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View of the communal dome in the woodsView of the communal dome in the woods

Taking part in a work exchange it’s not only about sweat and tiredness! We have already told you about the hard but rewarding work we did in the roundhouse, now it’s time to tell you more about the fun social aspect of the work exchange.
To be honest the thing that attracted us the most about this project was not the work itself, but the excitement of living in community inside a Dome in the woods. That sounded basic, raw, rural, harsh but connected with nature, meaningful, and overall hippie enough for us to want to be a part of.  Joe and Steve, his best friend, built an impressively spacious dome structure and 2 other smaller ones on his family’s woodland outside an apple orchard out of pure excitement and will to do it. As simple as that.

Harry, one of the other helpers, inside the temporary domeHarry, one of the other helpers, inside the temporary dome

They did it successfully without previous experience and if there is something we’ve learned from them is that there is a shortcut of the process that goes between idea and manifestation: learning by doing, instead of learning first and doing after.
There were other 4 volunteers when we arrived, plus 2 residents (the hosts) and 9 self-sustainable chickens so we were forming a community of 8 temporary members from different countries and cultures, working and living together, managing meals, wood for heating, common spaces, and entertainment by ourselves.

Communal meal inside the domeCommunal meal inside the dome

The greatest feature of the Dome, and the first basic commodity insuring everyone’s comfort and feeling of safety was of course: fast WIFI internet. After all, we were modern hobbits hiding in the forest, meters away from an asphalt road and Joe’s family house and few km away from a touristic sea side city.

A local church lost in rolling hills of Devon countrysideA local church lost in rolling hills of Devon countryside

The Dome was pretty much the centre of our community after sunset. It was a lot of juggling and craft making happening, some card games and every now and then, singing in unity and playing brilliantly the first 20 seconds of “La bamba”, the Dome’s anthem. Just by being, we were creating space for expression and creativity inside the Dome, and that was truly a community feeling.

The main dome at nightThe main dome at night

October brought the beauty and challenges of cold starry nights and hot water bottles. But Joe’s family was good in balancing the situation by inviting us to enjoy some sauna session and nice family dinners inside the house. In the weekends we were going for long walk exploring the area from beautiful pristine beaches to wild life natural reserves and near-by cities.

Dawlish Warren nature reserve in DevonDawlish Warren nature reserve in Devon

A snake we spotted not far from a reservoir in Dartmoor National ParkA snake we spotted not far from a reservoir in Dartmoor National Park

We spent 3 weeks living in the Dome, meanwhile people were coming and going, and the structure of our little unintentional community was ever-changing. I remember one time, after lunch, we were all sitting together on one side of the outdoor table dressed in our muddy working clothes starring at a white board in a sunny day on which Joe, a professional maths teacher with a funny hat, decided to decipher mathematically the wonders of the juggling tricks, which were becoming extremely popular among the numbers, hoping it was going to improve everyone’s practice. The setting was hilarious!

Jorge, a spanish helpers, infected by the juggling bugJorge, a spanish helpers, infected by the juggling bug

It felt like being in a cartoon, where the 7 mining dwarfs from the Snow-White story made it to Peter-Pan’s fairy orchard just in time to attend the mandatory maths-juggling class from the Dome curriculum. I think I enjoyed the class more than everyone else, despite no maths entering in my head and no juggling skills whatsoever to improve.

Deer park in the garden of Powderham CastleDeer park in the garden of Powderham Castle

“Holding the Ground”

One day, an interesting idea developed inside the Dome: each one of us should do turns on being a Dreamer during working hours, which meant to be an observer holding the entire perspective of what was going on at that time. So, the dreamer was watching everyone else working on one side, and observing their place in nature and development of the project on the other side. It was simply summarized by “holding the ground” for the community. Although me and Davide never chose officially to be dreamers thinking is silly blah-blah content for non-working people, happened so, that a dream found me one evening and I wrote about it.

Small stream flowing in Dartmoor Natural ParkSmall stream flowing in Dartmoor Natural Park
I was drawn to the far end corner of the property inside a circular space surrounded by several trunks and I started to observe (to speak with) the soul-consciousness of the woodland. I understood the intricate patterns on the bark of the tree I was holding. It served to collect and guide water towards the roots. These canals were just like cuts through a thick layer of clay. It was no doubt to my eyes: The wooden trunk of the tree I was observing, was actually CLAY. My fingers were understanding now, how “wood clay” feels like. Since the beginning of Earth, Mother Nature, the greatest sculptor of all times, has been using clay as her primary material in all her creations. It just felt right and logical that humans would take their Mother’s example, and also use clay in their own creations, like the round cob house I was working on. It felt comforting, like being validated by one’s own parents.

The straw and clay roundhouseThe straw and clay roundhouse

The experience we’ve had while volunteering with this particular WorkAway project was one of a kind, and in our last day, after Steve gave us a lift bringing us to the best hitchhiking spot for our next destination, we discovered a surprise gift next to our luggage: the autobiography of Jackie Chan (I’m a fan) meant to help us stop a fast-going car with his star-action-power. And it did!

Oti hitchhiking with Jackie ChanOti hitchhiking with Jackie Chan

Otilia LefterOtilia Lefter
By far becoming a nomad was the best decision of my life, and living the present has been my main priority ever since. I quit my job and previous life to travel hitchhiking, and take everyday opportunities as they come. Now my offices are nature, roads and communities, and my job is enjoying life through travel, adventure, dance, art and spirituality. Have I taken the wrong decision?

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 Where are we now: Italy, Romania

 Going to:  Portugal?

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About Us

Davide Vadal? and Otilia Lefter

We are Davide and Otilia, an international couple with itchy feet, living a non conventional life traveling around the world and learning everyday something new....
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