As I leave Baños I realized that I am off balance. I’m not in as good a mood as usual and something is just generally off.
It didn’t help that in Baños I got sick again, battling giardia for the second time on this trip. But despite my illness, and despite the snafu in Lago Agrio, I’ve dealt with sickness and irresponsibility before. And it’s nothing new.
But I find myself off balance somehow. Balance is one of the things I realized I didn’t have back when I was working, and this trip, from the start, has been about achieving balance and harmony in my life.
The logo for this site is actually a yin-yang symbol morphed a bit as you can see below.
I have gotten much, much better at living a balanced life on this trip. But I guess I haven’t figured out how to focus on all the things I need for a balanced life at once. It seems like it’s a one-lane highway and I can only concentrate one thing at a time. This is why achieving balance is difficult.
At any given time, I am working on articles for the website, finding free future accommodation, finding future volunteering opportunities, planning where to go, answering emails, doing promotion, and tons of miscellaneous things. For a long time, articles for the website have taken a priority and recently I built up a one-month buffer of articles for the site – that is, I could do nothing for a month and articles would continue to publish automatically.
But at the same time, I might not know where I’ll be sleeping in two days. It doesn’t make much sense. Striking this balance among my work has been a challenge because it’s usually impossible to predict how much time I’ll need to find volunteering opportunities and accommodation. Sometimes days of work, other times minutes or hours.
But this applies to my life as well. I’ve found the right recipe for a happy and fulfilling life by living a life based on my passions. But sometimes the amounts of each ingredient in the recipe is off. You might say it’s like when I made pancakes for the first time last year. The recipe I found online said tablespoons instead of teaspoons for salt and baking powder. Naturally, the pancakes were horrible and inedible without a spoonful of Nutela with each bite.
Right now I feel like the ingredient I’ve been missing is volunteering. I had a wonderful experience volunteering in Medellin, Colombia. Since then I spent a day with Comedor de Altos de Menga in Cali, Colombia and my attempt at volunteering didn’t work out in Esmeraldas, Ecuador due to summer vacation.
Volunteering is the backbone of the trip and I haven’t been doing it as much as I want. Volunteering allows me to connect to a place in a different way, to know its people and its needs in a way most travelers never see. And it just feels good. I like volunteering and sharing my brain, heart, muscles, and/or soul with an organization trying to make a difference in its community.
As I write this, I am on a bus from Baños to Cuenca. Cuenca is my last stop in Ecuador. The only thing I really wanted to experience in Ecuador was seeing the oil damage and understanding the Texaco case in the Amazon, which fell through. Similarly, I couldn’t really volunteer in Esmeraldas. But, sadly, I think I am leaving this country without much to say. It has been one of the less memorable countries on The Happy Nomad Tour despite its richness in terrain, climates, and indigenous people.
What a shame.
Unfortunately, as I head into Peru I fear the same may happen. I am behind in finding volunteering opportunities there, but I have one lined up before I head to Lima and I hope I can volunteer with indigenous people in the Andes there after I visit Lima.
Peru is a special country, though, as I have many friends there and I can’t wait to see them.
Peru will be my last stop in South America, so I hope I can fill my time there with great volunteering experiences, great time with friends, great views of Machu Pichu, and great lessons learned from the wonderful people there.
And as I transition to Asia, where everything will be harder since I don’t speak any of languages there, I’ve realized that I need to stay further ahead in volunteering opportunities since volunteering is the core of this trip – not articles for the website.