Some volunteer time making memories in Wicklow, Ireland and Carlingcott, England and a little bit of time touring around the local sites
13.05.2015 - 01.09.2015 14 °C
Two of the greatest expenses that are incurred during travels can be food and shelter. Hotels are expensive and cannot be sustained by most budgets over long periods of time, while rentals such as AirBnB also tend to hit the wallet pretty hard. Then there is the unavoidable necessity of eating - this is a non-negotiable term, although there is wiggle room on the overall impact to your budget based on just how good you want to treat yourself. As much as you try to keep costs from becoming the front running thought during your travels, it is inevitable that that it will, but I am happy to say that there are many different ways to manage this so that you can still focus your attention on the excitement of your journey. For Sherry and I, stumbling upon the website http://www.workaway.info turned out to be a find that opened up new exciting opportunities for us, helped us to manage costs and introduced us to so many new and incredible people from all over the world.
On May 13th Sherry and I disembarked from our train in the small east coast Irish town of Wicklow. Our destination in Wicklow was Captain Halpins hostel which is where we would be living and working for the next 1.5 months. Ian and Trish (our hosts) were friendly, kind, generous and so very welcoming of us. They had been in the workaway volunteer game for some time now and after getting to know them both it was clear why so many people sought out an opportunity with them. Our accommodations for our time in Wicklow would be bunkbeds in a tiny private room at the hostel. Our meals were paid for under most circumstances, unless we decided to go out to a restaurant and treat ourselves. On a few occasions we got treated to some incredible home cooked meals from Trish and Ian which were always a welcome surprise as they are both fantastic cooks. As for the work portion of our stay in Wicklow things were pretty dead simple and easy. Our workday consisted of rolling out of bed around 9:00 or so (depending on the previous nights events) and sliding down for some breakfast, then eventually kicking our work hours off at 10:00 am! Sherry spent the bulk of her hours (approx. 4hrs/day 5 days a week) working up at the bed and breakfast that Trish was running, while I held things down at the hostel. The work at the hostel consisted of turning over beds for new guests, scrubbing up some washrooms, tidying up after breakfast and when that was all done heading up to the BnB to help with the endless laundry. Sherry had a bit more work on her plate at the BnB (7 rooms plus 1 apartment) with almost the same cleaning regiment but with that extra attention to detail required for BnB guests. I know, I know, sounds like some pretty strenuous work! Well, I guess I should mention that we were not going at it alone either....we had help from other workaway volunteers, more specifically one co-worker each. This was another positive dimension of the workaway experience as we got to make new friends from all over the world during our work day. There was Jack the 19 year old from Boston who was on his gap year travelling the world before beginning his studies as a Biomedical Engineer - Naoya, 29 year old from Japan who was travelling in attempts to improve his english while taking a break from his career as an aeronautical engineer - 20 year old Gautier from France who was taking time to travel in between school years as a student of economics - Ettore, 22 years old from Italy who had just finished up an economics degree and was travelling before starting his masters program - Isabelle, 19 year old from Germany who was travelling before beginning her program in Early Childhood Education. Many great days and nights were had with all these characters from around the world as we often made it out to the local pub called Ernie's on Wednesday nights to enjoy some live music with Ted and the gang, or during our numerous hikes, walks, beach days or just good old movie nights back at the hostel. Each one of these people had their own interesting story and it was cool getting to know them all. It was fun sharing different life experiences with them and it was also enjoyable being reminded of those care free days of our late teens and early 20's.
With two days off each week there was plenty of time to explore and not forget that we were still on an exciting world adventure. Wicklow has lots to offer in, and around it, with the focal point being Glendalough National Park. Glendalough is the primary draw for most of the hostel guests as it is a free entry attraction and it is simply beautiful. Along with fairly well intact remains from a 2000 year old monastic settlement, there are hiking trails throughout which are designed to suit the abilities of just about any hiker. I was fortunate to make the trip to Glendalough twice during our time in Wicklow. My second trip was with Sherry and we had an incredible day with the sun shinning down on us all day long while traversing the 4 hour track that took you to some spectacular views of the beautiful valley down below. For my first trip I managed to rustle up some extra energy from somewhere as I rented a bike and tackled the 2 hour, 30 mile ride to the National Park. It felt great getting there, but my bike seat had gotten the best of backside so the last few miles were done cautiously while standing on the peddles. Ignorance wasn't bliss in this situation, I would have killed for a pair of those funny looking, but padded bike shorts after about mile 20! The hike was great though and it only spurred on my desire to come back with Sherry. Another place that I can recommend enough to check out if you are in Ireland in the summer is Kinsale. We stayed with an incredible AirBnB host for 3 days and 2 nights while we toured with her the amazing south sea side town. There are a couple of great forts (Charles and James) which are worth a visit, plus there is amazing seafood, friendly locals and some relaxing views to help you just chill. Our highlight here had to be getting to participate in Sea Sunday which was a ceremony to honour those lost at sea while doing their jobs, as well as those people who continue to serve at sea. We accompanied our host to the church ceremony after which we followed everyone through the town to the wreath laying ceremony and finally over to the yacht club for tea and sandwiches. It was an honour to be apart of this experience which made us feel more like locals, then tourists for an afternoon.
