My Experience As a Worldpacker in the Mayan Jungle

Waking up in Playa del Carmen, Mexico to the abrasive sound of a automotive alarm was absolutely the very last thing I wished after spending the final week being gently awoken by the sound of birds chirping and roosters cockadoodledoo-ing.

Being again to “actuality” in an enormous occasion city jogged my memory of this nation’s stark contrasts – peaceable, animal-filled jungles with the kindest and gentlest neighbors are such a far cry from what many individuals come to know as Mexico, with its over-touristed seashore hotspots which have extra in widespread with the USA than they do with the Mexico that I do know and love.

Even after dwelling in Mexico for 2 years, I nonetheless discover locations that make my jaw drop and meet individuals whose sheer presence and delicate energy leaves me speechless. There’s a cause why so many individuals select Mexico as their perpetually dwelling. My expertise with Worldpackers final week jogged my memory of why it’s so fantastic.

A lagoon about quarter-hour away from the Republic of Corn. It’s infamous for its crocodiles!

I wished to find one thing new on this nation I am keen on a lot, so I launched into an journey with Worldpackers to volunteer for every week in a distant a part of Quintana Roo, a state that I really lived in for a couple of 12 months pre-pandemic. I knew a bit of bit about Mayan tradition beforehand and I hoped to deepen my information on native crops and gardening methods, however I got here away from the expertise with a lot greater than that.

I signed as much as volunteer at a website known as Republic of Corn, and that is my expertise as a Worldpacker there:

What’s Worldpackers?

My fellow volunteer, Alex, chopping up some scrumptious fruit for breakfast. is a platform for vacationers to attach with hosts in several elements of the world who provide a spot to remain in change for a certain quantity of volunteer hours. Tasks fluctuate from host to host and no two are completely alike, giving vacationers ample choices in over 140 nations.

The premise of Worldpackers is that vacationers and hosts create significant relationships on the idea of collaboration and mutual progress. It’s greater than only a volunteering platform, and the founders intend to make journey extra accessible to those that want to have a wealthy cultural expertise as they go to new locations. Moral journey is immensely essential to me and I’m all the time on the lookout for methods to support locals wherever I go.

I used to be excited to see the Worldpackers mission as a result of it deeply resonated with me as a traveler. I’m endlessly curious in regards to the world and all the time hoping to study one thing new in my travels, so I used to be ecstatic to register and undergo one of many Academy Certificates to see extra about learn how to be a profitable volunteer. I used to be so glad I did the “Learn how to grow to be an excellent Worldpacker” course as a result of it undoubtedly helped me perceive extra in regards to the sort of reciprocal relationship that the platform is trying to create.

I discovered Republic of Corn, despatched a request and shortly obtained a reply from my soon-to-be host, Victor.

Meet my host, Victor.

Victor is initially from Guadalajara, one in every of Mexico’s largest and most crowded cities. He grew up there, went to culinary faculty, and commenced touring over 10 years in the past. He typically says he’s a “backpacker for all times,” one thing I can relate to as a semi-nomad myself.

After years of touring, Victor purchased a plot of untamed land within the jungle of the Yucatán Peninsula in a small Mayan village known as Naranjal. Over three years in the past, he began constructing what would finally grow to be the Republic of Corn, an ecological venture with the objective of preserving historic sorts of corn and sharing seeds–and information–with native individuals.

Once I first met Victor, I instantly observed his enormous “In Corn We Belief” tattoo, with an intricate bundle of corn under it. Contemplating that the person hardly ever places on a shirt, his message is well learn and loved by all who know him. Victor undoubtedly passes the Tarzan vibe test.

I shortly discovered that with Victor, what you see is what you get. You see this man with lengthy, bouncy curls, crinkly eyes worn in from all of the cheek to cheek smiles, and arms calloused from exhausting work. He’s heat, jubilant, and pleasant to everybody. In the course of the week I spent on the Republic of Corn, it was clear that he’s been accepted and embraced by his Mayan neighbors, though they nonetheless see him as considerably of a metropolis boy.

“Welcome guardians of the corn,” the very first thing you see whenever you arrive on the Republic of Corn.

Since Worldpackers is all about creating real relationships, I used to be unsurprised that Victor was so accommodating. There have been three of us volunteers–me, from the USA, and two different girls; one from Canada and one from Italy. I might quickly uncover that my expertise as a Worldpacker was not nearly me studying from my host, however it might even be every week of studying from my fellow volunteers and the Naranjal neighborhood.

Per week of studying, sharing, and grounding.

I had by no means participated in an expertise fairly like this one and I let Victor know that I used to be a novice at gardening and knew nothing about caring for cattle. He had an open thoughts and reassured me that there was a lot to do and study on the Republic of Corn, no expertise vital.

I used to be interested in what the lodging could be like on the Republic of Corn, contemplating how distant it’s. Victor, with the assistance of his neighbors, constructed cabañas on the property which serve to deal with company and volunteers. There are additionally tents and a loft in the principle construction the place the kitchen is.

One among Victor’s latest initiatives was constructing a treehouse, which he rents out on Airbnb to adventurous vacationers on the lookout for a one-of-a-kind keep. This was one in every of his pandemic initiatives, which he admitted appeared like a stretch when he first began engaged on its design. I used to be amazed after I noticed the treehouse, which you’ll be able to rent on Airbnb. It’s perched in a mango tree with an unbelievable view of the jungle and there’s candy herb and vegetable backyard under.

