The Reality of Volunteering at a Yoga Resort


Travel can be perception.

We have an expectation how a place will feel, what will happen once we get there.

I’ve been quiet about my time at Blue Osa — only because I needed time to distill my experience.

People make assumptions about me, that my life is all fantasy  — full of fun, fun, fun!

I also harbour fantasies (other than the normal variety) and I had quite a few about volunteering at a yoga resort.

Before I discuss realities, let me cover a few points first.

One, the grounds of Blue Osa are truly magical, initially relaxing me. Because I was wound too tight from my lousy experiences in Europe; the setting was literally paradise.

Two, I do yoga everyday minus travel days, so the opportunity to delve deeper into yogic philosophy was the perfect union (me + a yoga resort).

Third, it was fascinating to use my writing skills in a volunteer-in-trade role, essentially writing for my bed and dinner.

November 24th, 2014|Categories: Costa Rica, Travel Tips|Tags: , , |30 Comments

If I Were a Chick, This is How I’d Volunteer

So, maybe you’re interested in volunteering overseas, but have no clue where to start? Since I’m running to catch a train at the moment or having the worst sleep ever on one, why not let Mark Wiens give you a male perspective?

Volunteering can be one of the most positively rewarding and valuable parts of travel.

It’s an aspect that not only allows you to help out in a desired field, but to learn about a new culture, develop local relationships, and get to experience the real side of a country.

However, in a world that’s filled with an overwhelming supply of information, it can sometimes be challenging to find the correct volunteer position.

Here are a few things that I’d do to start volunteering if I were a chick.

1.  Spend Some Time Thinking About My Passions

There’s no better way to use yourself as a volunteer than to focus on what you love best and what you’re most passionate about.

The great thing is, with a bit of research, there’s volunteering opportunities in almost every imaginable area of interest.

If you offer your time at a place where you are honestly excited to be helping out, your experience will surely be maximized and your positive attitude will outwardly show.

2.  Try to Develop a Few Personal Connections and Sources

In my opinion the best way to get started volunteering is to ask around and develop some local connections. Sources can come from friends you already know, friends of friends, people you meet, or just getting plugged in to a place and asking around.

When I traveled to the Philippines I contacted a number of couchsurfers and asked if anyone knew of an organization where I could spend some time volunteering in Manila (without paying any fees). Sure enough, within a few days a host had put me in contact with a friend whose father was the founder of a local organization that built houses for the needy throughout the Philippines.

September 7th, 2011|Categories: Travel Tips|Tags: , , , , |6 Comments

A Love Affair Ends

Dear Volunteering,

Alas, all things have a natural end. I’m sorry it had to come to this, but our time is over.

It’s a myth that love affairs are riddled with happiness.

Sometimes, you nearly made me cry.

On the good days, you had me grinning ear to ear.

Despite our rocky time together, I’ll always remember the endless sunny days, our walks to school together, dancing to Marathi disco and eating Cadbury chocolate until our fingers got sticky.

I’ll think fondly of our lively dinners and visits to all the neighboring villages.

Most of all, I’ll miss our children. Make sure Sanghvi continues her studies. She’s so bright. And don’t let little Rohan get bullied anymore. Watch Suresh mature, I’m excited to see what kind of man he grows into.

As I lounge in Goa sipping frothy cocktails and admiring a pool boy’s behind, your memory will fade, but not your impact.

You forced me to discover reserves of patience I once thought was a mirage. You taught me to accept, even when I didn’t want to. How holding a child’s hand means more than offering an extravagant gift.

Thanks for these 3 months, it lasted longer than any of my relationships, really.

I’ll leave you with some pictorial tokens of my affection. Please don’t cry, you’ll only make it worse.



February 17th, 2011|Categories: Savarsai|Tags: , , , , , , |37 Comments

What I Do All Day

When you’re volunteering overseas it’s the opposite of pleasure travel. I eat the food given to me, sit on freezing concrete and pace my time according to a schedule.

Since I’m working at a home for children, everything centers around them.

Wake up call is 5:30 or 6:00 am

Yeah, fantastically early. Even in my previous life I never woke at 5:30 except for a bathroom break or nightmare jolt. Prakash makes the kids do calisthenics to get the blood going before school. It’s actually fairly refreshing.

After we’ve been sweating to the oldies, they get their ration of toothpaste.


7:30 am is morning prayer and follows the essential Gandhi philosophy:

Be compassionate to all living beings

Live a simple life

Treat all people equally

Be kind to each other

Respect others rights to be different

Be thoughtful

Help others

Do your best in everything that you do

Be happy

My favorite part is when they all sing:

“Live a life of true… and happiness you will find… Gandhi, Gandhi, Gandhiji, Gandhijiiiii!!!”

School Drop Off

After a breakie of chapatti and lentils, I usually take the Marathi primary kids to school at 10ish. It’s a close 10 minute jaunt to the Savarsai village.

I’m constantly amazed how the kids can walk on sharp rocks and uneven paved roads with their tiny bare feet!

Kitchen Duty

Once in a

February 13th, 2011|Categories: Culture, Savarsai|Tags: , , , , |22 Comments

The Future Picassos of India

India is teeming with art. Creativity is effortlessly encouraged in schools and even in the home I volunteer with. Everyday it confronts me from intricately carved Ganesh statues to kolams or delicate line drawings.

Below are some samples of work done by the children. I plan to stow a stack in my backpack and devote a few hours to some art galleries in Mumbai.

January 31st, 2011|Categories: Savarsai|Tags: , , , , |9 Comments

Republic Day Means Freedom

A fog permeated in my brain. Eyes half shut scanned my Timex. 6 am. Not my usual wake-up call, but instead of groaning bones and muttering complaints I only felt excited.

Today is Republic Day across India. Although Mother India gained independence from nasty Britain in 1947, it wasn’t until January 26, 1950 that a Constitution of India was cemented.

Kavita and I were invited to Savarsai, a nearby village built around a school that 9 of the Child Haven children attend. Since she sits on the board of the school, Republic Day made this an auspicious occasion.

Excited village kids

Like most days in India, I never know what to expect. Today’s events were no different.

I sprang up from bed determined to dress nicer than my usual Keen sandals and wrinkly t-shirt. Still, mornings are coolly crisp here and over an olive green dress and baggy jeans, I covered up in a toque and sweater.

Venturing outside I nearly collided with Sonali.

“Auntie, Republic Day!!”

She skipped by holding a thin red sash, a glow radiating from a very adult face. Sometimes I forget she’s only 10.

The kids were issued new school uniforms the night before and whorled around the matron demanding this and that.

“Didi, dress! Powder! Oil!”

A half hour later, they emerged with polished shoes, starched uniforms, and white powdered faces. Not to mention vibrating with national pride.

Girls decorate their hair with ribbons and garlands

Kavita came out in a sari dotted with delicate flowers; the intricate border weaved with scarlet and buttery gold threading. For a change, I was speechless.

The other kids hopped buses

January 26th, 2011|Categories: Savarsai|Tags: , , |11 Comments