Our baby was born in the city of Bristol. An awesome city of 1 million people, bustling with traffic, cafes, shopping precincts and tall office buildings. There are community farms in Bristol, large expanses of parks and forests surrounding the city and out to the Cotswolds with it’s rolling hills and sheep. A truly gorgeous part of the UK.
Ethan’s first experience of farm life was at a local city farm. It housed pigs, goats, chickens and guinea pigs. He was too young to really take in the sights (and smells) of the farm at just 6 months old, but nonetheless, he experienced a farm within his city life.
The reason that we chose to make this transition from city life to travel was so that Ethan could experience something new, surrounded by ‘rurality’.
Not only were we travelling to experience new cultures, sights and sounds, but also to breathe truly fresh air and listen to the silence only ‘rurality’ can provide.
The best way to really experience this new life was to spend some quality time within it, fully immerse ourselves in the way of life of like minded people who have already chosen this path. Not just breezing through but stopping still and living it.
So we found this fantastic organisation, Workaway who are building a sharing community of global citizens and fellow travellers who genuinely want to see the world whilst contributing to the places they visit. So in other words, you get to experience someone else’s life in return for getting stuck in, a bit of food and actually living it.
Exactly what we wanted to do. You find the country, location, project, family that suits you and your situation and then contact them to see if you can volunteer with them. Awesome and exactly what we were looking for!
We were a little concerned about signing up to a voluntary project with a fifteen-month-old, that can’t exactly contribute to farm life and will effectively prevent one of us from properly contributing, with his need for constant supervision.
So we chose our first workaway with a lovely family in the hills of Aragon, Spain, who had a 19-month-old little girl. Perfect. They were living in the hills on an 8-acre plot of land. The land was pretty neglected when they purchased it 3 years ago and they have achieved so much already, but still had years of hard work ahead of them with multiple projects running and ideas galore!
Their little girl was growing up in a pretty isolated and near-complete adult environment, so had not been around many other babies before. She is a fantastically happy child with an amazing world to grow up in, and it was lovely that we could give her the opportunity to share her world with another little one. That sharing took a few days as it was probably so alien to her having another small person around, but we got there in the end, and we all agreed she got so much from the experience, as did Ethan. He loved it. And boy, so did we!
As soon as we climbed the hills along the track to the house, we were in awe of the beauty around us. Rolling hills and mountains far into the distance, rivers and beautiful blue skies. Yes we thought, this is the life we’d love to experience.
Now at fifteen months, Ethan is still enjoying crawling far too much and doesn’t want to walk yet! He will do a few steps but then fall back to crawling position. As city parents, we were all about the hand sanitizer and clean hands and we even knew a mum who wouldn’t let their child crawl on grass for fear of a little mud. But this is what I wanted for Ethan. I wanted mud, grass, rocks, water and dirty hands. I wanted him to be free from restrictions and free from the insane amount of ‘be carefuls’ we used to put on him and let him discover his own way.
As soon as we had carried him up the last steep, winding 500 metres or so by foot (as the motorhome wouldn’t climb any further!), he wanted to jump out of my arms and explore! The house itself wasn’t surrounded by lush green grass and daffodils, it was covered in rocks and sandy mud. It didn’t seem to bother him, he crawled everywhere, climbing large rocks, and tasted a little mud. When we were getting him ready for bed the first night, I noticed bruises all over his legs, and he didn’t care at all. He was now living farm life, and exploring everything! He was so happy, didn’t stop smiling whenever he was outside on an adventure. The next day, we made up some much-needed knee pads for him!
Over the next week, we had a fantastic time getting involved with farm life. We fed chickens and herded goats together. Our city slicker sat on a pony for the first time and cuddled a sheep. He helped (or rather watched) us collect firewood, chop down dead branches from olive trees, and make compost out of pony poop and straw. We poured concrete to help a neighbour as its all about the community and helping one another here. And we learnt so much from our amazing hosts, especially about how to live sustainably and self-sufficiently as many ex-pat families who have done the same have solar power for instance. Each activity giving him a new experience to watch, smell and crawl through.
So, I hear you say, ‘shame he won’t remember any of it’, well you are probably correct, I doubt he will. But he has grown so much throughout this week, we have seen such a difference and watched his love for the outdoors grow exponentially. He even has a graze and bruise on his face from falling off a log he climbed. He’s not bothered. He’s switched plastic toys for sticks.
So not only have we seen our little boy grow from this experience, but we both have also. We’ve lived a rural, simple life free of TV and early nights, and full of the outdoors and star gazing. Terry has learnt how to use a chainsaw and axe, fixed fences, so much about solar power systems, has climbed trees to fell dead branches and lit a pretty good fire! He has spent his days herding goats and feeding chickens. I’ve made wooden pegs out of sticks, planted seeds and made compost, whilst looking after the little ones to give the family time to work. On our final night, we had a bonfire and Ethan giggled his way through a midnight run to get the chickens into their huts as we heard foxes on the prowl in the distance!
We sucked in the fresh air, watched the vultures circling above our heads and hiked up to the top of the mountain on our hosts land to see the almond and olive groves as far as the eye could see. Stunning sunsets and views of the sun-soaked surrounding mountains, mixed with hard graft made up our days and a thorough feeling of satisfaction.
So would we recommend volunteering with a baby? Hell yes! Volunteering can be done with a baby, although I’d recommend finding voluntary opportunities that support families and if possible have young children themselves. It makes life much easier when it comes to flexibility with nap times and tantrums for example! We’d also thoroughly recommend Workaway as an organisation for finding these opportunities for sure. You don’t have to pay hundreds of pounds to volunteer, you just give your time and hard work, in return for you and your family to experience the ‘rurality’ you might seek.
Big thanks to Little Herd for having us and sharing your life! We really hope to see you again soon!