A week in the Madonie Mountains

Here I was, singing Buddhist chants in the mountains of Sicily, alongside strangers from all over the world.

My third project of the summer. I had just come back from projects in Poland and Romania, both of which were so meaningful to me and after less than 48 hours at home, I was off again – this time to a project in Italy!

If I’m completely honest with myself, I don’t think I was quite ready to go. I was physically drained from the travelling and lack of sleep & I was

emotionally exhausted.

Something which I completely neglected to account for when applying for so many projects this summer was how tiring it would be to meet new people, introduce them into your life, only to say goodbye. And whilst I had done projects before and knew what it would involve, I had quite long breaks in between and never back-to-back projects.

So, despite how enthusiastic I was about this project. I was honestly so tired – which in fairness, played to my advantage during my journey to Porto Di Terra.

I must have slept the entirejourney-except for the several zombie-like moments I was awake to change transportation – but to say I slept like a baby would be an understatement. I never thought an overheated, crowded bus with a crying baby would ever be so comfortable but at the time it felt like I was sleeping on a cloud, so much so that I almost missed my stop.

I was picked up by one of the hosts – we spoke briefly about why I decided to join this project & how excited I was for the food whilst his small car hobbled down steep hills and beaten paths.

Whilst it was a brief journey from the bus stop to Porto Di Terra, it was the first time I had been conscious enough to appreciate the view & damn, it was beautiful. He told me stories of its’ history and culture. I wished the car ride could have been l o n g e r, as before I knew it we had arrived.

Porto Di Terra. My first impression was home, as cheesy as it sounds, and whilst Madonie National Park, where Porto Di Terra is located and Snowdonia National Park are worlds apart, I couldn’t help but feel a feeling of home being surrounded by all these mountains.

The project itself consisted of 16 participants from Portugal, the UK, Czech Republic & Italy. The company of these 16 participants made this already amazing project even more amazing.

16 people, from a variety of backgrounds and experiences – from university students to travellers, to sisters & mothers. This variety was refreshing. I especially valued the conversations I had with some of the older participants – as someone who is quite lost about the direction of their future, it was super motivating, inspiring and made me much calmer to hear the ups-and-downs and the journeys they had taken to get to the life they’re currently on.

So whilst I may not have been 100% prepared for this project, it came at a rather perfect time. Despite the full schedule, we had every day, I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so relaxed in such a long time. As a person who is always on the move, it had been such a long time that I had time to rest- both mentally and physically.

Throughout the project, there was an emphasis on awareness and our place on the planet. We had workshops on bread making & food fermentation. We baked cookies and learnt about natural cosmetics. We learnt about permaculture, naturopathy & agro-ecology.

“What I learned in those days is that I’m walking along a path that I will never get to know completely, but that is full of magic that shakes you up” – Carmela

It’s easy to get tired on projects and lose enthusiasm but despite each day being filled with learning, I was engaged the entire week and the conversations and debates that resulted from each topic were thought-provoking and made me question my own thinking and beliefs.

One evening, we were invited to by neighbours to their home as there was a visiting Shaman. This was quite probably one of the most unique and surreal experiences of my life, to date.

I never would have imagined myself to be in this situation.Here I was, with 16 once-strangers, accompanied by a handful of other people from around the world who were there for a yoga retreat, chanting songs with an Indian Shaman, in the middle of the Madonie Mountains in Italy. 

It’s crazy to think about all the individual circumstances which brought us allhere, together, but here we were and it felt absolutely surreal. 

We spent the evening laughing, reflecting our experience with the Shaman and how surreal the entire evening felt, singing around the fire & eventually, cramming ourselves into a 3-person truck cruising under the stars. 

Waking up in nature, afternoon naps in the hammock, singing songs, playing the ukulele and guitar, swimming in the stream pool, laying in the grass watching the stars, “Bella Mama” around the fire & the best vegetarian/vegan food I’ve ever eaten.

Porto Di Terra helped me remember my “why’s” and reevaluate my priorities. The memories and lessons I learnt at Porto Di Terra are definitely ones which will be in my mind for a long time.