Life on the road in pursuit of more knowledge about sustainable architecture.
Vagabond tales. Our past long term traveling experiences summarized and future plans revealed.
It’s not only the school of life. It’s the school of life on the road. Long term travel will broaden your views and create a certain sense of freedom that you could not get anywhere else but on the road. Your choices are unlimited and you will, that is a promise, discover the real you along the way.
We could not have done this long term travel without the help of programs like HELPX (Helpexchange). All organizations offer information about hosts to helpers for a small fee. They give you the opportunity to work for your accommodation and food while you are traveling. We, honestly, prefer traveling with HelpX over the other ones. It has far superior system of contacting hosts and helpers. While others make you buy books of every country with the hosts listed per region. HelpX.net gives you a profile page online with pictures, videos, self-description and most importantly reviews and a worldwide database. When you have a bunch of positive reviews like us, it really helps establish yourself as a trustworthy helper. By now, we get daily requests from hosts inviting us. Also Helpexchange is not limited like others to organics or farms, it's so much more. It's all about the cultural exchange and experience. You could be a nanny, translator, bartender, pool cleaner, construction worker or a little bit of everything. As a general rule though, watch out for the people out there trying to make an extra buck on your back. Even though we haven’t really encountered that problem, we do realize there’s always some bad apples out there. If you ever feel disappointed and do not wish to stay, the beauty of this project is you can just go. Nobody would blame you, you didn't sign a contract. You are still just a traveler looking for different experiences.
We got introduced to this way of traveling by Brendan, Connor’s brother, who has done helping on organic farms before in Italy. Quite skeptical at first, I think we spent about a week online in search for these kind of organizations before deciding Helpexchange would suit our travels the best. We started our grand world tour together probably right after we met. Being from two completely different parts of the world, we did each have a home yes.. but not one together.
Connor is a born and raised Seattleite (USA) and I consider Ghent (Belgium) as my hometown.
So we decided to go scouting and see what else is out there in the world. We started using HelpX in the summer of 2009. Connor has always been interested in sustainability and architecture. Now, we had a new mission to not only find our perfect location on this planet, but to also soak up as much knowledge about sustainable architecture along the way as possible. Here’s where HelpX comes in as many of their hosts are very into sustainability and permaculture. Basically all that we wanted to learn was right out there, for us to grab.
Our first experience was an hour and a half west outside of Madrid, Spain.
Houston did not only tell us all about his solar passive house and future plans for the garden, he was a very understanding host with a massive amount of knowledge as he answered all of our questions patiently. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to start with.
One thing we love about this way of traveling is all the fun we get to have! Talk about a sweet deal when you are asked to babysit a B&B for a month during the summer time in the south of Spain, just outside of Granada up in the mountains. The work we had to do was very little in comparison of what we got in return. Friends for life, sunshine, beautiful scenery, authentic slow life and lots of jumping in the pool!
After Spain we moved on to Portugal and one of the places we will always remember was Richard and Kathy’s place. Their property was one out of an old fairy tale book. Huge forested area with scattered, original, and a tidbit broken down houses. A river was running right through the property which made it the perfect location for an old mill, which it used to be. Help was needed with fixing up various buildings. It was way too hot to work, so we took lots of siestas and partied in the evening time. It was the season of summer gatherings and they had a large circle of friends so that automatically came along with lots of invites. Making your own pizza from scratch, with all of your own grown ingredients, in your home made outside cob oven is and always will be the best pizza you’ll ever have!
Distant snowy mountain tops. Luscious green hills surrounding you. A never ending choice of scenic walks and hikes nearby. Old-fashioned slow paced little villages in the valleys everywhere. That’s the Pyrenees. French or Spanish side? It doesn’t matter. They are both equally amazing and very inviting. We had a hard time leaving that place and it is definitely on our list of possibilities for settling down. A funny story comes along with talking about our HelpX hosts in the French Pyrenees.. We were stuck in Barcelona with no idea what we would want to do for the next 2 weeks before we were headed to Italy. I desperately wanted to go hang out in the Pyrenees so we rang up a series of hosts. They all turned us down as they all were already hosting British family members of a fellow host in the area who was having this big christening party. Eventually we found Kev and Beck’s place and upon our arrival they immediately told us, they were going to this christening the next day and we could tag along! So we got to see this famous pig farm and meet the cute little twins. Last but not least, the feasts biggest highlight was the slowly spit roasted pig they slaughtered just for this occasion. It fed about 100 people! Marvelous times in the mountains..
After our European adventure, which lasted for about a year, we flew back to the States to get married.
Even when we’re home, we never really stop traveling. We did heaps of side trips and one that I highly recommend to everyone, would be to go to the Northwest, more especially the Olympic Peninsula.
Where or what’s that exactly, you ask? No worries. These days it’s very easy to explain. Heard lately of this little movie slash book thing called Twilight? No need to say more.. The Olympic peninsula is a beautifully wild, mystic and exceptionally spiritual place. We met an Australian couple who owned a food co-op there and they told us of all the places they had visited in the big wide world, this one was their favorite. I wonder when that moment is going to be for us. At this point I get antsy when I’m in the same place for too long. It’s amazing how easily you adapt to new situations.
What could have been our honeymoon, I guess, was our month in Hawaii (see blog entry - The Big Island). We just couldn’t resist making a stop on the way to Australia, where we are going to be for 2011. The plan is to be working for about 5 months or so. After all we have the Working Holiday Visa and Australia pays great, so why not take advantage? HelpX places so far in Oz have been in Sydney, which was more of a homestay – work in the garden kind of gig, the Blue Mountains (see blog entries - Blue Mountains Zoo & The Blue Gum Forest) and our current one just outside of Daylesford, Victoria. It’s a tale of tipi’s and kangaroos to come soon! Don and Sue, our hosts, own an enormous amount of books and knowledge of everything concerning straw bale building and permaculture. Here’s a link that might give you a better idea what sustainable architecture entails, for those of you who are willing to have a look and learn!
FIRST EARTH is a documentary about our evolution towards where we are at the moment and why. It zooms in on the gaining popularity of sustainable architecture and the reason why. Please do check it out!
Pictures of cobbing in Bulgaria with Susan, our host.
Next is New Zealand and a bit of Asia after we earned a bit of cash here in Oz. Right now, Connor and I have this crazy idea in our heads to take the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Moscow and make our way back to Belgium overland. Sigh.. I know it's all crammed into one entry and it must seem like we're some crazy adventures, but do realize we travel very slow. Thanks to HelpX, we stay in a place from a week till up to a month, discovering all of the surrounding area. It is a very relaxed and perfectly nice way to travel.
Now that should get you up to date!! If you want to hear all about our adventures and hosts, don’t be shy to subscribe or comment, you guys!
Flemish Girl Down Under