Like we mentioned in our last post, change can be a scary thing. Making the decision to leave our jobs and spend time traveling far away from family and friends is one that scared us both. It is also a decision we will never regret. This journey has allowed us to experience things we didn’t know existed and accomplish things we didn’t know were possible. The thing I took most from this trip, besides about 25lbs, is this journey helped instill a deeper confidence in myself that I know will be with me for the rest of my life. From navigating a new city’s public transportation system to buying groceries where you don’t speak the language to solving the logistics of a multi-leg train trip all helped us understand that we were not in over our heads. Quite the opposite actually, as we realized that we would be able to complete any job or solve any problem that arose along the trip. For me, one of the most exciting parts of our adventure was the opportunity to learn new skills while living and working with host families through a website called Workaway. In exchange for 20-25 hours of work a week, we were provided meals and accommodations. More importantly, it offered us an opportunity live and work among the local people and learn some useful skills while we were at it. While I'm not the most handy person in the world, I do consider myself fairly capable. I quickly realized though, that my skill set was seriously lacking and I was going to have to learn on the fly.
Our first stop at a work/stay opportunity was in the French countryside where the host couple was in the process of building a second home. For two weeks we worked on different projects that included laying a concrete floor, running electrical conduit and installing drywall. We even got to drill holes through our newly laid concrete floor for the utilities, as those details were over-looked during the initial planning. Basically everything we did was a brand new experience. I was using tools I had never used before and learning lingo I had never heard before. On the very first day I was tasked with mixing cement, something I had never done before. I made sure to ask questions if there was anything I was unsure about and from that, I learned a lot from guys much more handy then myself. Even the metric system started to make sense after a couple days. Before we arrived we didn’t know what to expect and were slightly scared about what the work would entail. When we left we were still not sure what our future jobs would be but we were confident that we would be able to manage.
A small creative arts studio in Portugal was our next stop and it was here where we learned that whenever you are doing a rehab project you should always account for unexpected delays. This couldn’t have been more apparent as a “simple” ceiling job that we believed would be done in a few days turned into a 10 day ordeal that left the ceiling only partially finished and us on the way to our next destination. The issues were multifold, with rotted wood, black mold, wood worms and crumbling plaster all making the job more difficult. After a few days of stress-relieving demolition and a couple of days of planning and preparing, we started to put the ceiling back up. It was disappointing however, when the time came to leave and the job remained unfinished. From this stay we learned not only how to replace a ceiling, but more importantly, we learned that sometimes the plan needs to change and that doesn’t have to be a scary thing. Most of the time things don’t go the way you plan it but if you are able to adapt to the situation you will be much more successful in whatever you are doing.
The last of our four work/stay stops was in Umbria, Italy. Here we stayed with a wonderful Dutch family and a few other workers where we were helping prepare the property for the upcoming tourist season. Our days would normally begin with a meeting in which a list of jobs would be given to us. There were always more jobs to do than we could finish in a day so we were able to choose what we wanted to work on. If we needed guidance with a project our hosts were very willing to help but mostly though, we were left to figure out the project and how best to complete it on our own. Here we built and planted an herb garden, fixed and leveled a gate, built a walkway and constructed a fence. The jobs we completed were not all difficult. Some needed more thought and planning while others were much simpler. But what most had in common is that they were new to us. Trying unfamiliar things and succeeding only made us want to challenge ourselves more in the future.
We decided that upon our return to the States we would continue to seek new situations and new experiences so that we will continue to grow as individuals and as a couple. It is extremely important to us that we never forget what we learned on the road. That challenging yourself, no matter how scary it may be, will only help you become a stronger person. We always want to rememeber the sights, sounds, smells and tastes that we experienced during our four months but the practical skills, and more importantly, the confidence we gained are skills we are sure to use forever.