Woofing on Denman
This last week I have been working on a smallholding on Denman Island, which is a small island just off Vancouver Island. The work was unpaid but in exchange I received food and accommodation. I found out about the work through a website called HelpX (Help Exchange) which links together people looking for help with travellers, who like me are moving around on a budget looking for new opportunities.
HelpX is very similar to another scheme called WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) which I first heard about when travelling in Australia in 2009. It sounded like a great way to experience life in different countries whilst travelling cheaply so it is something I have been meaning to try. After finishing work at the mountain and enjoying the Christmas break I was left a little undecided what to do next. Some friends over here had had some good experiencing with HelpX and suggested I try it.
Richard was working a shift at the ambulance station on Demnan this week and I noticed that there were some hosts on the island looking for help so I contacted some. After a quick coffee with a guy named Mike I agreed to come and stay with him and his wife Selinda for a week and help out at their place. The timing worked out well because me and Richard could share a ride to the ferry and hang out a little during the week. I also spent the first night with him at the station as we arrived in the evening which, having never been near an ambulance before, was fun for me.
Mike and Selinda’s place was right by the water
Denman has a population of around 1000 people and has a bit of a reputation for being a hippy community. There are also some very expensive houses so it makes for an interesting mix on a very relaxed and beautiful island. My work turned out to be helping deal with some large pine trees they had had cut down. The trees were on a slope and needed the branches removed, taken away and burnt so the trees could be chopped. Once chopped by chainsaw (I did a little chainsawing on the flat – a first for me) the logs needed to be rolled down the slope, loaded onto a truck and driven up to the top. Here they were unloaded, slit and stacked. This was exhausting work and took the best part of the four days I was there! Their puppy Bonnie was interested in everything we were doing which turned out to be a little scary at times as huge logs were rolling down the slope!
Bonnie turned out to be a helper with excellent table manners!
I enjoyed my time on Denman and it was great hearing Mike and Selina’s stories of how they met, their lives and travels. The digs were great too – as a retired architect, Mike had designed his home on Denman and their son had done most of the building work. This first time as a helper was a bit of a test for me, which turned out to be a very pleasant experience so I am sure I will look for other opportunities during my time here. Being without work I wasn’t much looking forward to applying for jobs.
Thinking about how to spend the next few months I am starting to think that working for free in exchange for food and accommodation could be the way to go. It seems like a great way to experience lots of different places, work and people rather than working a minimum wage job (which I may or may not enjoy). After all it was exposure to experiences that brought me here, so I think I should follow them. While at times it can seem a little overwhelming, it is a privilege to be in a position with so many great options, let’s see what happens!
Sunset whilst waiting for the ferry back to Vancouver Island