Workaway in Portugal

From the beginning part of my travel planning has always been to travel slowly…to get to know an area instead of seeing few sites everywhere I stop and breeze through on a whirlwind tour. Another part of the planning was to find ways to cut travel expenses. In my research I found many work-in-trade programs where a host and traveler work out an agreement which is normally a set amount of work hours over the course of a week in exchange for room and board. Stumbling across these programs was an awe-inspiring moment and I immediately knew it was something I wanted to do. It would allow me to stay in locations for longer periods AND cut costs. Win, win!

There are several different programs out there; one of the most well-known being Worldwide Opportunities On Organic Farms. While I have nothing against organic farming I wanted other opportunities also and decided to join a site called Workaway (workaway.info). This site has a variety of work types literally all across the globe. From help with childcare and household chores in Paris to helping learn English in Brazil to helping at a center for abused women and children in Tibet to helping with renovation projects in Canada to …well, you get the idea. Below is one of my Workaway adventures. Enjoy!

Upon signing up for Workaway I initially starting sending requests to hosts randomly across Europe because I didn’t know where I’d be starting my travels. After booking my ticket to Lisbon I really began looking for a host in Portugal and after sending several requests out and talking with a few hosts, one host seemed like a great fit for me; Janet. Janet is an English woman who had retired to Portugal a few years earlier, in part to continue with her passion of teaching natural horsemanship.

Janet picked me up from the bus station in Caldas da Rainha, Portugal and after running a couple of errands we went to the beach where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Obidos Lagoon. I thought it was a great start to my first Workaway experience! After having my first ever cup of hot tea we went to Janet’s property. Janet lives just off the lagoon and I knew from her pictures it was a beautiful place, but sometimes pictures are deceiving. If you’ve ever been disappointed when arriving at a hotel room and finding it is half the size the website pictures made it look, you know what I mean. There was no such let down at Janet’s property as it is just the idyllic location her pictures showed. She lives in a complex of 6 houses and owns two of them (I think the other four are also owned by Brits). I ended up staying in the main house with Janet and her three English Springer Spaniels.

Workaway at Obidos Lagoon
Workaway at Obidos Lagoon

Janet is an impressive gardener, and told me her neighbor is even better. It was awesome seeing all the different vegetables in the gardens (yes, multiple gardens) and fruit trees in the yard. It was much more impressive than the large garden my family had when I was a child, sorry Dad.

I was with Janet for a week and worked about 26 hours I think. In return Janet cooked great meals every day, a private bedroom and bathroom, and great company. This is what I worked on:

  • I painted a large kitchen cabinet that had previously been built
  • Built and painted another cabinet and mounted it on the kitchen wall
  • Helped plant a couple of trees
  • Spent a few hours moving horse shit from the muck pile to her new permaculture garden bed

That’s about it I think. I didn’t do any specialty work like electrical or plumbing. But I did spend time playing with her dogs and watching the horses. With virtually zero experience with horses I was hesitant to get too close for too long so I mainly watched from a safe distance. Other than that, I went for a run on the back roads along the lagoon one evening and did some writing. I also did some much needed relaxing after several days of sightseeing in Lisbon, Sintra and Obidos. For a little Portuguese culture Janet provided an impromptu Port wine tasting and took me on a trip to an adega. Both of which were great, check out the links!

Obidos Lagoon Looking Toward the Atlantic Ocean
Obidos Lagoon Looking Toward the Atlantic Ocean

It was a great first Workaway experience and really set the bar high for any I do in the future. Thanks Janet!

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