Why did you choose this program?
I originally found Sadhana Forest while looking for vegetarian-friendly volunteering sites. Once I reached and stayed a few weeks, I understood that it was a really special place where consciousness, compassion, sustainability, and other ideas that are important to me form the basis of the way of life. They plant trees, use solar power, eat healthy organic vegan food, care for abandoned animals, live in simple natural buildings, and more.
As I stayed on, I came to feel that Sadhana Forest is not just a place where people are putting these different technologies and practices into use, but a place where people grow significantly through interaction with people from so many countries and backgrounds, from a simple lifestyle oriented around service, and from living simply for such an important cause.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
I had to organize my own flights and itinerary, and come prepared with enough money to pay for my food for the duration of my stay. Bed space, bedding materials, a mosquito net, and biodegradable soaps were provided to me the time of arrival. Drinking water and meals are provided within the project.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Definitely do it! We grow up thinking that if we read books and watch documentaries, we'll know a lot about the world. That's true in part, but such an education is incomplete without traveling, meeting new people, making local friends, and trying new things. Leaving behind all the things that you take for granted at home and learning to live and thrive in new surroundings can be a very deep and important experience. Keep an open mind, and enjoy everything.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
5:30 AM – Wake-up call.
5:50 AM – First service session (often related to tree planting or tree care.)
8:30 AM – Breakfast.
9:30 AM – Second service session (generally community maintenance.)
12:30 PM – Lunch.
1:30 PM – Free time for workshops, rest, exploring, going to the beach, etc.
6:00 PM – Dinner.
7:00 PM – Community event (lecture, sharing circle, non-talent show, documentary screening, etc.)
That’s the general weekday schedule. It is slightly different on weekends.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I wasn't afraid of very much; I really wanted to experience more of the world than what I had seen and known growing up, and I left my country really without much planning or forethought! 12 years on, and I'm still exploring.
In the beginning, I was a very picky eater and a shy person. Traveling put me into many new situations where I didn't have the luxury of being able to access everything that was familiar to me, so I had to learn to open up – to try new food, to chat with strangers, and so on. I am so happy for this.
What realizations did you have after joining the program?
One idea that has become important to me is that we humans are all members of different tribes, trying to find a way to make lives for ourselves here on Earth. Regardless of our many differences, our fundamental similarities – things like enjoying good food, the company of friends and family, the need for safety and security – make it possible for us to all form deep connections with people from very different backgrounds.