For your first Workaway, would you play it safe? Perhaps choose a destination that’s a short flight away, perhaps they share the same language or you’ve been to the country before? Or perhaps like our Workawayer of the Month,
Bahia, you want to jump out of your comfort zone and choose a spot on the map that is the total opposite of where you grew up? We like your style.
After more than 20 years in Morocco, Bahia knew he wanted a major change of scene, so chose Sweden as the destination of choice for his first Workaway. Did we mention he ended up staying there for FOUR YEARS, he loved it THAT much? He shares the reasons why as well as tips for you to also reach your dream destination.
I'm going to jump straight into the questions. So where are you in the world at the moment? Do you have COVID-19 restrictions or is life returning to normal?
Right now, I am in Morocco, in my home country. It is really crazy because in Morocco it's like nothing is happening in the world. There are no restrictions, people are hugging, chilling together, there’s no stress.
I was in Sweden, for almost four years and then I came home because of Corona but I can see that back in Sweden they have to be really careful with space, that you shouldn't come too close, and you can’t visit the gym and stuff. Whereas here, it is just like, nothing happened.
We don't have a lot of foreigners here in Morocco, but we have a population of around 30 million yet there are so many less people in Sweden and they have more restrictions, I don't really know why. It is nice here that you can do lots of things and nobody talks about Corona and stuff, it's really chill.
And how did you first discover Workaway?
I feel Workaway found me somehow. I knew I wanted to visit Europe, but I didn't know anyone there – I had no contacts, friends or family. I went on Google thinking “how do I travel Europe if I don’t know anyone there” and I thought about working on a farm or something, and that’s when I found Workaway.
When I started reading about the concept, I was like “this is it! This is what I'm looking for!” and so it started from there.
Was there a reason that volunteering appealed to you over ordinary backpacking and being a tourist?
I have always been interested in doing volunteer work because you always learn something from it. It’s a really beautiful way to travel. You meet a lot of people in these places, and you feel like part of the community. When I was reading about Workaway and realised it was volunteer work I knew it was for me.
You mentioned that you spent a lot of time traveling in Sweden. In terms of climate and culture, Sweden is the total opposite to Morocco. Was this the reason you chose it as your first Workaway destination?
Yeah, I had lived in Morocco for almost 24 years so I was really tired of the sun, and so many people. Sweden is the opposite – there are so much less people and it is always cloudy and a cooler climate. I thought wow, I would really enjoy it there. As it is cold and you get snow there, people say the weather is depressing, but I would think no it’s beautiful, let’s go!
I have snow this morning! I am in Scotland and woke up to snow haha!
You know, I love snow so much. I was really happy the first time I saw snow in Sweden. I was with another volunteer called Roberto who is from Spain so we both came from places where we don’t get snow and stuff. Me and him would jump right in. We were so happy - like a puppy when they get out for the first time!
Would that be your highlight from your Workaway experiences? Or is there one experience that you will always consider the standout moment?
I remember when we were in a community in Sweden, we were a group of almost 25 volunteers in the same house. It was a really big house in this really beautiful village, almost like a hippy village.
The people there were like a family. They do everything together, such as events like yoga and different activities. I remember one time, we went to the sauna and the sauna is close to the river.
It was at night and all of us were there, so we started jumping into the river and the weather was just beautiful. There was steam on the water, almost like clouds but the stars were out. It was really, really the best time of my life to be honest. Really beautiful!
A once in a lifetime experience!
Yeah! It's difficult when you are experiencing a moment like that, you don't think that you won’t get to experience that moment again. That's why you should always enjoy each moment as much as possible. You should think, “it might be the last time I'm going to experience this.”
Who would’ve guessed, two years after that moment we’d have Corona and this community has now shut down. I was always thinking about going back there, like every year or something and volunteering but when I contacted the host he said, because of Corona people don't come for the yoga or events so they have to sell the house. I really feel sorry for them.
Looking to the future, is there a destination or a Workaway experience you dream of visiting next?
To be honest I want to spend the rest of my life doing Workaway. I just need to try and figure out how to be independent financially. I'm trying to figure out how I can work just with my laptop, so I don't have to always be connected to a place.
Then I really want to go to South America and Asia and I also want to see more of North Sweden and also Africa. I have a really long list - I don't know where I'm going to start!
We are all the same. Everyone has a long list!
Yes, it can get confusing because there are so many beautiful places!
If there's someone watching this or reading this who is unsure about starting Workaway for the first time, do you have any advice or tips?
I really recommend for travellers to try Workaway because to me, it’s the best way to travel. You become part of the family when you are a volunteer. I still talk to the families that I have done Workaways with because you become so close.
I think it's really a nice way to travel, because just like travelling with your own family, you eat the way they eat, you make friends with their friends and then you travel with them also. It’s better than just staying in a hostel or in a hotel and just going to the tourist places because that way you don't really see the culture in the country. With Workaway you really experience the culture in a deep way.
Exactly, there’s a host out there to match everyone.
For me, I knew I wanted to go to a community or farm, so I used that filter on the search. That way I was around like minded people. And now, the people that I have done Workaway with, we are still in contact, we talk almost every two weeks because we became close. By sharing the same interests together, you become very good friends.
I completely agree, I did my first Workaway in 2017 and I still speak with that host.
Yeah, wow. It’s like you'll never forget them. You have experienced the best time together so you will always share that memory. It's a really beautiful way to travel.
It has been so interesting to chat to you and your love of Sweden. I love hearing of people jumping out their comfort zone to visit places that are completely different.
I really enjoyed the colder climate. You know, that's why I stayed in Sweden for four years! I was really happy there, now I am back to the sun!
I hope you enjoy the rest of your day in the sun and we can be back travelling soon.
I'm actually gonna try to do Workaway at my home country here in Morocco soon. I applied recently to a hostel experience in Marrakech. They said they're going to open in August, so I hope they do as it would be great to try Workaway in Morocco.
Especially as most borders are still closed at the moment so a Workaway at home is a great idea.
Exactly, I can't even go back to Sweden so I think I'm going to stay here and try to do Workaway over here and just enjoy the time with my family.
Although an opposite climate and culture can seem daunting, we hope Bahia’s words prove just how perfect taking a chance can turn out to be. His positive attitude resulted in him spending four years in his dream country.
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