It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was absolute insanity. This year I got to spend an ample amount of time in New Orleans. I was absolutely psyched to finally be spending some time in one of my bucket list cities. I hadn’t specifically planned to be in NOLA for Carnivale Season and was ecstatic about my good timing.
Things started out rocky. I made a verbal agreement over the phone to work 20-25 hours a week in exchange for room/board and breakfast at Madame Isabelle’s Hostel.
Though I now think the owner is a great guy and have a lot of love for this hostel I almost left as soon as I arrived. To say the owner did not have the best conversational skills would have been understatement. He improved a lot during my stay but when I first started he kept panicking because he thought I wasn’t going to show up or stay. When I arrived he left to go shopping instead of showing me to my sleeping quarters and the co-worker on duty hadn’t been informed where I should go. My co-worker was also super baked and kept telling me there were cockroaches everywhere. There weren’t, well at least not at the hostel. But where some of the guys had to live there was a small infestation. I was one of the lucky/unlucky ones who lived on site. Within minutes I was laughing in the kitchen because the same guy had just overloaded dish detergent in the dishwasher. And there I met another co-worker who was shaking her head but appeared amused. The manager didn’t think it was that funny when he arrived. I should have taken that as an indicator that we weren’t going to get along. That same manager ending up robbing the cash drawer, stealing the business credit card, renting a porsche, and bouncing. I think it was all the cocaine. But that’s another story.
Traveling is only expensive when you make it. If you want to travel and you’re willing to forgo a little luxury and put it in a bit of work then the world really can be your playground, after airfare of course. Work exchange is exactly what it sounds like, a bit of work in exchange for room/board and the opportunity to explore somewhere new. Here are three reputable websites that can help get you started on your next adventure.
I didn’t think this was proper to write from the beginning. Tonight is the last night of the first leg of my journey. I’ve spent the last two weeks at Alpha Farm. An intentional community located in Deadwood, Oregon. Population 294. I’m currently sitting in the living room of a one hundred year old farmhouse. I’m tending to the fire as an Alpha member plays piano. I thought it was fitting that “When you wish upon a star” should play as I’m writing this. I don’t think I put enough wood in. Fixed. I confess, I was going to read a book but I found the music inspiring. That happens a lot here. From here on out I’ll probably post more often, but that wasn’t right here. In fact that is the complete antithesis of the vibe here.
It’s March 23rd, I know the publishing date says September 1st but it’s March 23rd. Most of the residents here have retired to their rooms. People sleep fairly early around here. It was one of the first things that I’ve become accustomed to since my arrival last Thursday night. I arrived shortly after dinner. Caroline, the last founder of Alpha Farm who remains here and another member, we’ll call him Bill, picked me up from the Eugene, Oregon airport. At fifty miles way it’s the nearest major city. My flight hadn’t come in on time and they were kind enough to wait for me.
On the plane I was in absolute awe looking down upon the mountains. I flew in during a storm so I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t get to see Crater Lake from above. That disappointment quickly faded on the drive in. We were now “in” the mountains. Deadwood is in the coastal region so most of the locals refer to them as hills. Compared to these hills the ones I was accustomed to were children, babies. Tiny natural waterfalls poked out of trees covered in moss. There were shades of green that I had never seen outside before. I saw lamas that weren’t lamas (alpacas) and asked nonstop questions about the wildlife. I was so entranced by the scenes around me that it pained me to have to glance at my phone and converse with my mother who was texting me non-stop as I explained to her that my cellphone service would soon cut out.
We arrived at dinner time and I quickly said hello to everyone. It would take me a couple of days to learn everyone’s names. Though the number is everchanging there were ten permanent members, one extended visitor, and two short term visitors when I arrived. A short term visitor can be here for a couple of days to a couple of months. An extended visitor can remain for several months either living here temporarily or in the process of an internship to become an official resident. Dinner was brought out onto the table. It was curry, millet, and salad. A circle was formed around the table and I was a bit confused as everyone began to hold hands. Why are we holding hands? Are we doing grace? I didn’t think there was organized religion here. We held hands for several very long seconds and then my eyes widened as everyone began to kiss hands. Later that night I’d find a pamphlet in my room that explained the nightly ritual and how we kissed hands from left to right. Or right to left, I never did get it right. It was to show our appreciation for each other and to thank those who labored over our meal.