One month later: lessons from Huanchaco
Since arriving back in the UK one month ago after spending three months living in Huanchaco and working on the HELP Environment project, I have had time to reflect on my experience and gain perspective on the things I learnt whilst living in Peru and working with OCN. As my first time leaving my home country alone, I undertook this journey in order to gain experience working in an NGO overseas to supplement my studies in International Development, but it turned out to be a learning experience in many more ways than I had bargained for. Here are just some of the key lessons I learnt…
Getting to grips with a new culture
For the first time I had to really come to grips with living in a culture that was different from my own. Though this was challenging, especially at first, over time I fell in love with the calm and slow-paced nature of Huanchaco life, the kindness of the people here and the sense of community that is much harder to come by in my busy home city of London.
Getting to know local people, as well as other volunteers from all over the world also helped me to learn to interact with people from all different cultures and backgrounds and also see how much I have to learn from them! I loved being surrounded by a more diverse group of people than I am used to and I now find myself able to communicate better with people from different cultures with a new confidence and ability to overcome those cultural differences.
Learning Spanish from scratch
One of the best opportunities I had in Huanchaco was to begin learning Spanish! Having very little knowledge of the language prior to arriving, one of my main goals was to improve it. This was definitely one of the most challenging parts of my stay – saying things in another language when you have no idea if it makes any sense, and walking around all day trying to piece together a translation of what people around you are saying is a very difficult thing, but I also found it the best way to improve. Though I may have made many funny mistakes and sounded ridiculous a lot of the time, I am grateful that living in Huanchaco gave me no choice but to push myself out of my comfort zone with Spanish and try my best, and it has given me a really good foundation on which to continue to build on in the future.
A time for self-reflection
As cliché and cheesy as it is to talk about ‘finding yourself’ whilst travelling, I truly am grateful for everything Huanchaco taught me about myself and how I was able to grow personally. Having time away from the culture in which I was raised gave me the space to critically reflect on it, gaining a new appreciation for its good parts and a better insight into the parts of it that aren’t so good. In removing myself from it for some time, I was able to figure out what’s really important to me, and enjoy time doing things I love; travelling, surfing, meeting new people and having meaningful conversations with those from the other side of the world and learning their perspectives. Living in Huanchaco forced me to really push myself out of my usual comfort zone in many ways.
Though it was uncomfortable at the time, I can see now how much I have grown in confidence. The relaxed ways of the Huanchaco lifestyle are now helping me to let go of some of the daily anxieties I often experience at home as a product of the faster-paced way of life.
Huanchaco was certainly an immense time of learning and I am hugely grateful for every joyful and uncomfortable second.
This blog was written by Alison Dawson.