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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.

Perception #1 – I’ll Do Yoga All The Time

The truth is I was busy a lot working expected hours and yoga 24/7 wasn’t always realistic. I certainly got my usual daily dose and there were times a retreat group arrived and allowed the volunteers to join for twice a day classes, but I had to remember that I was there to write beautiful words, not just do beautiful yoga.

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Lindsay teaching a class

Perception #2 – I Could Juggle Two Jobs

The volunteer terms at Blue Osa for writers is to give six hours per day, with weekends off. While I certainly took breaks when my brain tapped out, by the time six hours was over, I had to log on to tackle my other life — Nomadic Chick, writer’s retreat marketing, trying to write my book. Six hours per day turned into 12. I  believed I could handle it all, but by the end of three months I was ready to stop having a split brain. Next time I’d rethink this. Volunteering means devoting your time and brain power, so if you have a remote job consider that your other job doesn’t stop.

Taking a coconut break from work

Taking a coconut break from work

Perception #3 – I’ll Lose Lots and Lots of Weight

Doing yoga until I got cut? Sure. (See Perception #1.)  Drinking kale juice and fasting to reach an even cutter frame? So didn’t happen. The meals at Blue Osa were definitely nutritious but also damn good, offered in insane abundance. I was given three meals a day — eating my fill — often too much of my fill, all the while noticing my bathing suit getting snugger and snugger. Honestly, I am still recovering from having to now cook for myself.

Perception #4 – I’d Get Constant Spiritual Guidance and Peace Ever After

I was so sure Yogi Aaron, the chief guru of Blue Osa, could proffer constant spiritual teachings, but a yoga resort is also a business. The man’s time was pulled by innumerable daily duties, be it guest management, staff coordination, marketing or teacher training. So I tried to find peace in those small pockets of time by walking the dogs or taking a quick jaunt on the beach.

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Searching for peace in Buddha

Perception #5 – Being in Paradise is Enough

I appreciated the gorgeous setting for sure, but many resorts are in remote locations. D’oh, I didn’t factor that in! Yet for geography, this makes sense. Otherwise, how else could a beach be only 50 feet away? The truth though, sometimes I needed breaks, even from paradise. Just to be in a different setting — if only for a few hours. Travel to the neighbouring town wasn’t the easiest because only two collectivos (a type of public bus) drove by in the mornings and then staying in town for a lengthy amount of time was tricky since the collectivio left at 1:30 p.m. Often I hitchhiked into town which allowed me to meet locals and practice Spanish. There were other places to visit (other beaches etc.), but accessing them usually required a vehicle. In hindsight, I’d consider budgeting for the occasional rental car or buy a cheap bicycle or motorbike to have the option to wander.

A break from this? Believe it or not, yes.

A break from this? Believe it or not, yes.

As for the writing work itself, it was challenging to write for unfamiliar niches —  such as yoga, health and spa.

My primary job involved writing copy for the Corcovado School’s website redesign, a kindergarten to grade 6 level school that the owners of Blue Osa took on with the expat and local community. The aim for the redesign was to entice donors to contribute to much needed infrastructure improvements and obtain sponsorships for a child’s course of education. You know me, I am a bleeding heart!

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If I have tips for anyone interested in volunteering at a resort (in whatever role you’re enlisted for):

  1. Even though you’re in paradise, finding contentment actually comes from within. A beautiful setting helps, but doesn’t give you all the answers.
  2. Be realistic about your workload, can you meet everything that’s required and still do your other job?
  3. It can seem like you aren’t on vacation, because you really aren’t. You are there to serve a supporting role for the resort.
  4. If the resort is remote, can your psyche handle it? Be honest with yourself before accepting the volunteer position.
  5. Finally, relax into the experience. You may be technically “working” but there will be plenty of chances to grab your slice of slow, considered moments.

Have you ever volunteered at a resort? What were your expectations and did you adjust them?