At 20, I decided to travel alone. Sifting through opportunities on WorkAway was like being at a buffet with too much choice… everything caught my attention. But I decided to stay in Europe & visit the land of food & family; Italy. I first visited Velletri, a small town outside Rome. The ad I had considered & applied for (and then been accepted to) had read ‘we want nothing from you but for you to integrate into the family and to be a friend/ big sister for my two girls’. Well – what could be easier?
Meeting the family was lovely, but VERY strange. Consider that this is a young girl, travelling alone for the first time, with a noticeable language barrier present.
The best advice I can give – which is now what I do with ALL of my travelling experiences – is to throw yourself into it. The more immersed & part of the culture you become the more you feel like a native part of it.
After a few days the girls (a dream to be around) and I had developed our own ways to communicate – through card games, dominoes, musical instruments, playing in the pool & language practice games. Not only was their English getting better but after a week or two I was holding small & simple conversations in Italian. This brings me to tip number two; give the language a go! No one cares if you sound ridiculous, you will be respected for making an effort. Plus, you never know when you’re next going to be alone & need to communicate with a local.
The family & I would eat lunch & dinner together every day; bountiful feasts of fresh home grown produce, (even Mozzarella sent special delivery from Naples one evening – to die for); friends & family gathered around the table with wine, grappa & conversation until late. The best thing for me, aside from the joy of being the girls’ big sister for a month?, was that the girls had two older brothers too. These spoke better English & were nearer my age – therefore I had the best of both worlds. I would play with the girls by day, and hang out with the boys in the local pubs or at their friends’ houses by night.
My next tip is to talk to people. Lone travellers in particular are always looking to exchange stories & learn about different cultures.
I still talk to one of the girls I spent the day with now & the eldest brother from the family? I hosted him in Liverpool for a week & then out of the blue he hosted me in Amsterdam when we were both there visiting.
The show must always go on. I said my goodbyes before boarding a train to Vasto in eastern Italy; a beach town where I would go on to look after two little boys…
“Workaway has changed my life and, if you let it, it will change yours too. I used Workaway again the next year again to travel to Southern Italy & I plan to use it again this summer whilst inter-railling. After that, who knows. The world really is your Oyster; never forget that. Thank You Workaway!”
ICS is an overseas volunteering programme for 18-25 year olds, funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development. To volunteer you don’t need cash, skills or qualifications – just the ambition to make a difference http://www.volunteerics.org/