Maya – Mi Casa es tu Casa in Colombia and Mexico
“You live a completely different life, it feels like you’re in a dream and at certain moments I thought that if someone were filming now, it would be the best and most adventurous film.“
Maya spent four months travelling through Latin America with WanderWorld Travel. During this time, she not only supported the teaching project in Colombia and the local children, but also had some cool experiences in the Hostel Experience in Colombia and Mexico. On her adventures, Maya got to know incredibly great people, experienced the hospitality in Latin America and grew beyond herself.
HOW WAS YOUR PREPARATION TIME AND THE FIRST FEW DAYS?
Colombia and Mexico caught my eye. As I was considering studying to become a teacher after my stay abroad, I decided in favour of the teaching project. I also wanted to gain as much experience as possible and be able to exchange ideas with other people from all over the world, which is why I ultimately decided in favour of the Hostel Experience project. As soon as I knew where I was going to be, I looked at lots of posts on social media about the cities in each programme location, which made my anticipation that much greater. And, as we all know, anticipation is the greatest joy.
Despite the anticipation and pure energy, the first few days of my arrival were quite slow as I had to adjust to the very tropical climate. Not only is the climate unfamiliar, but the food is also different to what I was used to. It therefore took my body a few days to get used to this change.
However, I was well equipped with my first-aid kit, so I was well prepared. At this point I recommend electrolytes, a drink that can work wonders despite its bad taste :). I was also lucky enough to get on well with the other two volunteers from WanderWorld, which made my time on site even better.
WHAT MAKES THE CULTURE SO SPECIAL ?
In both Colombia and Mexico, I can only speak highly of the local people. Overall, I only had positive experiences. I often came across the phrase “mi casa es tu casa”, even with people I had only known for five minutes. In my experience, helpfulness and the sharing of food, living space, information and knowledge is the top priority for many people. This made me feel welcome and at home quickly and everywhere.
What surprised me positively and I think is really great is that people speak openly about their feelings and opinions. Because such an attitude towards honesty makes life much easier and prevents conflicts and, above all, misunderstandings, which can naturally arise due to the language barrier.
Overall, I’m a huge fan of Latin America because of the mentality of the local people. I only had positive encounters during my time there and am extremely impressed by the hospitality and the associated willingness to help that is shown. Another reason why my heart beats faster is the landscape and the variety of animals and national parks to discover.
WHAT WAS A TYPICAL DAILY ROUTINE IN THE PROJECT?
My favourite project was definitely the Hostel Experience project in Colombia, as there were several volunteers there and I was lucky enough to get on really well with everyone. After a short time, we felt like a family and did lots of things together. In addition to the other volunteers, I also had good contact with the staff there (for example at reception) and the guests who were on holiday there as backpackers.
As I was usually assigned to the reception shift, I had free time until 2.00 pm and could go to the beach, into town or to the hostel pool.
During my shift at reception from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., I was responsible for checking guests in and out. As soon as the check-in was done, it was my job to show all newly arrived guests around the hostel to inform them about the hostel’s rules, opening hours and activities. This was mostly done in Spanish, but of course also in English and in rare cases in German. My contact person at the hostel was great and was always interested in whether I was doing well.
HOW WAS YOUR ACCOMMODATION ON SITE?
During the teaching project in Cartagena, I lived with two other WanderWorld volunteers with an extremely hospitable Colombian in the centre of Getsemaní. I had my own room there, including my own bathroom. He cooked food for us every morning and evening and we all ate together. On some evenings, he also invited friends over so that we sat together as a larger group.
The location of the guesthouse was ideal, as it was right in the centre and everything was within easy walking distance. We also had the option of using the kitchen and washing machine as required. It was about 20 minutes by taxi from the accommodation to the project with the children.
During my projects at the hostel, I lived in a room with the other volunteers on site.
WHICH PLACE PARTICULARLY FASCINATED YOU AND WHY?
My favourite place during my four-month trip was the town of Sayulita in Mexico, where I also did my volunteer work in a hostel. I spent two months in this place and it was my first real stop after spending a day in Playa del Carmen for my introductory day. Sayulita is a small village in the state of Nayarit and is a well-known surf spot. In addition to good waves, the village is super pretty with small shops and markets with everything your heart desires.
This place is particularly beautiful on “Dia de los muertos” at the beginning of November. Everything is even more colourful than usual. Another reason why Sayulita won my heart during my time there is the fact that I also got on really well with the locals thanks to my passion for surfing.
WHAT QUALITIES SHOULD FUTURE PARTICIPANTS HAVE ?
Overall, I think if you are interested in Latin America and have found a project that you can identify with and think is right for you, then that is the first step to a great time.
However, you also have to be aware that the general conditions are not comparable to those in Europe. For example, hygiene in particular is not as important. If you keep these aspects in mind, the trip will be one of the best ever 🙂
I wholeheartedly recommend a stay abroad in Latin America, not only because it gives you the chance to learn a wonderful language, but also because it gives you an insight into how people live outside your own familiar surroundings. You also realise that many people get by with far less on a daily basis than you would imagine.
Especially in a project like the teaching project in Colombia, it makes you even happier when you can put a smile on the children’s faces with simple things.