Don’t all spontaneous adventures start out with an invitation to road trip out to the desert to buy goat skins? Enter again, Lucas, the dapper gaucho who I had met at Estancia La Alejandra for the incredible experience on horseback. We’re sitting in a quintessential Argentino cafe in Mendoza, basking in the high sun and enjoying a bottle of white wine at lunch on a Tuesday, like ya do, when he mentions that he was going to head out to the desert where a guy who knows a guy who owns a roadside restaurant and raises goats, occasionally sells their skins for leather…great price. As a teenager, Lucas had headed out to the desert to live with the Huarpes people and apprentice to their particular style of leatherwork, developing quite the knack for this unique skill. This is what lunch is like with Lucas, casual mentions of indigenous art and errands to the desert as if he were talking about picking up the dry cleaning…chilled out, unconventional, and full of surprises. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t an invitation, but I immediately invited myself anyway.
I felt like I could just as sensibly be communicating by carrier pigeon as I told the guy at the bus terminal shop that I was looking for Emilio’s community and asked if he could kindly tell me how to get there. That was about the sum total of information that I had…that I needed to go see this man in the mountains and I should just ask for him at the bus station and go from there.
“Ah, si, si, la communidad del Milo. Bueno…” and he proceeded to tell me how to walk a few miles down the street and cut through some brush to the dirt road that would lead me there. It would be the first time I was showing up at a stranger’s house, unannounced, expecting to stay for 4 days; I suppose the walking would’ve brought welcomed time to think through my introduction. I opted for a taxi instead, albeit out of character for me, I felt nervous enough about the scenario ahead and didn’t want to start off by getting lost.
It was hard to say goodbye to my Dad and admit that this trip we had been planning for so long was over. We were down to just us two girls, my Mom and I and our little “shopping” trip. My Mom is a weaver and I knew it was essential to take her to the north of Argentina where the artesanias abound. Llamas, guanaco, and vincuña wander the landscapes and their wool is naturally dyed and fills the shops and markets.
Happy New Year again! The end of last year had me really focused on reflection and the new year had me really focused on intention. I’m still reflecting and still intention-ing, and decided to take a moment to put myself in the hot seat, answer some of the questions that I got a lot while I was home, and share where I am at in this whole journey. It’s a long one…
The original purpose of this adventure was to go out wandering, leave the familiar behind with the intention to design my life around where my passions, talents, and skills meet my unique place in the world, the gift I have to share. (See my Inside Out blog for more life thoughts on things like this…) The reason I left the country to do this is because that was one of the most obvious things I knew…I love to travel and experience other cultures and I always grow and learn when I do that. So it made sense to start with that.
I am very much still in the heart of figuring this out and I still believe it is possible. Here is what I can tell you based on the most “Frequently Asked Questions”:
Are you so happy? Are you having so much fun?
I am happy more than I am not. I am having so much fun more than I am not. I have had some of the most amazing, fulfilling, exciting experiences. And it has also been very challenging. Some of this is the nature of what I’m doing. I often feel tension between going after an adventure and being at my happiest, while also checking in with myself to make sure I am accountable to my overall intention. I am learning that the two go hand in hand ideally, which I sometimes lose track of. My intention and the way I travel also means that it can alienate me a bit, and I’ve had many lonely times this past year and times where I’ve felt stuck because I wanted or needed someone to go adventure with. I ask myself often if I’d rather be anywhere else, doing anything else. The answer was usually no.
What are your days like?
Although I mainly post about my travels and adventures, I really have been living here. The majority of travelers I meet are in and out of a place in 3-7 days, after doing the “things you’re supposed to do there”. I imagine that can be a great experience and I’m not judging that at all. For me, it has been key to live in a place though. So I spent 3 weeks in Buenos Aires, 6 weeks in El Bolson, 1 month in the Peruvian Amazon, 1 month in Honduras, 4 months in Mendoza, 2 months in Bariloche. To me if feels like I’ve lived in those places. With many of my days, I’ll journal, write, edit photos, wander, meditate, run, cook, read, take Spanish lessons. No extreme adventure or big activity, just living. This is necessary for my goal, for the way I like to travel, for my health and the amount of down time I need, and for my finances.
The favorite questions…how are you able to afford this?
This will be different for everyone, but this can be done on the cheap. I did save money before coming, although I also lost money selling my house. I have met people who came for 6 months with $2000 savings to people who have come for 4 years with $200,000 savings. If you want to travel long term, it can be done.
