‘I loved being a Workaway host but now Brexit has ended it in the UK’ | Volunteering holidays

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When I first heard about Workaway it sounded too good to be true, and perhaps in some ways it was: a website on which travellers could exchange their skills for free accommodation sounded like something that only happened in dreams. Perhaps that’s what appealed to me about it – the triumph of community over cash.

When I moved to a ramshackle Somerset cottage without enough skills to do the renovations myself, or money to pay tradespeople, I turned to Workaway for help. For the past year it has kept me in labourers and friends.

My Workaway guests, sleeping in my caravan and spare room, came from across the globe and the social spectrum, ranging in ages from their teens to their 50s. A healer from Kenya painted my bathroom pink; an engineer from Argentina put up my thrifted chandeliers; a graffiti artist from Seattle fixed my caravan and an Irish teenager tried to put up pictures on my bedroom wall and instead hammered the plaster clean off.

Often guests were taking gap years or having mid-life crises, and I felt privileged to be a stop on their journeys

Most of the Workaways I met were travellers but some were British people opting out of the system or young digital nomads looking for alternative ways of living. One writer from Boston, Lincolnshire, helped plaster my ceiling in between writing video games in my caravan; a builder from Manchester helped me install a garden gate while trading cryptocurrency on the side.

A guest enjoys Katie Glass’s garden. Photograph: Katie Glass

Often guests were in search of something, taking gap years or having mid-life crises, and I felt privileged to be a stop on their journeys. I had guests who told me about how they had come out of the care system, and others travelling between spiritual communities and retreats. I sat up late with a teenager who spent endless evenings reading travelogues and poems to me, while artists opened their sketchbooks to show me their work, some of which is now on my walls. Some left presents, like…

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About the Author: V. Moss