In early April, I crossed Brazil and Argentina and arrived in Santiago de Chile, after almost 5 month in Brazil, living and working at the eco-village Piracanga in Bahia. I had heard about Project Nuevo Mundo, now suitably rebranded to NuMundo, while volunteering at Boom Festival in Portugal in August last year.
A startup with the vision of creating a world-wide directory of sustainable projects, permaculture schools, organic farms and eco-villages, making it easy to find opportunities for volunteering, bartering or for paid retreats and courses. An accelerator for the new world, providing good access to transformational (travel) experiences. I wanted to be part of this!
Seven month, many emails and a few Google Hangouts later I finally met the NuMundo team near Valparaíso in Chile. The company got funded through Startup Chile, an accelerator for tech-startups from the Chilean government so a part of the nomadic team relocated to Chile. What followed was an intense 2 month, getting to know an amazing team, having good fun, working hard and exploring some of Chile. Viva el nuevo mundo!
A platform to accelerate change
Some of my friends look at my lifestyle and think that I’m on this never-ending holiday. Think again. For NuMundo we pretty much started a complex web application from scratch. 3 developers, 1 designer living on the 14th floor of an apartment building, coding away – we worked long hours every day and geeked out massively (good to talk code after my experiences in Brazil). A part of the team was living at a the eco neighbourhood “Blowing in the Wind” near Reñaca, occasionally coming over so we’d all work together. My routine in Chile consisted of working, doing sports and baking cakes (something like a new hobby). I tried surfing in Chile but the freezing cold water and big swell scared me off. Talking surf, I did manage to witness the big wave competition that took place in Pichilemu, for pictures of big waves head this way.
The vision behind NuMundo’s website and the task at hand was to build something we’re calling the “AirBnB for transformational travel”, although beyond monetising stands the clear vision of creating a platform to improve access to sustainable projects, eco-villages and social projects around the world, that need volunteers and are financed through courses or retreats. More and more people thrive for sustainable tourism and become aware of the limitations and wastefulness of our consumerist world. I’m not saying that flying around the world to attend a retreat or permaculture school is the most ecological thing you can do (staying at home engaging with local projects would), but a shift in consciousness is much needed and a lot of these places provide insight and a field to experiment with living a healthier, more sustainable and eventually a happier life. More access to impact centers will accelerate the process of creating more consciousness and awareness.
Shortly before my arrival a lot of energy from the local team had gone into overcoming the hurdles of Chilean startup accelerator bureaucracy, finding a suitable place to stay and settling in, while me and and another developer traveled to join the team. When you spend two month working together you really get to know people and I am thankful for meeting an openminded and hardworking team, now my friends. I learned tons about how much work it is to run a tech-startup and improved my coding skills (thanks Eric and Paul for all your support!). We launched a beta version of the platform recently, are still fixing the last bugs and looking forward to growing the directory from now on. Visit http://numundo.org.
Rough and cold nights in southern Chile
One of my field trips with the NuMundo team was a road trip to visit an impact center, called Kimn+Ayün in Region Del Maule. Here’s a learning: when an organic wine maker in southern Chile offers you homemade aguardiente and “chicha” (fermenting new wine), you shouldn’t refuse right? Well, I didn’t and since I wasn’t drinking alcohol for a few month it made the first night of our visit slightly rough (or better, the morning). Other than that our visit was a real experience – we lived like “campesinos” for 2 nights in huts and houses restored from the consequences of a past earthquake. Our host Beto showed us the “adega”, the wine cellar, and we tasted fine organic wine, learning all about how it is made and how current wine prices are far below what makes it worth making wine in small cellars. The usual unfortunate mass produce vs. small farmer conflict.
Spending most our times behind screens we re-connected to Nature and the forest, took long walks, cooked over the open fire and celebrated life far away from our computers and web development.
Working with the Kids from Terra Y Valle in Pisco
Chile is a vast stretch of land, ranging over 4000km from top to bottom. I wanted to visit the Atacama desert, or to head further down to Patagonia to find out more of about the Mapuches, the indigenous inhabitants of southern Chile. There wasn’t enough time, the places I wanted to see were too distant to interrupt our project. Instead, I embarked on the Ignite Experience, a pilot for sustainable tourism that consisted taking 13 entrepreneurs from Startup Chile to a rural community in Pisco to work with children of the NGO Tierra y Valle to “cross-inspire each other, share wisdom and ignite youth leadership”.
Terra Y Valle applies the “Tierra de Ninos” (TiNi) methodology believing that “it is in childhood when we need to develop our values and attitudes that will accompany us in life. This methodology was created by the Association for the children and their environment in Peru. A TiNi is a space that goes from one meter of land granted by adults to children and adolescents, where they learn to raise life and biodiversity. In this process, the child or adolescent strengthens their self-esteem and affection for nature.”. The kids showed us their square meter of land and explained what they were planting on them, excited to have visitors to interact with.
Overall we spent 3 days with the project, spoke about our backgrounds, what made us travel and start companies – and did some crowdfunding mentoring. A daylong program on Pisco’s main square was focussed on activities with the local kids, amongst them naming the challenges and problems in their community and suggesting possible solutions. Together with the various entrepreneurs from Startup Chile and my team from NuMundo I made a lot of new friends and we hopefully inspired the local kids and provided them a meaningful experience. I managed to connect the local NGO with my friends from UNAWE in the Netherlands and hopefully they’ll be getting a “Universe in a Box”, a perfect match given Pisco and the Elqui valley is located in the “ruta de las estrellas” (route of the stars), a popular star gazing and astronomy aficionado route.
Pisco and the whole valley are a real beauty, hosting a lot of expats and openminded people and I hope to be back with more time to explore. Thanks Ignite Experience and Shayna and Bryan for organising this inspiring weekend. Read more about our trip on the NuMundo Blog.
Joining forces with NuMundo
From Santiago I flew back to Europe and am currently visiting friends and family in Portugal, Austria and Germany, packing up my last things in Berlin and getting ready to move my base to Brazil later this year. My original plan to travel up bartering with projects in central america and end my journey in the US has changed. I’ve decided to join forces with NuMundo and to become an ambassador for South America scouting for impact centers while supporting the platform development. However, my project Good Things Everywhere will continue, with less trades and a strictly focussed on NGOs and social projects. After almost 2 years on the road I feel like I need a base and stop moving so much.
I’ll keep you posted, some more photos below.