Five years ago, I had been married two years, and was scrimping and saving every dime from my husband’s meager student stipend and my new grad nursing paycheck. I worked extra shifts and took a three month traveling nursing job 2 hours away. We were young, we were motivated, and at times it was extremely hard but it was also fun. Our dream was to spend a year traveling through South America together, and we did it. Over three years of saving and working hard, we managed to save $25,000 apiece. That money let us travel for an entire year, doing things we never thought possible.
We did things like dive in Galapagos islands, spend a week diving in a remote national park in Colombia, hike the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, and dive with Great White Sharks in South Africa. By far, my favorite experience was staying on a cattle and bee farm deep in the Chilean Patagonia with a program called Workaway.
With Workaway we received a free place to stay along with free food. To get to the cattle and bee farm we had to ride busses and boats for hours to finally arrive at the edge of a giant lake where we waited for a cattle barge to pick us up and bring us to a farm at the base of two ancient volcanoes on the lake’s edge.
We stayed in a log cabin heated only by the wood burning stove that doubled as a water heater for showers. Electricity was provided by a hydroelectric generator that was further up the mountain. Our work days were filled with packing large trailers full of fire wood, in preparation for the winter, or riding horses to move the cattle from one field to another (the cattle dogs and the horses doing all the work with us as simple passengers). We crossed rivers so deep that the waters rose up to the horse’s bellies and I could feel the decreased weight on the horses feet as the water began to lift the large animal. We ran the horses at full speed on beautiful cleared grassy knolls with perfect views of the snow capped dormant volcanoes and the clear lake below.
We practiced our Spanish with Patricio as he patiently told me six times to pull the stakes from the ground until he had to physically show me what he wanted me to do. We spent happy hours chatting in Spanish with another french speaking workawayer while we mended frames for the bees in our down time. Working on the Chilean ranch was the highlight of our year long travel through South America and full of memories we will never forget.
Flash forward 4 amazing years. We had moved back to the States, had two beautiful children, and bought a house with land in the high altitude Arizona desert. We often think back to our travels and the time we spent on the ranch and think will we ever do anything so fun and adventurous? Sometime with two small kids it feels this may be how it is forever. One night after reminiscing over our time in Chilie I thought..”why can’t we become the host and share our dream of transforming our land with travelers. We decided to become Workaway hosts ourselves.
Our first Workaway guests were a young married Polish couple. When they arrived we immediately connected and knew that we had made a good decision to open our home to these perfect strangers. We felt like we already knew them after reading their profile and our whats ap chat the few weeks before. In a way it was like looking in a mirror and going back in time four years. To welcome our guests I wanted to make food that wasn’t too expensive but also hearty and homey, knowing they hadn’t seen their families in months. I wanted a meal that would give them a real American experience.
What could be more American than chicken and dumplings. I had made this dish several times before and was surprised how hard it was to find a recipe that was easy, quick, simple and didn’t use margarine or shortening. So I made my own, and it was GOOD! Check back in a couple days for my American Chicken and Dumplings recipe. Our new Polish friends loved the meal as we ate and talked about Polish culture and where next they would adventure to.