More than just volunteering

I’m not much of a holidayer. There are only so many days I can spend chilling on the beach before I need to do something more productive/meaningful with my time. That’s one of the reasons I often opt for volunteering during my travels. It’s also the reason I ended up in an alternative school in the mountains of Oaxaca.

Now let me tell you, this is no ordinary school and no regular volunteering opportunity. It is much more than that. It’s true community living with a philosophy of co-creation, freedom and honest human connection. And boy does it feed your soul!

I was fortunate enough to come across Eva Ecovillananda in one of my usual sessions of searching for volunteering opportunities. I remember saving it in the ‘Mexico’ folder of my bookmarks back in February, along with other projects worth considering. At that time it didn’t stand out to me more than any other listing. It was only when I came back to look through my bookmarks in June that it clicked! Alternative education! It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for, it’s what I’ve been reading about extensively over the last few months and something I was super keen to see and experience in practice.

So here I am. In San Sebastián Río Hondo – pretty much the definition of the middle of nowhere. Pure forest up high in the mountains, 3,000 meters above sea level.

I arrived and from the very first moment I felt that this was a special place. I prefer to never have expectations about a place I’m going to, and this surely exceeded anything I could have imagined. It’s not just the stunning nature, the warm and simple people, the wonderful school, the starry skies or the insanely cool tipi I’m living in. More than all of that, it’s the tranquility, spirituality and love that you can just sense in the air. It’s a place that changes people.

The story of how this community was built is in itself amazing. Marcos, a young boy with a passion for magic tricks, was the first person to arrive here years ago when he was told that the true magic is in the mountains of Oaxaca. He’s still living here today and the magic is still here too.

We grow together here and all separately at the same time. It’s a remarkable experience of togetherness, acceptance and support that let’s you flourish in your own unique way. The ideologies and passions of the people I have met here inspire me and teach me every day to be a better version of myself. Kindness and encouragement fuels every interaction through ups and downs here and it’s so simple yet so powerful!

At the same time, it’s an environment that brings you closer to yourself – whether it’s your fears, insecurities and doubts, or your talents, strengths and yearning for a peaceful and united world. The silence of the woods, the sound of rain against the windowsill while warming up in front of a fire with a cup of tea is the best way to rewind and take a look inside for a change to the madness of the world outside that drags us into its dramas all the time.

School officially starts on Monday and I cannot wait to see what lessons this experience teaches me over the next month. Whatever comes, I know I am exactly where I need to be.

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