For three weeks Jean and I have done work exchange in La Balme, Rhône-Alpes, France via WorkAway. Here’s a bit about this alternative way of travelling, and lots on how our stay looked like through my camera lens. Bonus: Recipe on addictive crispbread.
What is work exchange?
Work exchange is when you do some hours of work per week in exchange for free food and accommodation. Often it will be 4-5 hours per day, 5 days a week, or maybe 3 hours every day, all depending on the host and the type of work. The length of a stay vary greatly, it can be as short or as long as you and your host agree on.
Doing work exchange is a great way to travel on a budget, to learn, to share and to experience new things and places, and to open your mind to new ways of living by meeting new people and see their way of life.
Personally we are also looking for a place to eventually settle down, and so it’s a pleasant way to get to know possible locations “from the inside” and to build a network of contacts that might give us useful tips on future projects.
Want to try it yourself, either as a willing worker or as a host? Search for work exchange, help exchange and wwoofing, or couch surfing, house sitting, pet sitting, boat sitting, boat crew jobs etc! There are numerous possibilities, and I have only experience with hosts I initially know from real life, and with WorkAway, so go on and find what suits you!
This little mountain village has 25 habitants, many of whom are only here for their vacations. The location is one of the best in the area, especially our hosts’ house, due to the 360 degree view of the mountains, cliffs and valleys that surrounds it. Let me give you a little photo tour!
Hiking to the surrounding villages
In these mountains there are many small villages scattered around, and small trails between them that are well marked so you can easily visit them by foot. Here are some impressions I got when we did “Le Tour des Villages” through La Ville, Les Chatains, Les Courts and Les Certs.
Hike from Le Bourg-d’Oisans to La Balme
One Saturday our hosts gave us a ride to the nearest “urban” village, which is Le Bourg-d’Oisan. The place is filled with bike related ornaments due to having Tour de France passing through now and then. We had fun to use our legs to get back “home” to La Balme, which is roughly 800 hight meter further up, we were told. It only took us 4,5 hours 😛
Hike towards Clavans
Our hostess gave us detailed information on another nice route to hike, one that went from Puy La Bas towards Clavans, but with a shortcut back down, making it a five hours trip in our photo-safari-speed. Again we had many spectacular viewpoints! It is fascinating to see the scenery change with every new turn, and with the movement of the sunlight and it’s shadows in these dramatic landscapes.
Hike to Chalet de Campaloup and Lac Besson
Our hosts brought us for an afternoon/evening car drive and hike to Chalet de Campaloup (1819 masl) and Lac Besson (2060 masl). The warm, red sunlight made it a special experience, accompanied by the fresh autumn wind at the end. At times it felt like we were walking around in a living painting!
Grow your own!
I am in love with veggie gardens, herbal gardens, berry bushes, fruit trees and nut trees! And I am happy to see so many people in France growing food for themselves (and for their neighbours, family and friends). Look, and be inspired!
Working in exchange for food and lodging
During our three weeks of work exchange in this beautiful place, we did a lot of varied tasks, both indoors in the chalet and outside in our hosts’ private garden. A typical day would start with eating breakfast with the hostess Anne at 7.30, then working together from 8.30 to 12.30, at which time we would have a lovely lunch outside in the sun. After lunch we would be “off-duty”, doing hikes, taking photos, working on our own projects, or maybe doing some nut harvesting.
Jean would of course also do some extra work in the garden, or flirt with the chickens by bringing them all sorts of lovely weeds and food scraps, and I would work on photos for the chalet, or secretly drawing Jackie as a birthday present for our hostess. For dinner we would eat delicious meals with Anne, while discussing food, life, family, travelling experiences, core values etc. I believe we all learned a lot from each other during our talks! In the weekends we were free to do as we wanted.
Our work exchange tasks were:
taking care of the chickens and their coops
preparing meals now and then, mostly for the fun of sharing vegan recipes with Anne, who made us most of the meals, great chef as she is!
preparing the veggie garden for winter
sanding and varnishing stairs
scrubbing and oiling wooden floors
taking promo photos for the chalet’s website
The first batch depicted underneath was nice enough, but I wanted a more snacky taste. Therefore the next batch was modified to contain a bit more flour and salt, and less seeds. Result? Highly addictive!
5 dl flour (I used spelt)
3,5 dl oats
3 dl seeds (I mixed flax, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds)
1 tea spoon of sea salt
A big dash of oil (I used the leftovers from a jar of sun-dried tomatoes)
6 dl water
1. Mix all the dry ingredients before adding the oil and water. Stir to make an even batter.
2. Use a spatula to spread the batter evenly on two trays covered with baking paper.
3. Bake on 150 degrees (preferably using a convection oven) for 10 minutes, take them out and slice them with a pizza wheel. Then keep on baking them until they are dry and a bit golden, which takes roughly 60-90 minutes, depending on your oven. Swap the trays halfway, so the crispbread are evenly baked.
4. If the crispbread are not properly crisp yet by this time, lower the temp to 100 degrees and let them bake for a while longer.
Bon appétit !