A workaway in Austria
Sorry folks, if you’re hoping to read about the usual tales of daring bravery and adventure you have come to expect (pah, who am I trying to kid!), you’re not going to find it in this post. This is all about slowing life down as I 'workaway' in Austria.
Miles cycled in the past 13 days: 0
Against all expectations, I was two weeks ahead of schedule for meeting Dad and my brother in Slovenia. I considered taking a lengthy detour to Budapest or Prague, but the opportunity arose through workaway (you work for around 5 hours per day, all over the world, in return for food and accommodation) to work on a sustainable homestead in Austria.
I have done a workaway before in America which was awesome, but, initially I was very reluctant; the thought of working, and of staying in one place seemed mundane compared to the exciting nomadic lifestyle I was living and loving. Even the thought of a bed, and a shower, and good food, and WiFi weren’t especially enticing – the road had shown me I didn’t need these luxuries.
“23/6/15: …being here doesn’t particularly excite me.
I think I’m still in ‘let’s hit the road’ mode!”
Somehow though, I found myself staying with Wolfgang and Sophia in the small Austrian hamlet of Pollmannsdorf, perched on the top of a hill, home to less than 100 people, several miles from the nearest shop. Not that we need to visit the shops often; I’m woken in the morning by a cockerel, his hens providing our eggs. Wolfgang makes huge 6kg delicious wheels of cheese, while Sophia bakes our bread. If I’m asked to go and get some salad, peas and raspberries, that means a trip to the garden and its various vegetable patches, not a trip to the local supermarket.
Sophia and Wolfgang lead an interesting life, with an almost spiritual connection with nature, as they try to live here as sustainably as possible. As well as producing as much of their own food as possible, solar panels are used to heat their water (I found out the hard way when I tried to shower in the morning!), their buildings are made mostly by them and their son using wood, clay and straw, and they reuse and recycle everything – nothing goes to waste.
I’d always wondered whether I’d like to live in such a way. Life here is slow, peaceful and stress-free. Mealtimes can happily last a couple of hours, slowly eating incredible food (I’ll get onto that later) and enjoying good conversation. There’s a certain charm that comes with harvesting and preparing your own food from scratch – I’m adamant it tastes better. The antics during my time off may not seem as adrenaline fuelled as my other adventures but befit the lifestyle nicely, from lounging in a hammock reading, to cooling off from the 35°C with a plunge in a lake, or gently riding a horse through stunning Austrian landscapes as the golden sun dips out of sight.
The food here has just been the icing on the cake. Oh boy, when I go back to a bike tourer’s pasta and porridge diet, am I going to be in for a shock! It has been a real cultural experience, trying an entirely new Austrian or Hungarian food every day, and not once have I left the table not wanting more… not because I’m hungry, but because it tastes so flippin’ good!
I feel so privileged to have spent time here, and it has proven a real reminder to slow down, and engage with the people and areas I’m passing through. I’m cycling to travel, not travelling to cycle (important difference). Having said that, I’m look forward to hitting the road again, and seeing what’s over the horizon which has been taunting me for two weeks.
Some of the other workawayers I got to meet!
I’ll be back as usual next week with more fierce tales of adventure as I head… into the Austrian Alps! I’m a few kilos heavier from all the food so wish me luck!
To read about my other incredible workaway adventure on a horse ranch in New York, click here!