So we’ve left a few things out of our blog recently. A few friends and family are aware of what’s been going, but I think its really only fair to share with everyone the ugly side of traveling.
Yeah sure, on the outside it seems like we have successfully cut free from a 9-5 job, paying rent, and the boredom that comes with a ‘routine’ lifestyle, but never before have we missed these things so much. Seven months into traveling, I am witnessing former ‘Mr. Anti-Relationship’ frantically attempting to nest. Yep, nest. He wants lazy Sundays, a change of clothes, aftershave, and the predictability that comes with direct deposit and a home. He wants to buy dish soap and toilet paper. To hear a television (preferably with Sports Center on) in the background. To make a mess in the kitchen and not have to clean it up until the morning. To not have to fluff the ugly upholstered couch and pillows of a Georgian Villa or run down hostel. Although I’ve been stubbornly in denial, I’m now finding myself very closely following behind.
So heres the truth about our experiences throughout July and August…
July- Not So Bad
We’d been volunteering at an anonymous place since July 1. Yeah, on the outside it’s a little (okay, gigantic) Georgian paradise. A cute perfect family, well-accomplished and recognized artists sprinkled throughout every generation, and a backyard worthy of a €6 entrance fee.
The agreement was to work everyday from 9:30-5:30 p.m. There would be an hourlong lunchbreak worked into the day. The workday would consist of helping in an anonymous place where you drink coffee and eat food or outside in the vegetable garden. We would have the opportunity to learn about business management (how to run a small cafe), and also about sustainable agriculture and specifically vegetable garden maintenance. Maybe even the opportunity to learn about being a professional someone that takes pictures or slapping ones name on the cover of a dozen plus books. Sounded perfect, so we signed ourselves up through the end of September. I recall even thinking we would feel short on time at the place.
During the month of July we had Emmy to keep us company and for the most part there were no massive personality clashes between host and guest.
We had to work out a few kinks, such as ditching the idea of a so-called ‘leisurely’ lunch break, which we immediately learned was really an hour of absolute chaotic hell. Lunch with Grandma and three cute kids was an hour of fighting, screaming, crying and consistently concluded with a serious session of unbearable whining for pudding/ice cream before surrender from authority.
It was by far the most stressful part of the day, so by the first week the three of us successfully opted out. Obviously with a public food venue, we couldn’t exactly march into the kitchen and make ourselves some lunch and park ourselves in the public patio to enjoy. We were dressed in poor mans clothes and dirty Dunlops.
We killed the Ludovico garden vibe.
So instead we scrounged for food and ate our lunch in the closet, sitting on top of the chest freezer. Besides finding the irony in redefining closet eaters, the best part was that our ass cheeks were literally suffocating passive aggressive notes reminding us three times in the grammatically incorrect sentence not to steal food from the freezer.
We get it.
Free advice: Next time you need to type something, ask for our help and we’ll direct you to google translate and the right click button for spellcheck.
Good thing it didn’t bother us because we actually only took 2 lunch breaks the entire 3 months we were there. Also for the record, we never stole any of the food from the freezer. Thanks, but we’ll pass on the mystery meat that has been rotting in there since Granny’s first birthday.
Early August – Going Downhill
In August, as soon as Emmy and the Austrian au pair (the blondie that reported to the hosts’ face that she loved the kids, but told us that she “hated the devilish shits” and therefore felt entitled to steal their expensive wine) left us, things went downhill, quickly.
Note: Quotation marks typically indicate that it is a direct comment from the individual, NOT the writer of this blog. So don’t accuse me of saying it. Thanks.
For an entire week our WWOOFers fridge (we were rarely called by our names, we were simply WWOOFers, which was wrong, we are actually Workawayers) was completely empty.
Well, pardon me. Unless the dozen blocks of butter and cheese that was the Cafe overflow counts.
So with the fridge and pantry empty, we decided to go outside and just start happily picking whatever we could from the garden.
Tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, kale. Heck yeah I’m in.
Yeah, James wouldn’t mind a hamburger once a week and I’d love to have some seeds or beans to sprinkle on my salad, but having fresh veggies straight from the garden was a treat and would do just fine.
Well, very quickly we were told not to pick the broccoli and tomatoes, because a certain someone else wanted to eat them. We just couldn’t win with these people. As we predicted, the broccoli flowered and tomatoes fell to the ground several weeks later because of the excess.
Greed is ugly when it rots your garden, dude.
So now we were a little confused as to what we were working for. The basic workaway agreement is “a few hours honest help per day in exchange for food and accommodation.”
If there is no food, we are feeling a bit jipped. But shit, at least the accommodation is in a gorgeous ‘Georgian Villa.’ Boss man even claimed at one point its comparable to a B&B at €100 a night.
I can’t say I disagree. The house is absolutely incredible.
Photos have been removed per request.
Nice house, huh? Too bad we got to sleep in the storage closet and couldn’t take a shower for three months, because you guys can’t fix the damn shower head.
Literally I had to jump over the bed in order to get to the other side. The armoire door didn’t even open because it smacked into the bed. There were no windows that opened, and with two of us snoozing in there we would consistently wakeup suffocating with sandy dry eyes.
James was told after his eye ulcers that he needed to get out of the dust and have fresh air. So we asked to move into one of the other THREE HUGE vacant bedrooms that occupied the same floor.
I’m really not quite sure why they weren’t offered to us in the first place. By mid August we moved into a huge bedroom that had TWO windows and the two of us could both be in there at the same time.
Yeah, that is what you call accommodation.
The Hours & Work…
As far as working hours, those were a joke and inarguably these people were getting a great bargain. They did warn us that this particular joint required seven working hours daily (most hosts in Ireland require five). Obviously we thought we would have the opportunity to learn about gardening and owning a cafe, both of which we are interested in, so we thought it would be worth it and went in with a positive attitude about the extended working hours.
We’d often work 9:30 a.m. through 6p.m. with no lunch break or break at all. Sometimes we would work until 7:30 p.m. without a thank you or even the slightest recognition. But the one morning that I had the flu and was throwing up violently and couldn’t come downstairs until 10:15 a.m. and after boss man told me ‘You look absolutely wrecked’ (thank you asshole), we were lectured extensively for being tardy and ‘sticking to a schedule’ was reinforced.
Afterwards I marched outside and continued to flip stones in the rain and then was called out again by boss man’s mom for being late. Excuse me while I throw up on your patio due to the flu, your highness.
In addition to the longass working days, we had the wonderful opportunity to donate additional hours.
James was recruited for working on Vanishing Ireland videos. He stayed up until 2:30 a.m. working on creating a DVD that would play at the Vanishing Ireland Exhibition in the City Assembly house in Dublin. He was warned that money was thin and he wouldn’t be getting paid. No problem, that honestly wasn’t a big deal to him. He enjoys that stuff. He also enjoys sleeping. You would think the next day he would be given a tad bit of slack, and perhaps you could subtract the five hours worked EXTRA the night prior to the eight hours (it’s supposed to be 7 btw) of work the following day.
James continued to work his ass off. He even worked an extra hour weeding that day.
Besides the fantastic food, accommodation, and desirable working hours, we didn’t learn jack shit the entire time we were there.
Embedded within Workaway/Wwoofing, there is an underlying understanding that there will be an exchange of knowledge during the stay. I have a degree in nutrition and went to the largest naturopathic medicine school in North America. It’s also one of the few programs in the world to have culinary courses embedded in the science curriculum. I have culinary experience, not to mention a good decade of working in cafes/restaurants.
Despite me mentioning it several times, that fact I have this extensive experience was apparently a shock to boss man come the second to last day we were there.
In addition, James has a degree in public relations and experience marketing. He’s a social media genius. Perhaps that could be utilized in a business that was drowning in it’s own disorganization and flawed vision.
