A few months ago I had no idea that the Canary Islands even existed. Now, after having been here for 2 wonderful weeks, I can’t imagine my life without them.
I could say that I was brought here because I chose, in typical “Chelsea” fashion, to come here via the “Look and Point” method, which I have become so fond of. Pull out a map, look for something south, somewhere warm, by the sea, somewhere Spanish… and voila! Before I know it, I’m pointing to a set of islands, boarding a plane and arriving somewhere special.
Sure, the pointing part is quite easy, but it always happens that I’m arriving for greater reasons, all of which surface as sporadic surprises.
It seems fitting that I’m sitting down to write on Valentine’s Day because my heart is so full of love for this place and for these people, which make for the perfect ending to my 6 months abroad.
I’m in love with everything this island has to offer. The air is alive with Carnaval—a month long celebration of costumes, bright colors, cross-dressing, parties, parades and Canary Island craziness. Every so often we dress up and join in on the festivities!
I’m close to the beach, which means I’ve been working on warming up to the ocean (i.e. overcoming my childhood fear of jellyfish and JAWS from all of those crazy pool games we used to play as kids).
I’ve been able to get out of the city and do some great hikes. After my first hike I understood why they call this island “The Little Continent.” It’s so rich in biodiversity. In just a few hours we hiked through dense jungle forests, up rocky mountains, through caves, swam in fresh-water springs, stood under waterfalls, got cut by giant desert cacti, ventured through bamboo tunnels and stood on volcanic ridges overlooking lush valleys!
I’ve had time to explore and relax. A few days ago, I went off-grid and into the mountains for 2 nights in a cave house in a small village called Acusa Seca where I hiked among 6th century caves and through one of the first aboriginal settlements of the island. This place, like so many I’ve discovered, left me speechless and in tears.
I keep swearing that my time here couldn’t get any better and yet, amazing things keep happening. One of these moments, for example, happened on the way home from the cave house. Anne and I decided to hitchhike home from Acusa Seca to Las Palmas instead of taking 3 busses. Of course it happened that the man who picked us up was a friend of the owner of the hostel I’m staying at. He took us to his house, introduced us to the people he lives in community with, fed us a delicious meal and showed us around. We weren’t there for very long, but our time was immensely inspiring.
He showed us the eco-housing they’ve built and told us about what it means for him to live in community—how they share meals, grown their food, work the garden, use solar power and run the washing machine by pedaling a bike!
All of these experiences have been so incredible!
But most of all, more than any hike or beautiful view or inspiring place, more than a relaxing day at the beach or bathing in the hot Spanish sun, I love the people at this hostel.
Naturally, we’ve grown to do everything together—cook, eat, make music, work, laugh, cry, learn…
With a connection this special and rare, like finding a deep sense of belonging, all of the hostel havoc seems pretty petty. Of course, though, it’s not all romance. We deal with our fair share of dirt and drama.
There are many nights of restless sleep because somebody is snoring or soaking themselves in alcohol and wants to tell you all about it, showers occasionally leak all over the floors, toilettes get clogged, sinks fill up with dirty dishes, constant noise streams from the restaurants and bars across the street, the garbage truck comes at midnight every night, etc. And then there’s the volunteer work.
Every morning I clean the toilettes, strip the sheets, do the laundry, wash the dishes, unclog the kitchen sinks and tend to the needs of guests. This is my volunteer work, but because I’m in good company, I really love it!
I’ve met novelists, digital programers, sailors, personal trainers and professional performance artists who identify as digital nomads or long-term travelers and have packed everything up to volunteer at hostels around the world as they work at their own projects on the side. People are creating new ways to exist in the world and they are loving life while doing it.
I walk around feeling so full of love and gratitude and sometimes find myself wishing that I could press “pause” to give myself time to soak up the goodness of this place, to let the love settle into my bones and dissipate deeper into my body, but the incredible experiences keep on flowing without reserve and since I cannot take anything else in, I keep giving it back to the world, to this place, to these people.
If I could stay here for a year, I would, but I have no Visa and my 90 days in “The Schengen” are winding down quickly. For the moment, I’ve chosen to buy myself a bit more time.
Yesterday I chose to pay ridiculously expensive airline fees and change 2 flights just so I could spend 1 more week with the people I’ve met and now call my family in the place I love and now call my home.
Anything for love, always.