A new way of life: creating magic with a multicultural eco-community at the Yucatan cenote

If you feel that life is getting rather monotonous and are in search of a change of scene or climate, remember that with over 50,000 Workaway hosts in 170 countries there are endless options out there to inspire your travel plans once the restrictions are lifted, or even within your own country in the meantime. Every month with the “Workaway Host of the Month” blog we select outstanding projects with glowing feedback to whet your appetites!

If the age of consumerism and the alienation leaves you feeling empty and unfulfilled, perhaps it's time to join the “revolution” and embrace community living. From close to Tulum in the Yucatan region of Mexico, we find an oasis... a  cenote centred community in the heart of the jungle ✨. For those of you who are not familiar with “cenotes” (pronounced se-no-te) they are freshwater swimming holes arising from a cavernous subterranean water system peculiar to this region. We are very enthused to meet Kareen, who is one of the driving forces behind the venture. 

If you're looking for somewhere...to connect with other travelling souls looking for meaningful alternatives to the dominant consumer system that governs much of our world... this is the place.

Workawayer Ione Marie
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Hi there Kareen. What a spectacular place you are at!
Kareen:
Hello there! Yes, I'm in my living room right now, overlooking the cenote, which as you can see is at the heart of our community. It is a wonderful place to swim in and explore. There are dragonflies, turtles, fish and even a couple of small crocodiles. We are vegetarians here, but there is a whole eco-system which keeps the natural balance of wildlife in check. Our role is to keep the water clean and free of algae.
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So Kareen, would you mind telling us a little about yourself and how you found yourself in the Tulum region of Mexico?
Kareen:
Well, I am an Israeli with an Arabic name living in Mexico in a multi-cultural community! 
I suppose the reason it all came about was because of my 18 year involvement with Nomads United, an NGO legion consisting of people from many nations united in peace, between cultures, animals and the planet.  We travelled by horse through 10 countries hoping to inspire and promote change, stopping off at many villages and towns en-route. We lived and worked together as a multi-ethnic horizontal community...and by that I mean that we all took part in the decision-making, as well as taking responsibility for the consequences! We were in it together, communally, whatever we did. We were still part of this movement when my son was born. We were based in this region at the time and we made the decision to stay on here and to create a community based on similar ideals
It is two years old now and, with the contribution of Workawayers, we have been able to construct the eco-community living spaces you see here. There are about 35 people here and although it is not completely “horizontal” in terms of decision-making, as some of us are more implicated and long-term than others, we do have regular community circle gatherings to focus on ways to improve the quality of life here. 
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Could you tell us a little more about the surrounding area?
Kareen:
The land here is flat and we have about 5 hectares, so it’s a big plot. Most people find that once they have settled in that they don’t want to go anywhere, preferring to enjoy the peaceful holistic bubble we have here. Of course, there are other cenotes close-by, the beaches and Tulum is just 10 minutes away, but they often find that they have all they need here.  It operates as a separate entity, but there is even a Waldorf school here for children up to the age of 10.
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I can see from your profile that in many ways you are gradually moving towards becoming more self-sufficient. Could you explain what projects you have on the horizon and the kind of volunteers are you looking for to help you achieve them?
Kareen:
We receive an enormous amount of interest, in fact I probably need a volunteer just to deal with all the volunteers enquiries! Skilled people are always appreciated, depending upon what needs doing at any given time. After two hurricanes swept through the region our kitchen garden was destroyed, as one of our aims is to be as self-sustainable as possible, we need help with bringing life back into our garden, especially as we are a vegetarian community. Being a gardener in this environment is tough though! Carpenters are also in demand as we are still involved in construction, as well as chefs who can prepare tasty meals for the whole community. To help to repay our investments, we also run accommodation for paying guests. Oh yes, at the moment web design skills are also very much appreciated.
As far as the kind of volunteer, we really hope to find people whose enthusiasm doesn't dwindle after the first couple of weeks and who do things in a consistent and structured manner...
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Kareen:
I also find it's good to have as much of a healthy cultural mix as possible. Without wanting to generalise, I have seen that certain nationalities have a tendency to excel in different areas...as well as being able to share and offer certain aspects of their culture: music, cuisine and traditions. Sometimes we find ourselves with an “invasion” of one particular nationality, but this is only temporary!
workaway community dinner table share meal
As for the day-to-day routine, what does a typical day look like?
Kareen:
We don't impose a time-table and everyone has different tasks which are to be carried out at different times of the day. As long as those tasks are done, then it doesn’t matter what time anyone does in their free time. We work on trust.
I have lived in communities where people live alongside one another but remain isolated. By cooking and eating together we maximise resources, save on energy and reduce waste. Also for me it consolidates the community, by bringing us together regularly.
Depending on the people we have living here and what they can offer, the activities vary. We have a resident who likes to offer yoga at 6 in the morning and we like to organise retreats here too. There is always something going on and many such activities are put on as a gesture of goodwill.
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"There were very interesting and lovely people from many different countries and we had lots of social interactions like music, singing and dance circles, cacao ceremony, elaborate birthday parties, sound healing circles, yoga and capoeira session and many good talks. I also had the good fortune to celebrate Christmas and New Year in the community, which was just lovely. A family away from home!" --Workawayer Gisela

How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the running of the centre and your ability to find volunteers?
Kareen:
I would say that it has had a positive effect overall. People realised that they couldn’t rely on the system any more. The first months, when the lockdown was more severe, we stayed in our community and I look back at it as a very special and memorable time. We were able to reach an even deeper communal feeling and understanding. As far as people coming and going, as far as I am aware Mexico didn’t ever close its borders. Tulum has had more tourism than ever, our accommodation is fully booked, even though we don't advertise and like to keep a low profile.
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What is the most satisfying aspect for you as a host in this exchange?
Kareen:
Well it's great to see how things get done and the community develops from their efforts. More than anything though, I find most fascinating being able to witness the transformation process that each person who comes here experiences, the growth of their spiritual wealth and self-awareness. At the same time they propagate the message of how to live with nature and to interact with a community.
Like an antidote to modern living?
Kareen:
Yes, to live the revolution of change and spiritual wealth, rather than just reading about it in a Facebook post. We are not saying that we have all the answers, we have a lot of work to do, but by living this way we believe we are starting out in the right direction.
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I know that you have a lot of projects to oversee, so thank you Kareen for taking the time to share your story with us today...and congratulations on becoming our Host of the Month!
Kareen:
Thank you Workaway! We are honoured to be considered as Host of the Month.  

Just as Mayan civilizations regarded cenotes as being their principle water source, sustaining them not only physically, but also spiritually...this multi-cultural eco-community perpetuates this natural and even “magical” connection:

 I was looking for a place that gave me peace in nature, learn new skills and disconnect to connect with myself. This was the right place... thanks again for the magic! 

Workawayer Zyanya
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multiculturaleco community

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