Home > Europe > Spain > Workaway, volunteering to travel: my experience in Spain

When I first heard about Workaway I immediately loved the idea: a form of shared economy, one can offer help and skills in exchange for accommodation and food. It combines volunteering and travelling, two activities that I have practiced extensively and have always given me great satisfaction and enjoyment.


I initially thought that, at 54, I might be too old for Workaway, but I quickly found out that I was wrong, if I had the energy and flexibility, I could certainly find someone who could use my help!

I was very clear about what my needs were: I wanted my own room and possibly my own bathroom and I wanted to be in an urban setting, not in an isolated countryside. I also knew that I didn’t want to live with a big family or with a couple and I wanted to learn Spanish!

With this in mind I started looking at what was on offer and it became apparent that my best option was finding a single mum! I have two grown up daughters and I am very familiar with how hard it is to be present all the time and how important it is to be able to entrust some tasks to someone else. I thought I would have a lot to offer, being older and being a mum myself.

It didn’t take me long to build up my “wish list” and after a few emails and intercontinental chats via Whatsapp my stay in Cartagena, Spain, was organised!


I had never even heard of Cartagena, but the woman on the other side of my screen, Ana, was friendly and open, I liked her immediately, and when she mentioned the warm and sunny winters in her city, I was sold. After years of Australian winters I wasn’t looking forward to a cold European January!

I have to admit that I was a bit nervous on the days preceding my departure. Was I doing the right thing? What if we didn’t get on? What if the little girl was too much for me? What if I hated it?

I decided that I had to keep an open mind and remind myself of what I was looking for: meeting new people, exchange experiences, learn something new, challenge my self by coming out of my comfort zone.

I have been in Cartagena for a few days now and I am excited to say that I am well on the way to find what I was looking for!

workawayI live in the outer suburbs, away from the tourists and immersed in a Spain that I had not seen before, sometimes closer to North Africa than Europe, and I am savouring every bit of it.

At the house I help out with daily housework, a bit of cooking and looking after the adorable Binta, who is  2 and half years old. I haven’t been around such young children for a long time and the initial shock in remembering how demanding they are, is turning into enjoyment, as I rediscover the pleasure of interacting in such a playful way.

It’s interesting for me to see a different way of bringing up children. Binta is exposed to  people of different nationalities who are welcomed into her home and share her daily life. I can’t help thinking about the gift that Ana is giving her daughter. Growing up learning about differences,  learning to communicate not only with words, but with gestures and sounds, interacting with people from different cultures must be very enriching.

I am also surprised by my reaction, by the way I have embraced what surrounds me without asking too many questions but simply accepting it. I think the openness of my host has a lot to do with it. Just like her daughter, Ana has embraced this way of life, inviting people to her home, taking what they have to offer, adapting to the different dynamics and patterns.

I love listening to all the people who have been here! I am amazed to learn about the Ukrainian family who stopped by for two weeks and a sweet older woman who, not having the language, communicated with her cooking! There was a young girl at her first experience away of home, who stayed in her room crying for most of her stay, and another one who loved it so much she kept coming back.

I realise that I am now one of these stories, one of the guests who by passing through will leave a bit of me in this home. A nice thought to end this article!

Barbara Amalberti (Barbaraexapat)
Cartagena, Spain
January 2020
Photos ©BarbaraAmalberti
The website of Workaway: https://www.workaway.info/


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