This year, I’m going to be featuring some guest writers on my blog, other travel writers whose work has inspired me. Each person will be writing a post about the following question:
What’s an experience you’ve had on the road which has changed your life?”
The goal is to gather some intriguing tales involving the power travel has to affect our lives — for better or worse!
The first blogger in this series is the awesome Katie Featherstone, a blogger from the UK whose site — Feathery Travels — specializes in budget travel, offbeat destinations, and the art and music she comes across. She also happens to be the person who gave me the kick in the pants necessary to get my blog’s Facebook page rolling! Here’s the fantastic post she wrote about a travel experience which changed her life:
Living in the Woods of Espiral de Luz
Things have changed since I last wrote about this place, this little patch of woodland that crept into my heart and refuses to be forgotten. I no longer wake up expecting to hear the sound of insects, before realizing the sad truth and missing the beautiful simplicity of that life, but when Nathan asked me to write about an experience that changed my life, living in the forest was still the first thing that came to mind.
With over a month and around £100 left between us, Dan and I were getting desperate, so when a bread-selling hippy invited us to stay with him in the woods we set off the next day. Reaching Espiral de Luz (Pedro’s fledgling eco-village) isn’t simple on your own. The nearby village of Paredones, Bolivia is half an hour from hippy mecca Samaipata by taxi or an hour and twenty minute long walk down from the highway if you’re broke. As we soon found out, the rain and risen river had made following our directions impossible. The forest was thick, and as we clambered over knotted roots and pushed through spiky branches with our backpacks, I wondered where we were heading. As the darkness crept between us, I was relieved to come across a gateway — Pedro and the haphazardly organised woodland inside.
Espiral de Luz had none of the amenities we’ve come to expect from the modern world (electricity, plumbing, walls, windows, doors…). To eat, we sat on benches built into the walls around a table made from foresters’ off-cuts. Our food was shared and simple, usually costing around 60 to 100 Bolivianos (£6-£10) a week and supplemented with edible plants from the woodland; the muddy river below was great for bathing and we were eternally thankful for the clear stream of mountain water that hydrated us through the hot days.
Though we were supposed to be working between breakfast and lunch, it was hard to give back as much as Pedro helped us. We finally had a chance to try building with stones and mud, did a little work on the kitchen roof, and planted a small food garden. Mainly though, Pedro rescued our dwindling funds by inviting us to join him in his whole-grain bread cooperative. Though baking isn’t really my thing, Dan took to it like the proverbial duck to water and was soon learning the recipe — bashing through three giant batches of kneading several times a week and generally being a successful baker’s apprentice. Dressing up as smart as we could and selling it together in Samaipata, I could never have imagined how successful we would be. Though our Spanish was dodgy, people were kind and we always managed to sell our seventeen loaves, even if it took all day.
After saying goodbye to a series of other passing travelers, it was finally our time before I could bear to accept it. Five weeks had passed, but I’d never missed the luxuries of showering or flushing toilets, even the lack of WiFi had hardly crossed my mind. Occupied by the constant, ever-changing necessities of that simple life and dazzled by its setting I’d never needed more. Back in the “real world” I felt like a goldfish flopped out of its bowl, floundering in the excessive, uncertain space around me and unsure of how to recreate that previous sense of contented security. It’s been over a year since we left the woods, but I’m still a reluctant member of consumerist society. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be back…
Awesome story, right? What’s a place you’ve been to which has crept into your heart and won’t leave? What made it so special? Let us know in the comments below!