Nope. I scrubbed dishes in the cafe and James had a blast weeding mud for a solid eight plus hours daily. Talk about a good time and appropriate distribution of available skill sets.
I did however, have a blast playing in the kitchen creating our own recipes…check ‘em out!
James and I don’t exactly do a great job at hiding our emotions. In fact, the two of us get along so well because neither of us really give a rip about investing energy into hiding them.
So it was quite obvious we were sick of being treated like disposable idiot slaves. After I rudely rejected an invitation to lunch, a disguised lure of getting us to do dishes during our ‘lunch break’ and have to listen exhaustingly to them talk about their business, family and distinct disapproval of working class folks, James proceeded to initiate a full-blown argument with our host.
The boss man suggested WWOOFing wasn’t for us. Well yeah, no shit. That’s why we aren’t WWOOFing you morons. We are doing workaway and we clearly state in our profile that we would like to LEARN something while we are taking a risky break from our PROFESSIONAL CAREERS.
We articulated during the argument that we needed to get off the property, that we had wanted to find paid work so that we could use the money to TRAVEL around Ireland.
Remember, we are also here to TRAVEL and the only thing we had seen of the country in five weeks was suds in the sink and weeds in the manure. We also tried to explain that we are independent people. We are trying to LIVE, not just shack up with random families and have them entertain us. We like to do our thing. Sorry if that offends you. We don’t really want to go have a drink or play with your undisciplined children.
Your kids can’t even listen long enough to make the two minute drive to the park. After a fun-filled 8-9 hour day in your cafe/garden and our non-optional hourlong bath, we really need to get some personal shit done.
Okay, or sometimes just play with your adorable dog…
James is working and I am frantically trying to figure out how to make some money and planning every next step forward.
Between the two of us, we have our heads stuck into a million projects so our travels don’t have to end. We are staying up until 2 a.m. working on things that hopefully will support us traveling in the future, not just dicking around playing Angry Birds. Maybe if you spent two seconds talking to us you would know that. We thought we made these things clear.
At the end of the conversation we all agreed we would communicate better with each other and we would stick it out until the end of August.
Late August- The Bullshit Hit the Fan, and it Stinks
So we started having access to the car. We were extremely grateful that they took the time and called and put us on their insurance. We wanted the car so we could get to G-doggs. She was a kind woman just up in Killcullen that owned a gorgeous house that had previously been landscaped extensively and now needed some attention. So she hired us to do yardwork at €10 an hour. We would work at the anonymous place for 5 days, and on our two days off, we chose to head to G-doggs to throw in another 8 hours of yardwork.
We loved G-dogg. We loved working at G-doggs. It was the only time James and I actually saw each other and got to work with each other since we’d been in Ireland. We had a blast, even though it was still yardwork and our bodies felt like they belonged to a geriatric patient.
G-dogg took care of us. She had foam knee pads, gloves that actually were still in decent shape, and tools that actually had been sharpened in the last century. She was kind and complemented us on our work. She also cared to spend a few minutes getting to know us. We loved her.
But the fact was manual labor, not enough sleep and the stress of being a guest in someone else’s home was just exhausting and started taking a massive toll on us both.
Hitting Rock Bottom
After an eight hour day at G-doggs we went to the grocery store to grab some food. While walking up to the register line, a man scrunched his face and looked at James. ‘Boy, you stink. You need a good wash.’ He shook his head, did a head-to-toe scan over James and I, and then confirmed aloud ‘Man, you stink.”
Welp, that’s it.
This is definitely rock bottom for us both I’d say.
At this point, we both started becoming more comfortable saying (and hearing one another say) ‘I’m ready to go home, or find a new place to call home.” We are sick of working our asses off for someone else and getting nothing in exchange. We are sick of being treated like morons.
