Since SUTD’s trimester starts at the end of January, there were two weeks for me to do a post-exchange trip before the mad rush in SUTD begins again. I decided that since there were still many places in Taiwan that I have not explored, and I heard about how there are many opportunities to volunteer in exchange for accommodation and food, such as in farms, hostels, cafes, dive shops, I decided that there was no better time for me to try it too. After asking around about such opportunities as well as sourcing for them online on websites such as Workaway, I signed up to volunteer at a hostel in a town called Dulan, together with one of my Taiwanese friend.
Dulan is a “hippie” small coastal town in Taitung beside the mountain range leading up to the Eastern Rift Valley, mainly composed of an aboriginal village, an old sugar factory that has converted into a market for crafts, arts and music, as well as surfhouses and backpacker hostels that line the street. In the 10 days there, together with 5 other volunteers, we took turns to have 2-hour shifts of reception duty, where we just have to interact with guests, help out with the check-in and check-out process, or some short chambermaid duties in the morning. I would not even consider it as work because aside from responding to occasional customer requests, I was just like any other guest there, having a good time with other foreigners.
My fellow chambermaid:
My hostel was really cosy, and equipped with facilities such as piano, drums, guitars, HDMI projector, hammock, bicycles, reading lounge, etc and it was possible to stay in the hostel for days without going out, although that was not what I did. It was easy to lose concept of time in this village and just immerse myself into the beautiful nature that surrounded the town, the pleasant vibes and perspectives that every traveller carried with them there, and for some reason almost everyone there were artistically or musically talented. It was the best break from the city I have ever had in Taiwan, away from all the noise and closer to the roots of being human: getting in touch in nature, creating beauty through art or music or other medium, building interpersonal connections that are close to the heart.
It was a magical 10 days, and a perfect end to my 5 months in Taiwan.