Asude’s journey through Latin America
“The people of Latin America are unique! Both from their way of thinking and their way of life. Each culture has its peculiarities, but the warmth unites all.”
Asude traveled with our organization to Latin America for four months and had an unforgettable time there, gaining many formative experiences. She worked in our hostels in Mexico and Guatemala and helped in our children’s aid project in Colombia. In this report, Asude shares her impressions and also gives valuable tips, for future travelers.
Even before the pandemic, I planned my trip with WanderWorld and just waited for the situation to ease and finally get going. In January 2021, the time finally came.
The preparation period was very relaxed for me. To be honest, I didn’t prepare much because I felt well looked after by WanderWorld Travel. In addition, I wanted to be surprised by what was coming up and not plan everything in detail. However, the excitement came slowly while packing and at the same time, of course, the anticipation. With the help of the preparation lists, I was able to orientate myself as to what I should take with me in terms of luggage and was then able to board the plane in a relaxed manner.
MY FIRST DAYS
The first days after my arrival in Costa Rica were very exciting, because everything was new and there was a lot to see. Arriving at the airport in San José, my fellow travelers and I were picked up directly and brought to our hostel, where we spent the first two days together. The next day, we were warmly welcomed by our contact person Lisa, who showed us around San José and showed us the most beautiful corners of the city. The streets were colorful, the people super warm and the food diverse and extraordinary. Together we went to a restaurant for a typical Costa Rican meal and ate a very delicious dish with rice and beans. In addition, there was some music and a nice service. We felt incredibly comfortable!
After a few days, we traveled on to our respective project locations and started our work.
A NORMAL DAY IN THE PROJECT
My first hostel was on a beautiful Caribbean island in Mexico. I was assigned to the entertainment area and was responsible for the guests’ activities. My daily routine was very relaxed and every day was different. For example, my tasks consisted of organizing excursions by bike to the different beaches for the hostel guests and accompanying them. In the evening, I held “cocktail classes” or helped at the pool parties, for example. During all the tasks I was able to meet a lot of people from different countries around the world and quickly made new friends. One skill I learned during my time in Mexico is to bring people from different cultures together. It takes a lot of confidence to approach people and get them involved, but over time I got better at it. I had a contact person who explained to us how to motivate people and what games work well to bring a group together. One thing I particularly enjoyed was the wheel of fortune. It was kind of a wheel of fortune that guests could spin and then there were different tasks or challenges on the individual squares that you were supposed to do. This loosens the mood and people get to know each other better. One task, for example, was to go up to a hostel employee and give him a kiss on the cheek. In the evenings, we also held beer pong championships, for example, where guests could win free drinks.
My second hostel was in the small colonial town of Antigua in Guatemala. Here, I mostly worked at the hostel’s bar during the day. I learned how to make a variety of cocktails and also here I had the opportunity to always meet new people. My day mostly started with setting up and preparing the bar and then serving the guests at the tables. At the beginning I learned simple drinks and cocktails and I was shown how to prepare a Gin Tonic or Cuba Libre correctly. After a while I learned more specific things, such as a “Michelada”. This is a mixed drink made from tomato juice and Mexican beer, which at first seemed a bit strange. Especially often I prepared “Cimarronas”. This is one of the most famous drinks in Guatemala and was drunk very often. To make it, you first put some lime on the rim of the glass and then dip it in salt. For the drink you fill salt, lime juice, ice and soda in the glass. Then a straw comes in and a lime as decoration – done! Super tasty and quite easy to prepare. What I particularly liked about this job was that I was always in contact with guests and had people around me. In addition, I was allowed to work freely very quickly and was given a lot of responsibility.
In my volunteer project on an island off the coast of Cartagena in Colombia, the working hours varied greatly because we had different projects every day. In the Youth Development Project, children and young people are given access to education and various workshops are offered. Most of the time I helped with language lessons or homework help for about two hours and then played with the children or did handicrafts. One day, for example, we organized a beach clean-up for the older children. Waste disposal is a big problem at Tierra Bomba, so it is important that the children and young people learn as much as possible about it. Very early in the morning, we prepared everything and brought trash bags, cool drinks and food to the port. At about 7 a.m., all the children were given gloves and garbage bags and together we cleaned the beach. Already during the collection we made sure that the garbage was separated. Bottles, for example, were collected and then reused to build a hut. This is how the children and young people learn about “upcycling”. Bottle caps were also saved and could later be used by the younger children for handicrafts. Through the action we try to teach the children and young people how important it is not to consume too much and to recycle and, above all, separate and properly dispose of waste. After work, we usually cooked together with the other volunteers – some of whom were locals from Bogota – and talked a lot. It was a great community and there was always something to laugh about. I also particularly enjoyed the days when women from other cities came to our project and gave presentations in the “women’s class. Most of the time it was about teaching the girls something about their bodies. Once, the children were supposed to draw their own bodies and then talk about what they particularly like about themselves. In addition, everyone was allowed to give compliments to the others. For the girls there it is often difficult to talk about their own feelings and it was only here that I realized how extreme the difference is to Germany. Some of the opportunities that are completely normal for us do not even exist in Colombia, and if they do, then many children there are not aware of them. The Youth Development Project is doing a great job to offer the children a future.
