Volunteer Spotlight: Ang in Mexico
I am a remote Web Content Creator. I’m pretty much on the move all the time. It’s me, my computer and my backpack, travelling the world and giving back to the world, as well. There’s a lot of screen time and a lot of new places, too. It’s kind of an adventure.
I used to work as an interpreter in the corporate world, which I really wanted to be very much. But the cubicle work was just exhausting after a while, so I moved on to a different company, a different field. I found my leadership skills there, and moved up to management. Then I realized that the corporate world was not for me; that was my ultimate teaching. It made my family awfully happy to know that I had a stable job, but, at some point, I stopped relating. I think, deep down, it just stopped being enough.
Years later, I saw what the digital movement was about and kind of intuitively knew that that was pretty much a place where I could be very happy; my niche, more or less. Leaving the 9-5 cubicle lifestyle was what I needed to do, in retrospect. I was tired of feeling tied up and waiting for my vacation time. I’m also a workaholic, so I can’t just give up working. I need it for my sanity and to also feel productive and a part of things.
I finally left Costa Rica and said to myself, ‘I really want to see what’s out there’ in a big way. There were two big parts to it. Not only that I needed to do something more than just travel and be privileged, but to also see the world and do something; make something out of my life. And the second important aspect was making sure my finances made sense. At some point, I realized I was in a digital nomad role, already, without realizing all the effort I had put into it, because I had been busy just trying to find something meaningful and joyful to do with my life.
I started off with Central America, knowing that I did not want to go far away from home without knowing my backyard. Then I traveled up north to the United States, Canada, now Mexico – and so on. Later, I decided to travel to Asia, where I visited India and Nepal, seeking meditation work in the Himalayas before heading to Kenya, and finally over to Europe.
In the process, I did this beautiful exercise that I recommend to everyone: create your own website. It sheds light on who you are; what you have done and how much time you have spent doing some things over others. I thus realized that volunteering is one of the strongest points in my identity. I started volunteering when I was around 10 years old. I helped out at a factory that was run by people with down syndrome. That experience taught me that, just by being in an environment to which you wouldn’t normally be exposed, you get to learn so much and to be humbled by it, as well. Just by working alongside new people on something you’re not used to doing, you expand your abilities, your skills, your world view… That was my first experience, and I haven’t stopped since, though I have been volunteering a lot more since I became a digital nomad. I’ve also done eco-farming, self-sustainable farms, horse farming, all sorts of different projects in several continents. I volunteered with a vet once, and I actually got to take the organs out of my own dog. It changed my life around. It taught me so much! I can’t even begin to explain it.
It’s like here on the worksite- knowing that rebar makes me so happy, which is so odd, very very odd. I wouldn’t otherwise have found that out.
Today, I was painting and thinking about All Hands and Hearts, and how blindly I trust the organization. Out of the entire sets of volunteer work I have done, I am still in awe at the level of organization that is accomplished here. Just the level of commitment to the community, by coming in early and leaving late after a disaster- I think that is something that many organizations aren’t doing. The level of acceptance of many people’s different abilities, getting so many people involved from all over the world in a single project, the thorough quality checks and side-by-side work with supported communities and the honorable fact of rebuilding in itself is already powerfully healing. I have already chosen All Hands and Hearts to be the organization in which I put my two weeks in a year. So, I already know there’s at least two times per year set into my clientele’s schedules when I will be away, either doing my ten day meditation or my two weeks volunteer work with All Hands and Hearts.
Knowing that I’m working with 80 other people at the same time, on the same schedule, in the same place, towards the same goal is a comfort for me in terms of how the world works. I’m on a schedule that is similar to a typical 9-5 day, or even sometimes even a little bit longer than that, but I’m working with others who aren’t getting paid, who are also willing to sleep in conditions way out of their comfort zone, and with people who want to create something for the betterment of a vulnerable community that has been impacted, to no fault of their own, by a natural disaster. It really doesn’t get any more real than that.
Especially if there’s something making you doubt it, I say go for it. Just go for it. I think I would not be where I am right now had my life not unfolded the way it did, but I would have cut the anxiety years shorter if I had just really listened to an inner voice that said, ‘just go for it.’ It’s a fearful space, leaving that comfort zone that comes with your 9-5, to which I relate and definitely understand. I think the world is shaped that way. As an active consumer, you have access to tons of privilege. I remember when I quit my job, I didn’t even know where to go. I went out of the parking lot and started driving and said to myself, ‘so…what now?’ I had no idea! I ended up sitting in the middle of a bookstore and just looking at books, not even reading them. I sat on a bench in absolute uncertainty. But on the other side of that, is all this. All this that I get to discover.