WorkAway - An Alternative Way to Work

It was late August 2017, and I knew that by year’s end, I was going to be quitting my job. I had been planning this for some time. I actually gave my previous employer 7 months notice. I know that’s a little out of the ordinary but I wanted to feel good about my departure, leave things the right way - without regret.

Here I was, a few months away from a completely different schedule and lifestyle, not really knowing exactly how that was going to look. One thing I knew I didn’t want to do was just sit around, feeling unproductive, or stuck in another role that didn’t give me fulfillment. So I started thinking about what did give me fulfillment - traveling, photography, learning about new places and meeting new people. All of those things certainly sounded great, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to bring all of those together.

Then, I found WorkAway.

The O'Brien Family - owners of Chancletas Beach Resort

The O'Brien Family - owners of Chancletas Beach Resort

WorkAway is an amazing organization where members can contact one another to organize work-exchanges. Typically a business owner will post that they need some sort of help, and are willing to trade a place to stay, free meals, etc.. for your help fulfilling their needs. And there are opportunities all over the world!! It can range from offering help on a sustainable farm, teaching english in an orphanage, helping out with administrative or hospitality services in a small hotel or hostel...the possibilities are endless.

I felt as though WorkAway would be the perfect way for me to transition from my “9 to 5” to a new kind of lifestyle. I had never studied abroad, nor lived in a foreign country, even though I had always wanted that kind of experience. So, I approached Cass one day and asked her: “Hey, what do you think about doing some kind of work-exchange program in a foreign country early next year?” And the adventurous soul she is, she immediately thought it’d be a great idea.

We started narrowing down different parts of the world we wanted to go visit for an extended period of time.. Southeast Asia?... Great! Bali??... You bet! Maybe Northern India for a yogi experience???... Why Not?! Or how about a Central American country to keep flight costs low??.. Yeah, let’s look around there too!

So after doing some “job” hunting, I had narrowed down to few opportunities that looked promising, and that were looking for the kind of work we could willingly offer. I ended up finding one that fit my skills perfectly and was a great way for me to continue to learn different types of photography, grow my portfolio, and do exactly we want to do as The Dharma Collective - help a small business with their branding so they can turn their passion into their life’s work.

That opportunity ended up being with Chancletas Beach Resort, a surf-hotel in Northwest Nicaragua that needed a professional photographer for their social media and website imagery. Initially the whole exchange was very easy.. I reached out, had a couple conversations with Shay - the hotel owner - and before you knew it, Cass and I had our tickets to Nicaragua, with plans to spend 7 weeks in a place we had never been.

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Looking back, we put a lot of faith in knowing this decision was right for us, and I think that’s what made the experience so easy. We didn’t question it. We just committed and went with the flow, knowing that by living our Dharma, this opportunity was going to turn into exactly what we needed.

It turned out to be everything we wanted and more! At first, there was a little bit of getting used to a different kind of work schedule, a new kind of relationship with our employers, and finding our groove in a new place and with the “WorkAway experience” that neither of us had ever had before. But before long, we zeroed in on the type and quality of work that they wanted, all the while being able to explore a beautiful part of coastal Nicaragua.

As a photographer, I was able to focus on my craft every single day, and also learn a lot about surf-photography - something I’ve always been intrigued by, but never had the opportunity to learn. Cass took the reigns on designing a new website for them. Together, we were able to help them with their overall branding mission, website content, and with some decisions about growing their business while staying true to their ethos.

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We also got so much out of the cultural experience and relationships we made during our WorkAway experience. Traveling through and exploring a “lesser developed” country taught us a lot about what’s truly important and gave us a deeper appreciation for what we have. We felt inspired by those living with so little yet still happy and content in their lives.

We were also inspired by meeting so many other travelers and expats that were living the life that they truly dreamed of. Meeting and connecting with those kind of people really gave us the validation that we were seeking as we pursue the fulfillment and self-actualization we desire.

An aspect of this trip that was unexpected and validated our decision was that incredible opportunities and ideas kept coming our way. People seemed to be going out of their way to help us and offered us new opportunities in line with our skill-sets. It served as the perfect reminder that when you’re following your bliss and living your dharma the opportunities that are meant for you will effortlessly make their way into your life.

The whole WorkAway experience ended being a catalyst for some serious growth, introspection, and inspiration that in this day-and-age, we can live, work, and play in any way we want to. And the opportunities to do so are endless.