MY FREE TIME
In my free time, I very often went to the beach or out with friends to see the cities. The excellent locations of the project sites allow for a varied leisure program. On my days off, I also took one or two day trips to more distant places to discover more, which was great for a change.
In Colombia, I took a trip with a friend to San Gil one day during my travel time, from where we were taken by mini-bus to the starting point for the highest bungy jump in South America. From there you jump a whole 140 meters into the depth – pure thrill! The location is also breathtaking without the bungy jump. You are on a high point between two mountains and in the valley flows a small stream and you look at the small town of Barichara. After all the action, we went to the small village, which has a certain resemblance to Antigua and has a lot of charm. There we were still in a local restaurant eat. The perfect ending for this day.
In Mexico, my project was on the small island of Holbox, which has an incredible amount of beautiful beaches. On a free day I went with some friends from the hostel with the bikes to the beach “Punta Cocos”. The ride alone was a real experience, since there are no real roads on Holbox and there was heavy rain just before, we had to go through super many puddles. After about 20 minutes we arrived at the beach and first relaxed and enjoyed the crystal clear water. We spent the day playing countless games. One of them was called “Plomita” and is similar to the Twister we know in Germany. A big circle is drawn with a stick and people line up back to back in the middle. The first person is then allowed to take a big step with the stick in hand and reposition the stick. Then a name of another teammate is said, who must grab the stick with one hand and then repeat the same process. We laughed a lot at the game and had a great day. Especially amusing is also a certain local who, with a box in front of his belly, walks around every day at Punta Cocos selling empanadas of various kinds. He is simply part of the beach and gives a warm feeling. In the evening we still enjoyed the sunset before we went back to the hostel with the bikes. We visited this beach very often also with guests of the hostel.
In Guatemala, there was a beautiful viewpoint very close to my hostel. We often walked there with the guests from the hostel. You walk about 10 minutes to a small mountain and then another 10 minutes up the mountain. From there you have a beautiful view over Antigua. You can see over the city and marvel at all the volcanoes in the surrounding area. I especially liked to go up here for the sunset. That always had a very special atmosphere. Afterwards we went to eat once in a restaurant in Antigua. The restaurants there are often very inconspicuous and you don’t really know what to expect. In the one local restaurant, for example, there are different dishes from different Latin American countries in every corner. There is also a small fountain in the middle, which gives a super nice atmosphere. You just sit down in one area of the restaurant and then you can choose a dish. I ate meat there with a very special sauce and vegetables to go with it. It was very tasty!
MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE CULTURE
The people of Latin America are unique! Both from their way of thinking and their way of life. Each culture has its peculiarities, but the warmth unites all. Whether it’s tacos in Mexico or arepas in Colombia… The food is very delicious and you can never get enough. What fascinated me most was the attitude of the people, as everyone goes through life very calmly and lives in the moment, while in Europe everything is usually very hectic.
The open-minded nature and warmth of the people is unique and definitely rubs off! There are beautiful places to discover and different cultures to get to know. For me, Latin America is a place where you can always discover something new and also learn a lot.
THAT’S WHY I LOVE LATIN AMERICA
I love the open-minded people, the delicious and diverse food, the beautiful places and the different cultures. For me, Latin America is a place where you can always discover something new and also learn a lot.
MY MOST BEAUTIFUL MOMENT
I had the opportunity to learn something new every day. Be it a word in Spanish or a new dish. There were many great moments on my trip, but one highlight was the trip to the top of Acatenango Volcano in Antigua. Hours of hiking, cold and exertion, but every single step was worth it because the feeling of arriving at the top is breathtaking. I think the photos speak for themselves here and as they say “pictures sometimes say more than a thousand words”.
MY FAVORITE PLACE
Each place fascinated me in its own way!
The island of Holbox is extraordinary in its layout of streets and little houses. Punta Mosquito beach in Mexico is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. And not to forget the little taco stands!
Antigua is a small town, but so diverse in all facades that it could resemble a big city. The architecture is incredible and behind every door there is something completely new.
No matter where you are in Latin America, you will fall in love with the unique places and everywhere you go you will find something to excite you.
MY TIP FOR FUTURE TRAVELERS
Enjoy every moment! There is so much to discover, even if you sometimes do not know exactly where to start.
Another tip that would have helped me when packing: as they say “less is more”. It’s best to take as little as possible, because traveling light is always easier. If you still need a few things, you can easily get them on the spot.
Also, be open to new things and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. On such a trip you can learn a lot!
And very important: Don’t be afraid to travel alone, because only when you are really on your own, you learn to deal with many situations and gain an incredible amount of self-confidence.
THIS IS HOW THE JOURNEY HAS CHANGED ME
I had the opportunity to learn a lot on my journey, even if not always only good things. I have become much more independent, self-confident and self-assured in my decisions. To embark on such a journey means to be brave, to act responsibly and to take risks. Over time, I have also been able to adopt the laid-back attitude of the people. Every single place I saw and every single person I could meet influenced me positively or negatively on my journey. So I was able to develop more and more day by day. When you travel, you experience your effect and charisma on other people and get to know yourself again from a whole new side. Especially when you spend your time alone and have to plan independently!