Meet & Greet

For Sophie, 18, from Brighton, England, and Charline, 23, from Dijon, France, Workaway's exchange program has provided the ideal way to see more of the world on a budget. The girls perform daily cleaning, shopping and gardening tasks for their hosts – the owners of Spice of Life cafe (one of my local haunts) – in exchange for accommodation and meals (they have two main meals a day – brunch and dinner) – and the opportunity to explore a new town.

"I knew I wanted to travel in my gap year but didn't know how and my mum thought it would be an affordable way," says Sophie, who will return to England to work and save for her next European jaunt next week before signing on to study psychology in November. "You just create an online account, which gives you access to host profiles, and you email them and ask if you can come at a certain time."

Charline is following the sun for a year to escape France's chilly climate; Queensland's floods, rains and cyclonic weather patterns a minor hindrance (what is it they say about the best laid plans?). She's off to Adelaide next, where she will also work in a cafe for three weeks, and then Melbourne. At home, she's working to fund her travels. The major difference between France and Australia? "At home, people really don't smile. There's less stress in Australia."  

Flicking through Lee Tran-Lam's Speak-easy #11: the French issue zine, Charline's comments are given further credence. Asked about his observation that Paris is the "perfect city to be lonely and miserable in", A Fraction of the Whole author Steve Toltz responds, "Personally, I think there is an enjoyably high level of grumpiness among the people of Paris, and the visible absurdity of that serves to redress any dark mood I might have."

Equally, consecutive natural disasters would seem to redress any quarrels Aussies might have with life's infinitesimal vagaries and complexities at this point of time, giving us that stereotypical "she'll be right" optimism in the eye of a storm. Or perhaps we're just better at disguising the darkness than those in the City of Light? We did share a battlefield once, non?

Girl With a Satchel