Over the last few weeks, I was beginning to wonder if I was getting tired of volunteering. I was still enjoying the work, but I was getting irritable. I snapped at people. I wasn’t patiently explaining to new volunteers how tasks were to be done, I was getting frustrated and barking orders at them. Ellen was even beginning to tease me for getting infuriated with having to slow down for language barriers, when I’ve been an English teacher and that was my very job before. Ellen’s pointing it out just highlighted the mystery – what in the world was sapping away at my positivity and good nature?

This week, I took an overnight trip to town, giving myself a luxurious full day and a half to play on the internet and update my blog, which I figured would cheer me up. I seated myself in my favourite cafe, opened my computer, sipped my latte, and proceeded to get into a fascinating chat with the woman at the next table, who had mentioned to her server that she was from Vancouver Island. Within minutes, I was animated, passionate, patient, knowledgeable, and caring again. My sense of purpose, my love of life had been returned to me, and I realized with startling clarity what had been wrong before.

The past couple of weeks, the farm has been short of volunteers, and I’ve been missing the exchange of ideas with like-minded travellers. Ellen and I had been doing most of the work with one other volunteer, and so we were exhausted at the end of the day. Ingo, the farmer, had a bad knee that needed treatment in Quito, so we’d spent several days a week on our own, holding the fort and running the farm ourselves. It was quite an achievement, but not as rewarding for me as I’d hoped. I crave contact with more people on a regular basis, and spending several days with just two people to talk to was sapping my energy. Lively conversation was what I needed to reanimate myself, and we just weren’t having any of that.

I’ve known for some time that I work better around others than alone. I’ve always found it easier to do solitary tasks in public places than at a quiet desk. Libraries stifle me; I did my college readings in cafes. Over the last few weeks, I’ve done very little writing because I’ve felt that I had no ideas worth pursuing. Who would want to read my blog posts when all I produced were frustrated rants about the annoying volunteer who had to be sent home after one day? And so I wrote nothing, and waited until I got into town to hope for inspiration to strike. Yesterday, over coffee and lemon meringue pie, my inspiration came back and the ideas started flowing again. I chatted to Barbara, my newfound friend, for three to four hours, and all my passion and excitement for life, my travels, and my writing came bubbling back to the surface. She had to leave for a Spanish lesson in the early afternoon, and I wrote twice as much as I’d imagined I could after she left, and still had half a page of notes on ideas to pursue later.

With my enthusiasm turned up to full-blast, I was soaring with zest for life by late afternoon. I’d updated my blog and scheduled a couple of posts for later in the week, chatted with my parents, and talked to a few friends on Facebook. I was just considering whether to order another drink when Barbara came back with a woman from her hostel, Kendra, who was feeling as uninspired as I’d been that morning and was needing some talk therapy as well. Kendra had told Barbara about her unhappy experience volunteering on a farm here in Ecuador, and how disillusioned she’d become, and Barbara wanted her to meet me and gain some positive insights into sustainability and farming. Soon enough, we were animatedly discussing all kinds of worthy ideas for making a difference here in Ecuador and at home in Canada. It was an inspiring conversation, and I felt I couldn’t wait to put those sorts of ideas into action.

We said our goodbyes as the cafe closed – I had been there twelve hours. Perhaps I should have gone to bed when I got back to my tiny balcony hostel room, but instead I stayed up for hours more, letting the ideas percolate in my imagination. I’m still trying to rehash the conversation in my mind, to glean out of it all the inspiration I can. I’m also trying to incorporate the lesson from this experience into my plans for my future. Clearly, I need to be somewhere active if I’m going to be writing. My thoughts of a quiet cottage with a comfy writing desk looking out onto a garden might be tempting, but I’ll probably get more words onto paper, and better ideas flowing, if I’m in a bustling coffee shop in a town square. Food for thought. That’s what was missing, and that’s what I have now in abundance.

Life calls for more chatting in cute coffee shops with my sister, for sure!

Life calls for more chatting in cute coffee shops with my sister, for sure!

Conversations over beers with friends always chase my blues away

Conversations over beers with friends always chase my blues away!