The dream began in Valparaiso at the start of February. To be one year on the road, living the life of a volunteer.
It is something that I had been planning for many years.
A personal challenge, a break from the daily
life I was so used to. Leaving my comfort zone and stepping into the unknown. A journey of faith, a mysterious road ahead in many ways and one I would not be able to overplan. And also the practicalities. Can I survive for very little money, will I get accepted into the help exchanges than I am interested in. Questions with no answers but after feeling stressed with these variables, I decided this was perhaps part of the self discovery I was looking for, how would I deal with the vast unknown or any problems that may arise. The answer in my mind became clear. To live day by day, moment by moment. An ultimate journey of faith and trust. I decided to simply believe. That I would be looked after and I decided also to have faith in myself, with a positive mind and tools such as yoga I should surely be able to deal with whatever may present itself along the way.
I had volunteered in a foreign country once before and had fallen in love with the experience. A small village 2000m above sea level in the foothills of the Himalayas, in the incredible country of Nepal where 'Guest is God'. There I saw that I could live for very little, and more importantly, feel purpose and connection somewhere so far from home. I could also experience creative inspiration from the environment and a rich and real education about the local culture and life.
So here I am, I arrived to find Roc, the dreamer, the cultural ambassador, the one who has created a very special place which he has birthed from a vision and the man who is always working through each question and adjusting accordingly as time and events provide clues for improvement and the evolution of the Patio Baron. This is somewhere quite unlike anywhere I had been before, where creativity and ideas are the backbone of a life in the workshops. To work towards the fulfilment of a personal vision, to have discipline (always a challenge!) to listen to the inner voice and believe in yourself and also to offer something of this to strangers from around the globe. Perhaps I recognised this type of courage, when the voices within are heard, fostered and a commitment is made to manifest the dream, to take that leap of faith and open the doors to the world and see what may come!
is incredibly rich in visual
stimulus, street art is everywhere...
I feel I am very fortunate to have found this place. As an artist, Valparaiso is incredibly rich in visual stimulus, street art is everywhere, interesting architecture, hills and beaches and it has its Port which is a feast for the eyes and the senses. The hills are alive and the history of the place showed itself as I walked through the streets exploring this new place. The Patio is in a prime location for a volunteer who is on a tight budget. Walking distance to all that you may need is very important, as here I have needed to feed and sustain myself. For almost a month I have lived in this place, visiting many of the local shops, and an occasional trip to the supermarket, I have even bought fresh fish at Caleta Portales which was a great experience due to the fact that my Spanish needs a lot of work! It was delicious. It has been my first challenge to make do with an outdoor kitchen (Australians do love the outdoors!) and a sink with no hot water, leaves and lizards and the occasional cat sneaking in to see what treats they may find.
The volunteer house is set up well as a lovely and homely space. There is a safe and warm bedroom/loungeroom with a computer installed, great wifi and a mezzanine level which I claimed as my 'room'. Troy was here already (and had been for 6 weeks) and was sleeping on the bunk bed in the main space. He is a young man from Belgium and my first thought was how I would live with someone when I had lived alone in Australia for 5 years! Luckily for me Troy was very easy going and nothing was a problem for him. He was also a wealth of information about this place which helped a lot as Roc was in and out a lot, and I wasn´t exactly sure what was happening or the eact plan or expectations when I first arrived.
I saw the project Troy was working on (the gallinero) and just jumped in to offer to help with that. Roc did make sure to welcome me and tell me some stories of this place in the first few days, and I enjoyed the time he gave which helped me to settle in and know more of who, what and where. It wasn´t long before I had been given some tasks of my own, so this was great as I could work at my own pace and in my own time. I was painting a deck, a door and a straircase and under the sunny blue skies, with music in the background, the occasional smooch from one of the cats and the dogs and regular
visits to interact with the chickens I found my groove quite quickly.
Then, after only a few days here, Roc told me that he and Troy would go to the mountains for up to a week to get more sheep and goat skins for a current project of Roc's. I was a little shocked that I would be in charge of everything so soon, without knowing many people.
Nevertheless I was comfortable with the idea as it represented trust and that made me feel a value already. I hoped nothing would go wrong and luckily the week alone was smoooth and all of the animals survived in my care! It was easy to be alone as this is what I am used to, and the security here is very good also, so I was not concerned for my safety at any time. As a side note, I have found the local community around here to be happy for a Hola as I walk past and ready with a smile or assistance if I have needed to know anything. An open mind, open heart... yes people are people everywhere and a smile is the best thing to give.
I could write all day about my time so far at Patio Baron but need to conclude with some important considerations for people who are interested in volunteering, here or in fact anywhere.
(...)you cannot have any expectations.
Feel your way once you arrive and remember that every place is different and should be taken as you find it.
Firstly, you cannot have any expectations. Feel your way once you arrive and remember that every place is different and should be taken as you find it. What experience do you want? To learn a new skill, to meet people, to explore the surroundings or be immersed fully in one place. Most hosts seem to be fairly clear on the outlines in their profile but perhaps things are different when you arrive which needs to be accepted as part of the experience. Give it time if you can!! Push through to discomfort to see what lies beyond it. Personally I have found that 4 weeks has enabled connections to deepen and new and even richer experiences to be
presented. I would prefer and recommend longer stays if you have the time.
Finally, the only problem I have found so far, is in trying to manouver your next move, to find the next place to go and avoid ending up homeless and sleeping under a bridge! Hosts on volunteer plataforms have minimal responses to the emails I have sent. This has bothered me for 2 reasons, firstly I would like to know if I have any future possibilites (to avoid some stress if possible). and secondly it's simply bad manners. Surely it's not too hard to respond rather than ignore someone who has taken the time to write to you and been inspired about what you were
So, all in all, good times are being had and I am excited about the future. Good luck to all who have the courage for a leap into the unknown. Untold riches await you!