Wicklow was our first workway experience and it was one for the memory books. We met so many interesting people from all over the world, including our viking friends, Paul, Geno and Seamus who frequented the hostel while filming as extras on the show "Vikings". These fellas were a fun bunch with their own quirky ways, but they took us in like family and we had lots of laughs while they were around (see photos). Any apprehensions we may have had about the workaway experience were now a distant memory and we were looking forward to the next opportunity.
Our second Workaway started just a few short weeks after finishing up in Wicklow and saw us make the trek over to Carlingcott, England to work on a small holding eco farm . We had no immediate plans to go to England but we had listed it in our workaway profile as a potential opportunity. Because of this, Ross and Emily from Laurel farms were able to search us out and sent us a note to see if we would be interested in coming over. Sherry was on the top bunk of our cozy hostel room in Wicklow, while I was on the bottom, unknowingly, we both started reading the same email from Ross and Emily and then proceeded to review their profile. At the same time we both made the same intrigued sound of "huh" from our bunks and after realizing we were both reading the same thing it wasn't long before we decided to say "What the hell, lets go to England!". On July 26th we boarded an Irish Ferry, crossed the Irish Sea, landed in Wales, took 3 trains and 1 bus before landing in Carlingcott, England (20 minutes outside of Bath). This was one heck of a long day but I still would recommend the rail and sail ticket option when travelling from back and forth between England and Ireland. Of course this is under the conditions of wanting to save money and having the time to spare in your itinerary for the travel. This work away was quite different than our previous one for many reasons. First of all we would be looking after pigs, ducks, sheep, chickens and taking part in other odd jobs around the farm. The second biggest being that we would be the only ones looking after the place while the family took off to Wales for their summer vacation for 3 weeks. Growing up in rural Ontario, Canada gave us some comfort in taking on this new opportunity and we both really looked forward to finding out what new boxes would get checked off for us in our resume of life. We had one week with the family before they left which gave us time to get to know them, their kids and to get comfortable with the running of the place. This time was very valuable as both Ross and Emily proved to be great teachers and were just so chilled out about life. We got to know their kids really well during this time and I even got to spend some time fishing down in the river with their oldest son Colm (9 yrs old). This bright young man not only loved to fly fish, but he also made all his own flies and knew just about everything there is to know about fishing.
While the family was away we were left with daily, weekly and jobs to keep us busy on the farm. Some of these jobs included painting lawn mower decks, stripping and staining outdoor furniture, scything the grass and nettles, and pickling up the cucumbers from the poly tunnel which they grew their own veg and fruit in. Our time was very relaxed and laid back as we picked away at the job list and looked after the daily tasks of feeding the pigs, ducks, chickens and doves. We often found ourselves just hanging out on the farm, enjoying the peace and serenity but we also made the trip into Bath to visit what we now know as a very beautiful city. It was incredible being able to take a 10 minute walk to the bus stop, then taking a 20 minute bus to the city. This is just something that we are not used to coming from Canada where pubic transport outside of cities is not a thing that happens as far as I know. Sherry and I both highly recommend Bath as a travel destination because it seems to having something for everyone with the historic foundations of the Roman baths combined with arts and plenty of shopping to satisfy just about anything you might be after. The city has been beautifully maintained and it is a real joy to just simply walk around the many nooks and crannies scattered about its footprint in Somerset. In our off time we also made trips to Chedder (where Chedder cheese was invented) and Wells (smallest city in England). These are also places which we would recommend popping into if your are travelling in that area.
Our workaway experience in Carlingcott was completely different then what we had experienced in Wicklow, but I believe that is what made it just as, or even possibly, more enjoyable. Ross and Emily are people who came from a "9:00-5:00" life but who left it behind to pursue personal passions on their own small holding eco farm. Everything they did and do to bring in money involves doing something they love and then using that money to help build towards other goals/dreams. They had managed to turn a property that used to be a monastic settlement occupied by monks into a unique kindergarten school, along with building two income rental properties on their land, all while raising their 3 children and building their self sufficient lifestyle. We were so fortunate to get to learn all that we did during our time on the farm. As with Wicklow, we had plenty of time to travel around and take in new experiences around the country while learning lots of new things and meeting lots of new people. Going into a WorkAway opportunity its often the financial savings that are front of mind, but for us, in both cases, it is the intangible, non monetary returns that left the biggest impression on us. Our recommendations to potential WorkAwayers is to be honest in your profile and go into each opportunity with an open mind, ready to embrace the unexpected. It may not be the obvious or anticipated learnings that you end up taking away with you...in fact...I would almost guarantee that to be the case. The reason I say this is because there are people directly involved in your experience. People whom you have never met and never interacted with in your life. They are an unknown variable who will make up the largest portion of what shapes your volunteer time no matter what functional role you find yourself in. Be curious beyond the obvious day to day tasks and get to know the stories behind the people who are hosting you and you won't be disappointed.
Shayne and Sherry
(check out the photos posted after this blog to see more of what we got up to during our work aways)