Do you have a passion you want to dive into? Want to learn more about organic gardening? Want to learn how to live off-grid? The website WorkAway.info is a cultural exchange and learning program where hosts offer room and board for an exchange of volunteer support. While writing the book Power of One Woman, I made the decision to volunteer for three Work Away programs to learn with people in action. I volunteered on a 12-acre organic farm in the Georgia Mountains; with a couple building an off-grid retreat center in the Alabama Mountains; and on an adventure center in the Rocky Mountains.
An inspiring benefit of Work Away is meeting people. I met intelligent, conscious people from the around the planet: Switzerland, Ukraine, B.C., France and from around the United States.
Many young women and men are taking a year to learn more of what is out there. I spoke to Jill and Mackenzie two young women traveling the planet volunteering and learning skills, visiting new places and meeting friends. Jill a 22 year-old woman from California is volunteering on organic farms with the intention of opening up her own farm. Jill is thoughtful with her diet; eating an all-organic diet traveling with tealeaves, such as strawberry, from gardens she has visited. Jill found fresh pine needles from a recently cut tree, studied their benefits, learned pine needles have Vitamin C and made tea from them.
Jill stated, “I want to gain experience in what I want to build. I am curious about the connection to food and water and where it comes from, in local areas how farmers are growing food in their region. What are the local trees and plants in the region and what do the gardens look like? I am volunteering with farm to table hosts. I am interested in herbs and how they can be made into essential oils and medicinal tinctures.”
Jill, Mackenzie and I talk by the outdoor fire in the mountains and Mackenzie is sketching Jill and myself. Jill continues, “In North Carolina, I stayed with a family of four on a picturesque farm in a valley. We picked hundreds of pounds of apples and pears, made applesauce and pear sauce and prepared for market days.” Jill heads next to a Florida farm and is excited to read the book, “Florida’s Edible Wild Plants” by Peggy Sias Lantz. Jill states, “I want to see farms and communities at different phases. I want to learn more about cooperative living and see other’s perspectives.”
Mackenize is a Chicago native and one year out of college. She worked in Washington D.C. as a Post Baccalaureate Fellow. She explains, “I am traveling because I realized my job and the track I was on would not make me happy. I feel traveling is a way to figure out what I want to do and learn more about myself. I was caught up in it.
“I wanted to learn more ways of living because I just knew the one way. I feel connected to the efforts of people in touch with the land.” Mackenzie spent three months in Alaska before heading to Talladega, Alabama. She continues, “I wanted to see the south and experience off-grid living. I wanted to feel more in touch with the land and nature. I see how I feel being out in nature and how I feel after being on the Internet. After spending time outdoors, I feel city life is a harder life to live. Working in the lab, I didn’t feel my brain was thriving. I began thinking there was more than one way to think. I put myself outside my comfort zone, and expanded my vision. I got out of the box of who I was. I have had tons of new experiences. I realize we can’t assume.
I listened to people and heard many new views. Seeing other peoples’ views helps me to think differently. For instance, there was no trash pick up in Alaska. We were very aware of what we consumed, and we had to burn our trash. I became more aware of our impact on the planet not just sending trash off. Learning is really important. Being uncomfortable is really important because it helps us grow. I am thinking about my diet, and I am thinking about my impact on the planet.”
Jill, Mackenzie, and I enjoyed the different terrains, the people we met, and the different cultures. We expressed an expansion of awareness within ourselves meeting new people and growing from new experiences. Jill and Mackenzie stated they would continue to travel creating in their minds and hearts a roadmap for their future.