A scattered-yet-connected bunch of topics related to the experiences of WorkAway.
Questions come when I wake up, experience my morning routine, and then receive breakfast. All the work of yesterday was for that day and at the end of the day there was no monetary gain. What will I do to earn this breakfast in front of me? Was yesterday’s work sufficient to carry over? What will I do today to earn another night’s sleep, and lunch?
None of this is for sale, and besides, with no income I’d rather not have to buy it.
Future security disappears…or does it change?
Everyday is like survival
There is no legal obligation for the host to provide notice of leave. Perhaps there is a social obligation, but this could be hazardous to assume. As it goes, anyday the host can say “it’s time for you to move on” or something to this effect. Initially we might think that most people would not be so direct and not need an immediate departure, but when it comes to someone’s home they may be less forgiving to allow the time to transition out of a place. In comparison, a similar thing happens in the corporate world with layoffs and such, one day you are working, the next day there is no job and life has changed. In Canada at least, the laid-off person is likely to receive compensation for their situation, either from their employer or from the Employment Insurance program of the government.
Who are our friends?
In a situation like this where our livelihood is at stake, it can really help to be able to express honesty and to have a confidente. However, consider that the person is living at the worksite, or working in the home, and that most or every other person they interact with is also a part of the project. So it can be difficult, or even impossible when in a foreign land, to find a friend who is unbiased and not directly invested in the project and the people related to what you wish to talk about.
The primary relationship is likely to be directly with the host, this is the person who the connection was first established with, and the person who is likely the counterpart responsible for the ongoing relationship status. Even if there are other growing relationships, I personally hesitate to talk to these people at the project about it because I lack trust in the word staying in confidence or lack trust in myself to deal with the confrontation with the host if the message gets to them. As a result of this, I’m tempted to go directly to the host, but then worry surfaces as this could catalyze the request for my departure.
So what to do? Some suggestions are given in the section ‘Tips to Consider’.
Freedom to adapt to a changing sense of self
The lack of a formal agreement and legal terms shares freedom both ways. Yes it is true that the host can request or enforce the guest to leave at any time. The flipside is also true: the guest has the choice to leave at any time. This offers a great flexibility to both partners.
For the guest, or the worker, they gain the benefit of having no long-term commitment to a specified role. The illusion that one is stuck in any given working situation is quite thin and faded. The worker recognizes that there are many opportunities, and that just as simple as it was to enter into this working arrangement, is as simple as it can be to enter into the next. However, the attachment and desire to hold on to what one has expended energy to gain may still be there.
What is there to attach to?
It is a little bit like hunting for apartments, finding one that fits well, trying it out and settling in. One knows it will be possible to find another apartment and to settle into this new one, but there is investment in the current place of living. Things, rooms, patterns: these things become familiar to us and we build relationships with them.
More about a changing sense of self
Perhaps you can relate: do you carry many interests? How about many skills at various stages of development? Do you enjoy a changing environment and changing circumstances? Do you find that you change a lot from day to day? Does your experience of self change depending on the task you are involved with?
I do; and mine does.
Experience of playing different working roles (and adapting to new environments)
There is an ability to shift from one place to another and become a different version of who we can be. At one experience I was a plant/tisane researcher, at another an investor and casual participant, at another a writer for a community space, and now as a writer for attracting attention. A few times I tried to make a go at practicing healing modalities, but that didn’t really work out as I had hoped.
As it turns out, the story crafted of my life is both my own and a product of the relationships with the hosts. Sometimes I compare myself to a computer in the sense that I’m capable of doing many different things, and a computer requires someone to act as a user. It is within the user’s discretion to choose what the computer does, according to the computer’s abilities. Imagine how much your computer can do that you don’t engage with regularly, or ever! Consider how much it can do that you simply don’t even know about. Is there a function on this thing to simply tell the user what this computer can do? I think so. And I think it’s a matter of asking and pursuing the answer. The user needs to be open to this. If the computer starts telling someone watching Netflix about how it is able to mine Bitcoins, can you imagine that the user might get annoyed? Or if the user is writing a resume and the computer broadcasts a tutorial on how to edit video? Maybe it’s the best option when you are crafting a resume as a video editor; think of the slogan ‘the medium is the message’. Sometimes the computer is quite accurate, but it is not helpful in the moment if the user is not open to it. That’s a bit of my life, I’m the computer that sometimes distracts you by suggesting to engage with me to mine Bitcoins while you are chilling ‘knee deep’ in a Netflix marathon, or the computer that brings to your attention the great idea to revamp your resume and make it relevant to your field when actually you aren’t ready for the suggestion. I’m also learning as I go.
Sometimes it works out very well
At this moment in time I’m sitting with an opportunity to earn as I write my experiences. Who is willing to pay money for this content, and offer this much freedom? Who is willing to allow me to stay with them, to include me in the daily routines, to add a few more potatoes, an extra scoop of rice, set an extra plate, and open their personal life to an visitor? Well, the answer my friend, is that there are people in the latter category, as I’m well aware of.
Money travels differently than the other aspects in life we can offer.
Customer vs. Guest
When invited into a home and given a meal, how do we interact with this meal? How do we treat the people who cooked or prepared it, and the people who served it? Do we behave in a different manner than at a restaurant? Are we more critical of the service in a restaurant? Are we weighing out choices like: How much money should I tip this person? Did they smile to greet me? Did they respond when I made motion to call them over? In a family home do our choices reflect more like: How can I show appreciation for this meal? Do I deserve this meal and service? How can I balance what I am receiving, how or what can I give in return? I am not paying for this…is this even fair? How much am I allowed to take, and what is my share?
Learn through observation
As with all situations in life we are afforded the ability as human beings to learn through observation. We can observe someone who does a job and then begin practicing on our own. With some guidance we can become as proficient as this person who first showed us, and we may even be able to make improvements or add our own unique style or flare. Normally, the diversity of these interactions is limited to working situations that involve many different people, and may offer the chance to move around in roles. Similarly, we may find diversity in the people we observe when we live with roommates and change housing on a semi-frequent basis. Perhaps most popularly, we gain in these fresh perspectives when travelling to new places.
Imagine the diversity and depth when we combine all three: learning through our observations of 1) working with people, 2) living with people, and 3) travelling to other localized cultures. Life may become as diverse as our earth’s rainforests, or sea shores.
Along with living with others and collecting useful ways to live or work, we can also learn about ways to build and maintain our human relationships. Whoever said this was easy…well..has anyone ever said that with conviction? Hah!
We have a long journey ahead of learning to be with each other, and I believe we each make progress in our daily lives which adds to the whole of humanity. Like drops in the ocean or grains of sand on the beach, we each represent a unique colour on the spectrum of the rainbow and beyond to the infrared and ultraviolet: those regions which we can’t observe with our naked eye.
With the freedom of a loose agreement comes the potential need for some way to balance and feel secure in one’s position.
The trade for a life of choices is well worth it in my opinion.
And as always, there is much we can learn along the path of self-discovery.
Tips or suggestions to consider