How to combine work and travel- our first workaway experience in Shizuoka, Japan

Before we started our trip we evaluated the different possibilities to do something “meaningful” while traveling. Why not get in contact with people to reach a common goal instead of as travellers ? One way was to apply for smaller jobs but in any case we had needed a working visa what is quite difficult to get in most of the countries. After some further research, Adelia found workaway.info. Here, the concept is to connect hosts with volunteers in order to exchange hospitality against support in form of cleaning services, language training, cooking, maintence, babysitting or other crazy tasks. We wrote to 3 potential hosts about 2 month before our arrival and ended up staying with 2 of them for 3 weeks in total.

It is so easy and much fun, let me tell you a little more about it!

Our first stay was in Shizuoka. We were invited to a cabin right next to a river, bamboo forests and- nothing else. For 1 week we woke up every morning with the sound of rushing water right next to our window and in return we worked 5 h/day. Without searching for a host, we hadn´t discovered this beautiful place. Okay, buying a train ticket for about 5000 Yen (45 €) to go to a station in the middle of nowhere felt strange! Not just once came the time where some “what-if-thoughts” crossed our minds:

What if nobody will pick us up?  What if they are strange people?  What if we have to work too hard?

But everything turned out even better than expected! We found ourselves sitting at the table after our long trip with 2 inspiring people that had to tell more travel stories than we had actually! Hila and Dai got to know each other in Nepal, they have already been travelling for years and now apreciate having people around from all parts of the world. They renovated an awesome traditional japanease house and now rent this place on airbnb so we were preparing their own house for winter (as the humidity is not that high anymore). We even changed the paper of their paper doors what was a real good transfer of knowledge as these doors are quite charactistic for japanease households- maybe we can use this experience one day for our own paper doors at home because they are beautiful and very precious.

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We got one day off and joined a traditional rocket festival that takes place every second year in Tamatori. We were invited to spend this festival with a japanease family… and were so warmly welcomed with beers, sake and most delicious food like fried squid balls, snail, pickled cucumbers and many other local culinary delights you can´t imagine! The japanease hospitality overwhelmed us because the people you see in the streets seem to often keep for themselves but being in an “inner circle” was like being pampered by friends. They wanted to know everything about us and were very very curious. We directly used our (still poor) japanease skills to talk a little bit about our stay and the villages competing against each other bilding bamboo rockets and ignite them every 20 minutes, followed by a poem every village preparaed. It was such a good time and we were so easily integrated and not treated as foreigners but as close aquaintances.

Shizuoka held a lot to explore for us, so I was very lucky to finally enjoy a good run after our stay in Indonesia where it was impossible due to the high temperatures and the bad streets. But we had to be very careful to not leave the regular way for just 1 meter because up there in the mountains we found the biggest spiders I have ever seen! One night there was even one walking inside our bedroom right next to us. But besides that we found many colorful butterflies, huge mantis and also snakes and there are so many different trees, flowers and of course the bamboo and the green tea plants growing what made this place reeally special and still mystic for us!

The last day we joined a tea ceremony. We thought we were prepared but unfortunately everything went wrong. The normal way is that the tea is prepared in a very special way, then it is served in an anounced order and in the end you return the dishes. First I didn´t pass the tea bowl to Adelia but immediately drank it… ui that´s bad karma for sure! Then we didn´t know whether to drink the tea in one slip or in many little ones… well I still don´t know and in the end we put the dishes away in the wrong corner so we completely screwed up and left a bad reputation about germans. I think somebody has to come back for good, maybe some of you can put this right for us?!

Saying goodbye was very bad again, we were sad to leave Dai and Hila and their beautiful natural paradise but hope to meet again one day! It is unthinkable what Japan held for us so far, I had never imagined to find a place so close but yet so far from German climate and cultural circumstances. I mean the japanease politeness was something I didn´t know so far and it surprised me. On the other side concerning the wheather, it reminds me pretty much of home in autumn because of the leaves´ changing color , the chilly evenings and the rain:o) Actually this stay was so calm and we even developed some kind of routine what was just what we needed after the first month of rushing days and crazy nights.

We look forward to our next stop at Kyoto and will soon share our next adventure with you!

 

 

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