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Workaway.info – How We Survive the Financial Lows

I did the below video about halfway through our stay at our Workaway in Italy, but watching it again, just now, makes me realise that it doesn’t give the full picture of what these last couple months have been for us.

I remember when we arrived in this Workaway in Italy, we had been living in Malta. The deal was super delayed and we up one morning and realised that we would be in serious trouble. Vero said it, “Let’s go to a Workaway (workaway.info) before we run out totally”. I resisted at first but then realised she was right.

Waiting on a deal to complete is soul destroying when it suffers from one delay after another. When the principals of the deal tell you each week that it will be this week, but it is never this week, it is especially soul destroying.

We lived through 6 months of this, just waiting and hoping and hoping and waiting! Honestly, it was hell! We searched for a Workaway nearby, well at least in Italy and found one.

The profile

It read:

“Now, the ideal profile…
1 You can functions WITHOUT your smartphone for longer than 5 hours a day for 5 days ;
2 You are a proactive and responsible individual that SEES things and anticipates us (yes, surprise us with your skills and ideas) when something needs attention;
3 You are able to adapt to different situations ( a rainy day, a lazy day, a very intense day and so on) proposing also projects in line with conditions
4 You are able and keen to keep CLEAN AND TIDY at all time the cottage (just outside smoking with no butts around, no international hostel dorm atmosphere with heaps of things around the house, no, non, nein )…”

This and the rest of it made us laugh and after talking to the fellow, we decided to go there. The only trouble (and the wonderful part, being close to the Cinque Terra) was that it was 18 hours drive away. We weren’t sure if we actually had enough money to get there.

We Took the Plunge

So with about €600 in our account, we packed up our bags, got on the ferry to Sicily and went to get our car. We parked it near the ferry dock and didn’t take it to Malta with us.

We arrived 2 days later in Portovenere with €7 left in our bank account. The cottage was pretty, but oh so basic and really tiny. The property was beautiful but utterly neglected. I was a farmer years ago, an orchard keeper to be precise. My trained eye looked over the property and knew that it needed more help than imaginable.

The big issue for me was that I had not done this sort of work for a very long time. I knew I could do it, but it was going to be really hard for the first couple of weeks. The deal was going to pay out, that’s how my mind was processing where we were at. I was still hopeful and hanging on. We all were.

Luckily, Vero’s tenant paid their rent on time and a friend in Oz came through for us and we were able to go buy some groceries.

Workaway Work

We got to work, our host was a pyromaniac, at least that was my first impression after 3 days there. It seemed like he would light a fire at any and all opportunities. The main thrust of our work at first was to cut and burn everything in sight. This meant ripping ivy and blackberry bushes from stone walls and painfully pilling them up and setting fire to them.

Then came the tree loppers and before I knew it I had an ancient and really heavy chainsaw in my hands and was cutting and stacking literally tons of wood from the loppers efforts, into overhead wood piles. Vero became the property’s weed control master.

The kids helped too. It wasn’t enough that I worked, to keep this roof over our heads, we all had to pitch in to keep our host happy.

The Things You Just Have To Do… Sometimes

When you are that low on money that you aren’t sure how you be able to do the next supermarket shop and you don’t own a home. You must do what it takes to keep a roof over your head.

The work was hard. As uncomfortable as it was, I also felt a shift in my body that felt good. I was strengthening. We were also back in nature, this was a relief after the urbanness of Malta. The kids had playmates on the Olive farm. This was good too. We settled into the Italian lifestyle. This was good too.

We were broke, stone cold broke and we were really stuck. Stuck in the rut of waiting for that deal and physically stuck in this place with seemingly no options.

Don’t get me wrong, we had landed on our feet, the place was beautiful too. It was all such a contradiction for us. Happy and feeling the joy of the new, desperately lacking in too many other ways. Living on a knife’s edge. Hoping and praying for resolution and vindication regarding the deal, dreading the possibility that our struggle might be for nothing. This workaway in Italy gave us such mixed feelings.

In the video I was upbeat, but under all that bravado, I was shrinking.

The Horror

I was horrified how I had let my wife and kids down. After all, I am supposed to be the provider of the family and I was failing miserably. I was also confused. Was I in denial? Was I being a schmuck for still believing in the deal? I had no answers. Vero was starting to brew, and when she took a job with a fellow she knew that she always found really hard to deal with, she finally snapped at me. My horror with myself was well founded and I couldn’t deny her point of view. Just so you know, we are reconciled on this point, but not without a lot of talking.

The Shift

I had to make a shift, but I dreaded that shift. The shift was to let go of the dream, the dream of the deal closing and us being so much richer financially than we were. I also had to embrace the fear, the fear I had of having to slowly and painfully drag ourselves out of the hole we were in through hard work and deliberate action. It was way worse than the thought of pulling out teeth. I was terrified to let that dream go and face reality, at least the reality of that day and what I thought the next day and the weeks after would be.

The workaway in Italy became a way to avoid the shift too. I could go and lose myself in its physicality, but the reality wasn’t more than a few breaths away. A morning came when the news of the deal was so ridiculous that I couldn’t keep lying to myself about it, Vero took that news even harder than me. We crashed. Three days later, after a few days of bitting each other’s heads off, we came through it and I finally reached a place where I stopped waiting and started looking forward, properly, and for the first time in many months.

A Breakthrough

Lo and behold, within a couple of days we had a breakthrough in a totally different direction, I feel optimistic again because of it. We all do. I can’t say more about what it was right now, but I will when the time is right.

The work that Vero is doing, and her encouragement, has allowed me to focus again on this blog. I had neglected it badly for more than a month. I know I have worked hard to keep the roof over our heads and Vero has actually been patient, but it wasn’t enough. The truth is, I could have done more, and I am now and she is happy.

Where To From Here

We think we might have enough money now to move on. We are going to take the punt and do it. Whether we really do have enough is yet to be seen. We have some crazy ideas about trading in our VW Touran for an older campervan and setting out across Siberia. The Partners in our deal messaged today to say they have been promised we will be paid tomorrow, I still ‘half-dream’ about the possibilities, but now these dreams are in proportion to the other new ones we are developing. I love my wife and am so grateful for her patience and her pushes!

I am always optimistic and I still believe that the universe is benevolent!

What about you? What do you believe?

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We’ve tried housesitting, but due to it being sporatic, we rarely do it. We are not really into couch-surfing.  Not many people would have enough couches for the whole family anyhow. We do host couch-surfers at home, we just prefer to pay our way.

We backpack fairly regularly, because it's fun (some tips on backpacking with kids will be coming soon). Stays at luxury resorts and villas we like. Going camping and glamping are good too.  Getting ready to do some blue water cruising on a catamaran is definitely our thing.

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