Yeah, we are well aware we signed up for this and knew this wouldn’t be a walk in Central Park. But this whole thing has started sucking majorly. Our bodies are broken. Our attitudes are getting progressively worse. And when we look in the mirror we are starting not to recognize ourselves. This is just starting to seem less and less appealing by the second. There is no reward for working harder. It almost seems like the more weeds we pull, the more seeds we have to plant.
The next week on our days off from the anonymous place, we went to volunteer at Electric Picnic. The car ran out of gas on the road. We quickly steered the car off the road and onto the nearest shoulder. James went to beg the nearest gas station to borrow a gas can because we can’t even afford one while I sat in the car with my head staring at the moldy ceiling.
I was convinced this wasn’t funny and I was over it until I noticed that we had pulled directly into the Funeral Home Directors office.
Ironic. It’s true. The whole glamour of traveling and living and working in another country has been completely killed. We are working harder and longer than we were at home, but we can’t afford dinner, gas to put in the shitty car we are borrowing to get to the volunteer job we have on our two days off, and my boyfriend just had to flirt with a toothless Irish gas station attendant to borrow a gas can.
The best part is that this happened again five days later. Sitting on the side of the road without gas twice in the same week was confirmation that yup, this is rock bottom, for now. I’m sure we will redefine that again later. But for now, this is crap.
Thank god we do so well together, and by the time James returned I was laughing and he smelled like he’d been swimming in gasoline. We decided to suck it up over the next week and get through it together and then promptly move out of Burtown and move on.
That place was toxic to us and made us miserable and exhausted. We weren’t learning, growing, or enjoying it there. We decided that Thursday, August 29 would be our last day.
After clearly stating to our hosts the night prior that we would need a day (like any hospitable host would expect and grant) or even a half of a day to collect our things, do laundry, pack and get ready for Electric Picnic and plan our travels following, we somehow ended up working on Thursday.
It was 2p.m. (we were supposed to be finished by noon) and I was in the cafe by myself, drowning in about 10 tables sitting down ordering multiple courses for lunch.
I ran upstairs to find the anonymous people enjoying a leisurely lunch. Ha. A lunch break. Not on top of a freezer in a closet. Imagine that. A good, long, hour plus break in the middle of the day.
Frustrated as hell I quickly informed them I needed help. We were supposed to be at Electric Picnic setting up camp at noon and it was already 2 p.m.
As soon as I was relieved from duty, quickly James and I borrowed the car, as I had mentioned we would the night prior. We went to the grocery store and spent several hours at the Electric Picnic gates waiting to receive our wristbands we had earned from previously volunteering.
We came home at 8 p.m. to all of the doors of the house locked. After waiting on the doorstep like dogs for a good 45 minutes, boss man came to the door to tell us we were getting the boot, that he was sick of our attitudes (oh, and because we stole his car. You may want to look up the definition for that, as typically one doesn’t ask for permission the night before and then bring it back with more gas than when we ‘stole it’).
No shit Sherlock. We don’t appreciate your attitude, either.
We weren’t exactly pleased working eight hours a day weeding and doing dishes. We didn’t learned a damn thing from you. We were sick of the lack of respect on your end. Duh, you moron, we sure as hell did have an attitude. I am worried for the 47 previous volunteers that put up with that shit.
So we left, and I’ve never been more happy to say goodbye to someone in my life. It was the best night we had since June 30.
The moral of the story is that some people suck, but you can always chose to not live in their house. We admit we should’ve left the second we discovered we didn’t fit with the owners of the home we were staying in. For that, we apologize. We are learning too. That traveling can sometimes have more downs that you might imagine. And yes, it isn’t all that fun all the time. Having a travel bud that you adore helps massively and can make all the difference between calling it quits or carrying on.
But as we write this we recognize that it might be time to re-route the itinerary and find a way to do this that doesn’t drain the spirit and keeps us learning, growing, and for shits sake laughing. The whole point is to have fun, and if we are being cracked with a whip to yank weeds, kiss ass and clean dishes, then count us out.
Peace out Kildare.
Hello new perspective on traveling.