It’s 7:30 a.m. on my first day. The sun is bright, I can see the ocean from my bed, and I am warm. I think this is what people call ‘pure bliss.’ I want to run around and yell and be all disgracefully excited, but the other workers seem accustomed to this luxury, so I act like it’s no big deal.
Ten minutes later I am scooping up mounds of horse poop and pee into a wheelbarrow, my eyes watering from the smell of urine and my excitement waning slightly.
Come noon and I am hacking away at brush with a machete. It is fun. Until it’s not.
Just as I think the day’s work is ending, I realize we are about to build a bamboo bridge.
At 5 PM, I chaotically run around trying to herd the chickens like I’m the pissed-off mother of 17 toddlers on a sugar high.
The sun is bright, I can see the ocean, the warmth enwombs me, and I would like to get the heck out of here.
I suppose this is an unnecessarily dramatic description of my typical day volunteering at a workaway in spring of 2021 on a farm in Ecuador.
I may have idealized “farm volunteer work” in exchange for simple accommodation and food. I was expecting to work a few hours each day, gorge on all the fresh dragon fruit in sight, and have lots of time to do things I planned, like exploring the town, meeting people, going to the beach to swim, etc.
However, after the first week I threw away these expectations and embraced it. I stopped working as fast as possible to do the things I planned, and I started to build a good rapport with the farm owner and other workers. We ate meals together leisurely, shared stories, and stayed up laughing about the fresh chaos from the day.
Accepting my circumstances and valuing the relationships around me made me enjoy the farm experience lots more.
As my time at the farm was ending, I tried not to be preoccupied in planning what I was going to do next, trusting that everything would work out.
That same week, I got off the bus earlier than intended. There was nothing but a dirt road that a few people were walking down. Out of curiosity, I followed and arrived at an unassuming sea turtle rehabilitation center hidden on the coast.
I had been silently hoping to manifest a marine center to volunteer at while scooping up horse poop, but I didn’t think it would come to fruition.
Fast forward two weeks and it’s 8 a.m. on my first day. In lieu of cleaning up horse poop, I am cleaning the sea turtles in their rehabilitation tanks and helping Ecuadorian undergrads patrol beaches in search of sea turtles to measure/identify.
Having no predetermined agenda after the farm gave me the best experience I’ve had to this day along with introducing me to wonderful friends.
While cleaning up horse poop taught me to embrace the present and throw away my plans, the relaxed culture of the Ecuadorian coast rubbed off on me as well while at the marine center. The culture’s emphasis on enjoying your life and the people you share it with encouraged me to reinvent parts of my life, from how I dress and interact with others, to how I think about my life plans after college.
Before this experience I was quite worried about finding a job after graduation that I would truly enjoy, like many college students are. Although I’m still a bit worried, I’ve started to embrace the feeling of being 21 years old with an open path ahead of me. Having no plan is becoming less terrifying and more intoxicating. In fact, I am starting to feel more like a confident young woman with options, and so should you.
If you’re graduating soon with no plans for after, try to embrace it and think of having no plan as a reason to manifest what you really want to do in life, even if that includes scooping up some horse poop to begin with.
Sophia Truempi is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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