Camino Libre is a vision of a different way of being in the world as a woman, as a US citizen and consumer, and most of all, as a human growing up within the turbulent years of the early 21st century.
Camino Libre is my journey of learning to walk, breathe, and sing into being a new way of life. One which regards with utmost seriousness the environmental crisis caused by my species, while also finding energy in the challenge of building a more just and flourishing human village.
Each of Camino Libre’s four publications reflect a different approach to this personal and collective walk towards freedom. In the pages of this project, you’ll find:
Community in the oral history of the Chilean estallido social in Humans of L.A. (coming Fall 2022)
Friendship in a shared correspondence of letters soul to soul in Querida Sol
Courage from within the depths of trauma in The Perilous & Tender Search through Darkness (coming Winter 2023) and…
Stories that transport you to the frontlines and back roads of our personal and collective awakening.
I’m so grateful to share the journey with you. Here’s to us all falling in love with the story we’re living.
Camino Libre is a one-woman labor of love that is committed to remaining ad-free. If you love what you read, consider supporting the project with a one-time donation or as a monthly patron!
Growing up in suburban Los Angeles, I sensed from a young age that my built environment of strip malls, freeways, and cement was not a natural habitat for human flourishing.
The American standard of living seemed not only environmentally irresponsible but also empty of deeper meaning and connection. Though I yearned for a different way of life, I had no clear vision of what that life could be.
My grandparents, one side from the Philippines, the other from the US, grew up as farmers and fisherfolk. Obtaining US citizenship, going to college, and enjoying a comfortable lifestyle were all incredible privileges that I inherited. Though I took none of those gifts for granted, I questioned how I might use them to create a deeper life.
A few weeks after graduating college in 2017, I decided that I didn’t need to know all the answers…I just needed to begin asking the right questions.
My journey along the camino libre began the moment I asked the question:
What if I chose happiness over career?
Several months later, I answered that question by moving to Valparaíso, Chile. Living in Valparaíso had been a dream of mine—and I decided that I would begin living that dream now, rather than later (or never). I arrived in Valparaíso with a suitcase full of books and the address to a rented room. Within a week, I met the people who would become my family and community for the next few years.
My group of friends, most of whom were architecture students, began renovating a trash dump into a community garden. We soon coalesced into RE, a community architecture collective that responded to our barrio’s lack of public infrastructure and the encroachment of gentrification. In each of our construction projects, we practiced a philosophy of con lo que hay (with whatever there is) to transform recycled materials and neighborhood participation into community spaces.
As my life in Valparaíso grew in depth and meaning, I finally had the inner strength to ask a terrifying question:
What would my life be like if I committed to forging the full freedom of my mind, body, and heart?
Answering this question forced me to confront deep traumas from surviving gender violence as a teenager. On March 8, 2018, I began the long walk towards freedom from PTSD. My healing journey took me through the wrenching, tender work of undoing the havoc that trauma had wrought on my brain, nervous system, and heart. Freeing myself from PTSD was intrinsically connected to liberating myself from the internalized oppression of our patriarchal society. I became a bolder advocate for women’s and men’s liberation from patriarchal paradigms.
Discover the story of my first steps along the camino libre.
Meanwhile, our architecture collective was growing into a family of friends living in conscious community. Our family home was an abandoned house with no windows, bathroom, insulation, or interior walls. As we rebuilt the house from the inside out, we formed a vision of a home where isolation and individualism would be replaced with reciprocity and interdependence.
Key to realizing this vision was living as autonomously of money as possible. We lived off of food recovery from the local street markets and, because our bedrooms were not much bigger than the size of our beds, we owned only what we needed. Our work through RE was entirely pro bono. As we fell into a happy rhythm of life together, the purpose and joy we found in our daily life became the answer to the question we had all sought to answer:
Is it possible to seek autonomy from capitalism within a city?
Learning to live as a conscious community taught us to listen to our deep knowing that humans are meant to love, heal, and work together in intimate relationship with each other, their community, and the earth.
Though our lives were forever changed by the 2019 estallido social (social uprising) and then by the pandemic, the lessons we learned while living in community are as vital to our survival now as then. My return to the States during the pandemic only deepened my belief that American consumer culture is in desperate need of new narratives of interdependency.
As humanity slowly emerges from the pandemic and we hurtle deeper into a climate crisis, it feels like life—and the act of witnessing it through writing—is more bewildering than ever.
Camino Libre is the path I have chosen to walk as I seek out one more question:
What does it mean to be human in the twenty-first century?
Sara Alura is a writer from Los Angeles, California with deep ties to Valparaíso, Chile. Before debuting her own work on Camino Libre, she cut her teeth working as a memoir ghostwriter, book editor, & creator of the bilingual project Eden in the Streets. Sara has balanced her life as a writer with her adventures as a construction worker, community organizer, & farmworker. Ever in pursuit of mountains and trails, she currently produces Camino Libre from a tent somewhere in Patagonia!