Three countries, three programs: Matilda’s journey through Latin America
“I can only recommend Latin America. It is an incredibly interesting continent, with so many natural wonders and cultural impressions. My trip opened up a whole other world and I know I will definitely be back.”
Matilda’s 8-month adventure began in Peru and then continued in Costa Rica and Guatemala. She decided to not only travel during her time abroad, but to help animals in the process. She started her long journey with the Wildlife Shelter Program near Cusco, Peru, to volunteer there for three months. In Costa Rica, she spent three more months at a wildlife sanctuary and then traveled to Eco Farm in Guatemala for two months.
To be honest, I have not prepared much at all. Of course, the usual shopping, such as clothes but also medicines and vaccinations. The preparation seminars, info sheets, etc. from WanderWorld made it even easier, of course. I always knew that I wanted to travel and combine that with volunteering, I was just drawn to nature and animals. So I was mainly very excited about the time. I had no expectations at all about my time and I think that was the best thing. I let everything come to me and it worked out perfectly.
MY FIRST DAYS
My first days were very exciting and beautiful. I arrived in Cusco and got a little altitude-sick at the beginning, so I strolled through the city, sat in the sun and let all the new impressions take effect on me. Of course, especially in the beginning you are a bit more to yourself because you have to get to know other people first. But that goes much faster and easier than you often think and I had to absorb and process everything new first anyway. I really appreciated the work right from the start and was also very warmly received. I can still remember my first tour of the grounds and was simply fascinated by the atmosphere and beauty.
A NORMAL DAY IN THE PROJECT
To the Wildlife Shelter near Cusco, one drives in the morning with one of the numerous “Colectivos” and shouts loudly “BAJO!” when the bus is to stop at the bus stop near the project. Then, at the beginning, I cleaned the area of the macaws and parrots, then helped cut fruit or collected grass and fed the alpacas and llamas. When tourists came who spoke English, I gave tours in between and was able to learn a lot of facts about the animals and their heartbreaking history myself. Around 1 pm we were done and could go home or sit a bit in the sun and chat while watching the animals.
MY FREE TIME
Cusco is for me one of the most beautiful cities in the world. There is so much to see and do. I went to Spanish classes in Cusco and got to meet a lot of my friends there. We went out to eat, played soccer and volleyball, I started taking salsa lessons, walked around the city and shopped, we explored the markets, visited the surrounding Mayan ruins, went for walks, went to bars and clubs, watched the full moon and played werewolf, saw lots of sunsets and so much more. The weekends were filled with excursions, going out and drinking coffee. So we did a 5-day hike to Machu Picchu and hiked in and out of one of the deepest canyons in the world. I got to experience glaciers, lakes, mountains and incredible nature and culture and share that with very good friends as the city is always full of people who also want to have adventures.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE CULTURE
I find the cultural influence that you can feel there so impressive. Women and men still walk around in traditional dresses and live just outside the city still very close to nature. Two good friends of mine lived in a host family and after only a few visits, I was received as warmly as a family member and invited to so naturally, as if we knew each other forever. Aside from the traditions and closeness to Mayan culture and nature that I found so beautiful, there is a very laid back vibe in Latin America. There is dancing, music and people are very nice and open. All of this creates a vibe that would do Germany some good and that I will definitely miss.
MY FAVORITE PLACE
You would probably expect the answer “Machu Picchu” or similar, but as banal as it may sound, I keep thinking about my walk to the apartment. Every time I walked home through Cusco in the evening and saw the mountains and the sunset, I often realized again where I am and even after 3 months I just had to start smiling.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE JOURNEY
I have been able to expand my horizons on various levels. I was able to learn a lot about myself, but also about other people. Impressions that I would never have been able to experience in Germany have shaped me very much. As I said before, a new world has opened up for me and I have also learned a lot about other cultures, the environment and ways of life. I am also grateful for certain standards that are often considered so “normal” at home and have also changed my view of the world once again. I think such experiences would do a lot of people in Europe good and leave you with a much nicer view on life.
WHY LATIN AMERICA?
I can only recommend Latin America. It is an incredibly interesting continent, with so many natural wonders and cultural impressions. My trip opened up a whole other world and I know that I will definitely come back to see many more countries. Every country there, still so small and unknown, has so much of its own to offer, is so different, beautiful and exciting. Just as I fell in love with this continent, so did everyone I met while traveling. What I will miss most is a certain lightness, the people and the attitude towards life that embodies enjoyment and fun.
WHAT I WAS ABLE TO GIVE TO THE PROJECT
I was longer in the project and really helped with heart and also with the tours of the visitors took some of the work. The other workers namely do not finish at 1 pm like the volunteers, but stay all day, 6 days a week and unfortunately earn hardly any money, compared to European salaries. When I had to say goodbye, I noticed that everyone was very grateful for the help, and that meant a lot to me.