“You want us to sleep in this?” I was pointing to our Amazon accommodation that had a large hole in the floor, right underneath the bed.
Our guided nodded in response to my question. I guess that’s what the Amazon brochure meant when it said we would be staying in a “rustic lodge.” It was definitely what we signed up for. Only a few moments before, some tarantulas, monkeys and an army of bullet ants greeted us on the way to our hut. There was even a little scorpion on our curtain which looked like it was hunting for its next meal. “Great,” I thought. “At least something will eat well tonight.”
As someone who has a strong aversion to bugs, I reminded myself that I finally made it to the Amazon, a place that I was dreaming about for years. Yes, it was everything I imagined it to be, a lush rain forest with peaceful serenity. There were no other people in sight, only the three of us (myself, my husband, and our guide). It seemed like we had the entire Amazon forest to ourselves, or did we?
At the end of the three days, we realized that we could get through anything; hot humid weather, the challenging hikes, the bugs, oh, and the hole in the floor.
Here are five things that we discovered while exploring the Amazon jungle.
1. Be happy anywhere you go
When we arrived to our bungalow, it was not what we imagined. All the wooden walls had cracks in it, the windows were falling apart, the floor had a huge hole in it and the beds were hard as rocks. Meanwhile, there was no electricity and no lock for the door. What did we do? At first we were in shock but just accepted the situation. We were in the middle of nowhere, there was no other place to stay so we just accepted the situation and made the best out of it.
We believe happiness is a choice. In fact, happiness has nothing to do with luxury, the amount of stuff one has accumulated or the number of stamps in ones passport. Being happy is all about one’s attitude. For many, these conditions would seem unbearable. We learned jungle or no jungle, life is what you make of it.We focused on not being attached to things, which included our thoughts and emotions. Rather, having no attachment to an outcome or expectation brought us contentment.
So, we improvised and put a blanket to cover the hole in the floor, a chair against a door to secure it and used candles for night lights. We were happy even when we didn’t have our usual comforts of home.
2. Go green whenever you can
Certainly, we’re grateful to have experienced a small snippet of what it could be like to live with a small group of people, in a remote place. Communal living is all about working together. There were times we helped gather fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants. At one point, our guide Samuel grabbed a flower from a tree and was able to paint my nails in a juicy orange colour. Truly organic! Another time, we had our faces painted with a red pigment from a special plant used as an insect repellent. Specifically, with plants and flowers like these, why go to a store, pharmacy or even see a doctor? For the local tribe known as “Kiwcha,” the key to optimal health was just footsteps away.
The Kiwcha tribe taught us living in a sustainable way helps our planet in many ways and we don’t need to live in the Amazon to do it. Indeed, we can all do our part to live a sustainable and eco-friendly life. Some ways to do this are: recycling to reducing consumption, conserving energy, taking public transportation, using paper (not plastic), eating local and perhaps leading a plant-based lifestyle.
3. A smile is the universal symbol for friendship
We had the honour of meeting a tribal group called “Kiwcha.” Only women and children came to visit us because the men were out working. Moreover, for a short time we learned about the history and culture of the Kiwcha people. It was so interesting! This world is such an incredibly diverse place and no matter where we go, the places we visited and the people we met – the message is clear, mostly everyone wants to be happy and help others. Since we spoke different languages, we all used gestures and body language to convey our feelings. It seemed like a smile and a hug was a part of our universal language. That is to say, the power of the heart is what makes us human. We must remember that we are all connected.
4. Fears are just thoughts we give power over us
The moment we walked in our room, we saw a scorpion sleeping on the curtain. I thought, it could be dangerous and would sting us while we were asleep. The scorpion started to crawl away rapidly. Instantly, I poked it and it died. Nevertheless, a part of me felt relieved the scorpion was dead but another part of me felt sad. Why did I feel such a fear against this scorpion? Why did I go so far to kill it? These were some questions that I asked myself after the fact. After much contemplation, I thought I could have let it live. After all, my ego thought crushing the scorpion would erase any fears I had about scorpions. In reality, it probably made my fear worse.
5. You’re stronger than you think you are
Six hours a day of hiking in the Amazon jungle is strenuous for some. Depending on your fitness level; your physical strength is tested as well as your mental abilities. Battling exhaustion, bugs, weather conditions, rough terrain, possibly dangerous insects and animals is enough to stop anyone in their tracks.
Hiking in the Amazon pushed us to the limits. Our experience in the Amazon jungle challenged us on so many levels – physically, spiritually and mentally. In my case, facing my fears of certain insects and hiking outside of my comfort zone was an accomplishment that I will always remember. I learned that you are never too old, too slow, too poor, too (fill in the blanks) to overcome your fears and make your dreams come true. You just have to think positively, remain calm and be happy. At least that’s what I did to get through this jungle adventure alive.
Read about another unforgettable experience we had volunteering in Dharamsala: A Spiritual Sanctuary to Call our OM.
Have you travelled to a place only to face your worst fear? What did you do? Share in the comments below. Thanks.
“No hay maestro como carne propia.”
(Translation: There is no teacher like your own flesh).
Darlynne founded Live Love Backpack to inspire others to make a positive difference in the world through traveling, volunteering, and self-awareness. Darlynne has traveled to over 76 countries. Family adventures include backpacking off the beaten path, hiking in Ontario and creating happy memories.