Don’t anticipate finding any partitions on the Republic of Corn. Your complete idea of this treehouse is to reside as near nature as potential.

We began the week by taking a tour round Victor’s land. We met all of his beloved animals–first the 2 cats and two canines, then on to the 2 horses, and all of his chickens, geese, and fish. Ultimately, he’d wish to raise enough funds to develop his man-made fish pond and put in a water irrigation system.

We discovered learn how to feed the animals, taking be aware on the very particular order and ritual of issues. Every morning and night, feeding the animals was a prime precedence. Victor tell us, “I don’t eat till all of my animals have eaten.” One morning it was raining and took us all a bit of longer to roll away from bed and we paid the results with some very rowdy animals.

Feeding the 2 horses, Rayo and Mezcalina

The function of a volunteer on the Republic of Corn is versatile and spontaneous. Victor and his accomplice Lexi (who sadly wasn’t there as a result of she was touring) are all the time engaged on one thing totally different and volunteers get to play a component in no matter they’re getting as much as there. For us, it was largely feeding the animals, planting some bushes, and doing a bit of little bit of cleanup.

“Right here on the Republic of Corn, we be sure that we’re all the time having fun with ourselves. Consider it like this: we work 40% so we are able to take pleasure in 60%,” Victor knowledgeable us. Certain, we obtained sweaty and sunkissed within the mornings whereas working within the area, however we obtained to take pleasure in the remainder of the day studying about native crops, hanging out with neighbors, and having lengthy talks about life, journey, and the planet.

We used machetes to chop the additional brush and weeds whereas Victor confirmed us learn how to dig holes for planting bushes.

Folks like Victor and Lexi, who go away behind their cities and/or nations to go reside in the course of the jungle, don’t simply occur. They don’t get up someday and randomly assume “oh, I feel I’ll go do this.” The urge to disconnect is one which I do know very effectively. It comes from a deeply rooted figuring out that the way in which people live immediately isn’t the way it was meant to be. One thing went fallacious and now our planet is paying the worth. I feel that’s why so many younger individuals like them are selecting extra alternative routes of life and dedicating their time to doing initiatives like this one.

My time in Naranjal was a breath of contemporary air, to say the least. It was a reminder that there’s hope, and there are people who find themselves nonetheless caring for the earth–who’re “guardians,” as Victor would put it.

Throughout my keep on the Republic of Corn, I had the immense privilege of assembly an area household that Victor and Lexi are shut with. The matriarch of the household, Doña Isabel, usually hosts Republic of Corn volunteers to come back to her home to discover ways to make handmade tortillas. When Victor pitched us the concept of going to fulfill her, it was a convincing “YES!” from all three of us.

That first morning that we frolicked with Doña Isabel and her household, I used to be considering rather a lot about how unbelievable it’s that the Maya individuals nonetheless maintain on so dearly to their traditions. From the way in which their homes are constructed handy making tortillas, the passage of time hasn’t stopped some households from tapping into ancestral knowledge. Generally I cease and assume, how did we get so far-off from our roots? after which I’ve experiences like this one which remind me that not all of us should be disconnected from earthly knowledge, traditions, and nature.

Spending time with Doña Isabel was one in every of my favourite elements of the week. We joked about my poorly made tortillas, and I even obtained to make use of my doula experience to assist her daughter-in-law breastfeed her new child toddler. In case you have ever had an expertise that warms your coronary heart a lot that it’s troublesome to explain it, you understand how exhausting it’s to elucidate to different individuals what that looks like.

Isn’t that an extremely lovely factor, although? To have experiences that go away you speechless and filled with awe? I feel that’s the sort of expertise that Worldpackers hopes to facilitate. Greater than studying a brand new ability, which I definitely did, I had a deeply shifting expertise that left my coronary heart full and my thoughts impressed.

Why it is best to attempt Worldpackers

If you’re like me and different Worldpackers, you’re keen on a very good journey and you’re all the time on the lookout for methods to have a less-than-typical journey expertise. I’m not the sort of gal who books every week at a luxurious resort and I don’t bear in mind the final time I stayed in a daily resort.

Once I journey, I wish to study. I wish to get out of my consolation zone, to go there. Why else can we go to new locations? For me, and maybe you too, touring is the factor that brings me probably the most pleasure. That’s why Worldpackers was such an amazing possibility for me.

There are such a lot of totally different hosts on Worldpackers who’re doing unbelievable issues. From eco village initiatives to backpacker hostels, there’s something for a mess of vacationers. Wish to discover ways to construct with pure supplies? Study a brand new language? Discover ways to develop your individual meals? There’s a Worldpackers host to show you.

It’s simple to grow to be a member, starting at $49 for a full year of entry to the platform and the assorted hosts that you could be meet by means of it.

My host taught me greater than learn how to plant bushes and develop meals within the jungle. He taught me about significant collaboration, flexibility, and the facility of a single seed. Victor began the Republic of Corn with a single concept and loads of gasoline for his desires. Seeing how his dream is slowing coming to fruition is inspiring, though a few of his place actually appears just like the work of a madman. I feel we are able to all study one thing from that.

Everyone has one thing to show us, and all of us have one thing to show or share with the world. Have you considered yours but?

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