Do you have what it takes to be a solo travelling organic farm worker who can teach kids English in a non-English speaking home while simultaneously writing about the experience?
I know it’s specific but I just wanted to be clear where I am coming from as I write more broadly and individually about HelpX, solo travel, au pairing and writing on the road.
I think anyone could do the same as what I have done, but it might just be a matter of whether you would enjoy yourself while doing it or not.
From now on, consider enjoyment as a general description of the experience as there will be times when you feel like crap. That’s just the reality of travel.
If you’re worried you might not be compatible with travel, even in the most general terms of liking something, I’ve created a characteristics astrology chart of sorts to help guide you on your own journey into travel, or some other unconventional lifestyle.
I have put this one characteristic first simply because it’s my favourite (don’t tell the other values). Curiosity is defined as a strong desire to know or learn something. It also means an unusual or interesting object or fact. The word ‘curious’ itself came from Old French and Latin meaning ‘to care’ and has origins in the 18th century. I feel so much more in love with curiosity just knowing this. It makes perfect sense that the word came out of a century of not only great exploration and discovery, but also the century that brought us the American and French Revolutions. That’s the power of curiosity. When you have a questioning mind and are eager to learn about even the most abstract or weird things, life itself becomes curious – both more interesting and more unusual. Travel is a concentrated form of curiosity so if you find yourself eager to know more in your everyday life, then you’ll thrive travelling.
BE Rich (Or Be Willing To Work).
After such a romantic start to the notions of travel, I thought I better bring us all back down to the practicalities of pursuing your travel dreams. If you have a trust fund and aren’t worried about money, then please feel free to move onto the next part – not before leaving your number if you are a man, of course: How you doin’. For the rest of us, money is probably something that has held you back from travel. And I definitely get it. I still don’t have much of a clue in this regard. What I will say is decide what you want from travel. If you want to roam and explore freely, then maybe it is best to save save save and then travel. But, if you really want to get travelling now, then I would suggest employing a willingness to work and to find work. I have experimented with both and found equally that I should have saved more to enjoy the roaming free parts of travel with less guilt and that you don’t need much money to survive if you are willing to work. To save me sounding hypocritical, I direct you to the words of Marisa, the matriarch of my Spanish family. “Money is an energy and is all around. Stress about it is not good, but you do need a little bit of a stress so you see all the opportunities to make money in front of you.” When Marisa was in her early twenties, she needed money so decided to go on as many game shows as she could (the perks of living in Madrid). She went on a dating show, a Wheel of Fortune-esque show and one where she had to sing. She managed to make $18,000, which she ended up using to put a deposit on a house she just finished paying off. Wow. That’s a willingness to work.
I hate to have to include this one, but I have learned it’s important to remember that just because you are travelling and feel free, life is still life and humans are still humans. This is as fabulous as it is frustrating. What I mean by being realistic if that if you need to employ your reasoning skills and not just say, ‘It’ll be fine’. For example, I had an excellent experience with HelpX on the organic farm. It was fantastic. But, I have some friends who didn’t have as much luck away from the farm. They had lined up work in France – ‘it’ll be fine’ – and the week before they left, they were reading some of the reviews to me and we all agreed it was a good idea to reduce their time there to one week. The reviews included things like ‘She doesn’t like you to use your mobile phone’, which seems reasonable for any employer to say, but using our reasoning skills, we deduced there had to be more to that for the mere fact that someone had taken time to write it. As it turned out, it was a subtle warning about a woman who used walkie-talkies to bark orders at her slaves, I mean Help X workers. I’m so glad they went to this HelpX for the sheer amount of laughter it brought into my life, but the fact the woman also left them to hitch hike 20 miles back into the nearest town at the end of their exchange was less humorous. A touch of realism is not just necessary to avoid nasty work situations. I wish I had been more realistic about the photos online of a cheap Paris hotel back in 2013. When I arrived and saw the state of the place in real time, I was slapped hard across the face with the realism. But, I met some lovely German girls in the same situation and we moved hotels together.
Say what? I know this sounds ridiculous after what I’ve just said about being realistic, but as the above examples show, some great stories come out of those times you say ‘It’ll be fine’. And it is true. I’ve found that you need to be able to balance your realistic expectations with a bit of romanticism, adventure and risk. The universe has rewarded me with a whole pot of travel luck gold and travel is more fun when you aren’t so hell bent on doing the right thing, the easiest thing, or the cheapest option. I call it displaxation – a mix of discipline and relaxation. If you’re down to mix these two wines, you’re ready to travel.
Curiosity might be my favourite, but courage could just be the most important characteristic you need on your journey. There’s a whole lot of fear in us all thanks to our origins living in caves and fighting for our survival. Being able to distinguish when fear is working in your favour and when it isn’t is important. But, actually knowing fear and acting in spite of it are two completely different things. I think we all look at courage as something reserved to the greats of the world, the strongest, the ones with carved muscles and rippling pectorals. But, that’s wrong. Courage is within us all. And all it takes is one step. Literally one step. You just have to start. I don’t mean you need to start being courageous. You just need to start whatever you want to start. And then do the next thing and the next thing and before you know it people will be looking at you and saying, ‘Wow, you’re so courageous. I could never do that.’ And when they do, I hope you’ll tell them that they can.