can be flexible with the type of person we need depending on what project I am working on. For example sometimes I need someone to help look after the other guests that come to visit us. In which case it is important for them to speak English clearly and well. Sometimes we need help to promote ourselves on social media or advertise. In which case we’d need people who have skills in web-design and creating images or video content.
If we need construction or building work to be done, we look for people who are more fit and active and don’t mind getting their hands dirty.
To make sure that the volunteers understand the environment and the projects involved, we always arrange a chat via text messaging first to explain the way we live and that it is not a luxury holiday resort.
Staying and working here is such a unique experience! You live in Thai style open-air huts surrounded by a bamboo forest. It's essentially like camping outdoors Thai style. The couple Anke and Aoi are such warm-hearted and genuine souls. We loved collaborating with them on their updated website. We left making new business partners and close friends.
Could you tell us more about earth-building? Could a volunteer learn how to build their own home during their stay?
Yes, of course. With earth-building, our aim is to look to the land to provide us with the building materials.
The earth is an abundant natural resource. If we look at the pollution created from the manufacture of building materials, using mud is far more cost effective and sustainable than concrete.
Similarly bamboo grows rapidly, taking just 4-7 years to mature. This is a fraction of the time of a tree. Along with the earth we can use it to build bungalows: for the beams, roofs and floors as well as for the furniture.
A bungalow for 4 people takes about a year to build from start to finish.
A volunteer who stays for a few weeks would be able to learn some of the different techniques as part of the whole building process, such as how to make mud bricks or use natural pigments to paint with.
What natural pigments do you use?
Well instead of using factory-made chemical products we prepare limestone or ground shells for the white paint, charcoal for black and orange and yellow earth pigment for those colours.
And you also have an earth shop. What do you sell?
Yes, well we mainly sell bamboo products. It is very versatile. We sell seeds as well as objects crafted from bamboo such as spoons and straws to show that
many products made from plastic can be made instead from this natural and biodegradable source
. We also sell bamboo tea, which is very good for your hair and nails because it has a high silica and vitamin content.
I know that one of your attributes is self-sustainability. Could you tell us about how you have managed to reach this goal?
Apart from the river we collect rainwater during the rainy season. It is stored and treated so that we have drinking water. We make fires with bamboo and use it to cook on a very traditional method! Solar panels are used to pump the water as well as providing some lighting. However we are not completely off-grid and use the electricity supply for our other needs.
We are very conscious about recycling as well as reducing the amount we consume.
One of our aims is to show visitors how this can be done and to inspire them to continue to live as sustainably as they could once they have left.
As far as cultivation. I grow plants to sell and their seeds too. The bamboo plants take up a lot of space and create shade which makes it more difficult for us to grow our own food at the moment. We have some fruit trees, but the monkeys tend to eat the fruit first! But,
if you live in a natural environment you have to learn to live alongside the other animals.
How did the restrictions imposed over the past two years impact the island, and would you say that now things have returned to normal?
Yes, the past two years have been terrible. Thailand normally receives 40 million visitors, but this was reduced to 40,000 over the pandemic.
People were feeling lonely and isolated in their houses. I started to sell my seeds and plants to Thai people so they could have a focus of caring for plants and watching them grow. I also did online classes to show people how to start a garden.
As far as returning to normal, we are still only operating at between 10-20 % compared to before. Thailand needs to build its economy and create partnerships with overseas support. Thai people are lacking in the skills needed to do this.
So my next focus and dream is to help Thai people through culture exchange initiatives like Workaway, to learn other languages and build relationships with other countries around the world. I really think Thailand and its people would benefit from having a more international and multicultural approach to tourism and education.
Reaching beyond your own goals to a vision for Thailand as a whole shows the extent of your vision. I wonder if you have any particular philosophy or motto which inspires you?
Yes, I need to develop myself to be better than yesterday!
Will, thank you so much for talking to us today. Congratulations on being awarded this month’s Host of the Month title! I wish you success for your projects past and present and hope that Workaway continues to help you get there!
They have given us an inimitable experience that will be cherished for a lifetime. We only hope that others may experience the same magic that we had and continue sharing that magic for ages to come.
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