After volunteering at San Cristobal

2022-12-16 @Travel

Writing from a calm abode in Ciudad de Oaxaca after a lengthy and somewhat grueling of a period in San Cristobal. As to the lack of activity at this site, the circumstances were conductive to anything but creative output.

For the second time this year, I opted to stay as a volunteer at a hostel, something I’d never before pursued in all my traveling years. Certain milestones I pickup way beyond their customary time, place and chain of causality.

Now in major contrast to that first, largely chill volunteer period in Belém (Pará), this one saw very high caliber action. I deem it a younger player game, not that exceptions don’t occur. And wanting to rattle the game pieces from time to time, I felt like playing out the exception.

What started as a three-week commitment, I’d extended to four and ultimately five (due to a personal request). Too long, in retrospect.

Viewed as another comfort zone challenging experience, I now hold debatable to what extent. Being surrounded by an ever changing flux of backpacker travelers is nothing new to me, yet not to this capacity and for this time period. The coefficient fell off the charts.

Rather than innovation, I’d quickly reached a state rapid energy depletion, both social and creative, rendering me a fairly ineffective being short of work-related endeavors: that being the emphasis of volunteering anyway, but at what cost …

All of this goes to say, I have still much to adapt in the practice of better managing the introvert life-force.

But work concerning, I had a good deal of fun during my shifts, whose detail I won’t heavily relate. But something about being exploited on a voluntary basis, being useful without commitment, felt oddly gratifying. Much of it pertained to the better acquaintance with hostel operability in such an extreme setting. And I loved interacting with the local personnel.

Outside the shifts, however, I gradually became the walking dead: not physically exhausted in a strict sense, since more often than not (though far from always) I got sufficient rest (of some questionable quality). It was the record low energy levels that caused reality to blur, the dream world to collapse.

I felt somewhat like the battery of my decaying Blackberry phone: the radio enabled, it holds charge but for a phone conversation to then suddenly plummet. (Between that and the ever crumbling keyboard buttons, I question the remaining lifespan.)

And I craved to write. But all I produced were sloppy half-a-page journal reveries.

The pitiful aspect, beyond personal acquaintances, I saw mainly not hostel guests, but shadowy figures. Observing the view frame from an obscure recess, a flock of flying toasters roamed from one edge to the next: entering the field of vision, lingering for an indeterminate duration, fading out.

An endless loop played out: gigantic backpacks materialize, check-in, engage in noise and locomotion, head on tours, dine, play atrocious table tennis, contribute to severe food and plastic waste, get intoxicated, space out into smartphones, check-out and proceed to the coast or (often) beyond the border, having hardly arrived.

From the above passages you wouldn’t be wrong to draw fair prejudice surrounding the stereotypical backpacker paradigm. Nor am I overly proud to feel such irksomeness towards the very beings most responsible for making the business functional. I could express more humbleness, more acceptance, and a lot more of that which I’d here explored over the years, yet violated, health habits foremost.

My physical state too left much to be desired. And body impacts mind. And so on vice-versa.

And all notwithstanding, I enjoyed the period, however raw, however slowly consuming. Still can’t reconcile the experience full of paradoxes.

Questions, comments? Connect.