Years ago I stumbled upon the movie 'Motorcycle Diaries'. It tells the story of a young Che Guevara who went on a trip through South America with a friend. I'm not sure in what year I saw the movie for the first time, but it made me want to go on the same adventure.
A few years later as I was living in Cape Verde, I started to think about traveling through South America. I already knew my budget for this trip would be low, probably around € 10 a day. I figured that the only way to be able to go on this trip would be by bike.
At that time, I pictured myself hitting the road with a good tent that would allow me to sleep anywhere. The thought of sleeping somewhere in a tent in the middle of nowhere really exited me. It also scared me a little. The fact that I felt scared by it made me realize that it was something I really needed to do.
In the summer of 2016 I traveled from Mindelo to Rio de Janeiro (with a few stops). I arrived in Rio with € 20 (!) in my pocket. These were not the best of times financially, but I had promised myself that I would not let that stop me. I also knew that I had created the situation all by myself.
The months I spent in Rio were not easy, but it was because of it I knew that I needed it. It was good to be outside my comfort zone, far from home away from family. It gave me the perspective I needed to clear my head and to think.
I was completely broke. On days that I could do a tour for my friend Zezinho, I was able to take some money home. This way I could contribute to the household I was part of. The situation I was in was completely my own responsibility. Although I had my own business in Cape Verde, I didn't take it seriously, and I was waisting a perfect opportunity.
The Airbnb business I had set up worked out great from the start, and soon I was happy with what I was getting out of it. I felt that I was making enough money, which was just enough to get by, since I was living in my Mom's house. I could've built out the business to become so much more, but I was lacking motivation, energy and vision.
When we started the Sonvela Arte project in November 2014 I completely focused on the project, and did some work in between. The project was off to a great start, and I wanted nothing more than to see it succeed. The problem was that Sonvela is something I do as a volunteer. On top of that, I was using my own money to get the project up & running.
“The persons attempting to travel two roads at once will get nowhere”. - Xun Zi
The Social Entrepreneur book
Before getting on the bike for my journey through South America, there was one thing I was afraid of. The thought of sleeping outside somewhere made me think twice about going. I was lucky for having amazing friends, who supported me along the trip. Thanks to them, I would be able to sleep in cheap accommodations many nights.
Today, I'm thankful for the nights that I had to sleep at a gasstation. The fear of sleeping outside made me dig deep, and think about the mistakes I made and especially why. It made me realize that I had a terrible relationship with money. I saw money as the factor that was behind everything that was wrong in the world.
I used that idea to hide from my responsibility. If money was that evil to me, why was I asking Sonvela followers for donations? It was during those long nights spent at gasstations that I understood that I used money as an excuse to not reach my full potential. As long as I didn't like money I had a great excuse of not making any, and it would stop my from building Sonvela into what it could potentially become.
There was a book called The Social Entrepreneur that I took with me on my trip. I found this book at my friends house in Rocinha, which belonged to her husband. On those long nights at gasstations, afraid to fall asleep, this book would eventually help me shape my current views on what Sonvela needs to become.
The autheur explains what can be achieved when you tackle (community) problems and social issues, and mix that with a business mindset. I guess that I had some of the same ideas as well since the start of Sonvela Arte, but there was always something holding me back.
Sonvela was founded from the philosophy that you don't need much to help someone. And I continue to believe that. We can make a difference in eachothers lives with a very small gesture. But I also learned that to truly make a lasting change, and to be able to better the lives of thousands of people, we need money.
I'm no longer hiding from that responsibility.
I wrote this article to share my journey and this process with you. I'm currently working on a 'new' Sonvela. I will be focusing on partnering up with tech & startup entrepreneurs/companies, and also micro businesses. If you are interested in joining me on this journey, consider investing in our people along side me today: