Some years ago I wrote a manuscript for a book to be called “Teach Your Way Around the World,” based on my experiences as an itinerant English teacher, moving from country to country offering conversation classes and deriving great satisfaction from the experience.
A well-known publisher hemmed and hawed over my manuscript for a year but finally rejected it because I had not resolved a major problem: the illegality in most countries of taking pay for conversation classes without a work permit.
Now, years later, I discovered that programs for living abroad have been developed that allow travelers to barter work for food and shelter, entirely avoiding the requirement and bureaucracy of work permits.
“I have four volunteers from a program called “Workaway” living at my rancho north of Guadalajara,” my friend Salvador told me. “They’ve come from all over Europe. Why don’t you drop by and talk to them?”
I checked out Workaway on the web and discovered that it’s an organization started in 2002 by a young man who thought that exchanging a few hours of work for accommodations and food could open new horizons for youth – or retirees, for that matter – yearning for an in-depth experience abroad. The website simply matches up volunteers and hosts, Uber/airbnb style.
Always up for an adventure, my neighbor Josh immediately accepted my suggestion to camp out at Rancho El Méxicano and meet Salvador’s volunteer guests. The ranch is located on a high plateau overlooking the city. Although it is only eight kilometers north of the Periférico (city beltway), getting there requires taking a 62-kilometer circuitous route to cross the humongous Santiago River Canyon which half-encircles metro-area Guadalajara. After a two-hour drive, country roads brought us to Salvador Mayorga’s adobe ranch house where we enjoyed cool drinks while chatting with two of his work-exchange volunteers, Ludivine Delesque and Adenäis Milizia, both from France.