I have no debt. That is huge. I do not buy things…I don’t shop. So even something like a bottle of water for $1 or a taxi cab that would be an hour walk instead. I don’t do it. It is not awesome, but I really do think about every dollar I spend. My main expenses are food, a place to stay, transportation for long distances, and then experiences if they cost something. I don’t really allow myself too many luxuries, it was a big lifestyle change for me. I have to be careful with this too though because at times I feel I’ve been so strict with myself that it impacts my ability to just enjoy the present moment or go after my goal. And so, I chose to spend more money than my budget to go to the transformation retreat in Peru, or to buy a guitar after a year of journaling about how I want to play the guitar. And I consciously try to make that money up elsewhere.
I feel that I have been a generous person in the past, although I would like to continue to be present with and focused on generosity. I have also been extended a lot of generosity this past year that has been most humbling to accept. And it is ok to accept generosity, and inspiring to then be generous myself as much as I am able in any given moment of time or situation.
There are many things you can do for money or in exchange for food and a place to stay: helpx.com or wwoofinternational.org are popular. I have not done these things, but have met many people who have. Couch surfing is popular too, but I have no tried that either. The point is, there are ways to do it. When I got here I was amazed at how far you can get just talking about what it is you want to do. I could have run out of money a long time ago by not being so strict with my spending, but for me it has been important to have more time to figure out what life I want to create. So while it has been awesome, there has been sacrifice involved as well.
My goal is always in mind. Will this help me towards that or not? That drives my spending. That, and my basic needs.
How’s your Spanish?
Well, it depends on who you ask. My visitors have been impressed and that has been very flattering. I have learned a lot, and have so so so much more to learn. Pay attention to a 5 minute chunk of conversation you are having with someone…all the words, tenses, slang, emotions. Now picture learning all of that as new. Or listen to a 4 year old talk…all of the words, tenses, slang, emotions. Learning a new language is HARD and I do not have the type of brain that is biased towards that.
I can definitely get by, and I have had conversations for hours with people in Spanish. It isn’t entirely correct or natural, and I often have to try to use the words I do know to explain a concept or how I’m feeling in a much more round about way than I would in English, but I can do it.
I have not taken classes as they are expensive and I have Rosetta Stone on my computer. So I use that and it helps. I have gone to free language exchange events. I have a couple of apps on my ipod with games and ‘word of the day’ type things to help me. I also listen to pod casts with Spanish lessons. I sometimes just sit near people in a cafe or at the park and eavesdrop to see if I can understand. Hopefully that doesn’t sound creepy! I try to say yes to every chance I can get to interact with locals, but sometimes I really have to be geared up for this as it is exhausting. My intention is to learn much more this year.
How is your book coming along?
Ah, this one is tough. I’ve been writing all year. I guess it could be called journaling, but for me it is more than that because it is all potentially input for my book. I have started my book. It took several attempts to get my voice right and my intention clear, although even that is still subject to change.
Basically it is about stories of adventure, nature, travel and the personal transformation that comes about through those things. It is about creating a life around your passions, my story of that. Please, please, please feel free to comment with ideas, questions, whether this resonates or not, etc.
I told myself I would “own” being an author when I got here and it has been challenging because the moment you say, “I’m writing a book” people want to know what it is about, when it will be done, and often have a comment or facial expression that tells you exactly how they feel about your intention. I feel my most vulnerable when I would like to feel my least vulnerable.
Really though, I promise I will let EVERYONE know when the book is done. 🙂
What have you learned?
Well some of this I will keep to myself, but I will share the most important thing that I’ve learned as it relates to what I set out to do. I learned that at the very heart of what I love to do in life, are the following things:
Adventure: to me this often means a physical challenge (I love climbing mountains!) or some sort of challenge, with an element of unknown, something unique, something to be figured out and accomplished, often with a creative element, something exciting and unconventional.
Local Immersion: my best stories are from when I have been able to really melt into another culture with its people and customs and language. To interact, listen, ask questions, engage, share, and learn.
Nature: I am at my best and happiest when I am in nature. I love exploring new nature, mountains, lakes, oceans, jungle, anything. I love the vibration, feeling totally alive, listening, learning, activating all of my senses, feeling so alive.
Transformational practices: I helped people through change in a corporate setting for 9 years. Over the last several years this has transformed to a desire to apply that skill set with helping individuals through personal change…most importantly, myself. This includes, but is not limited to anything from journaling, reading, creative practices, meditation, climbing a mountain, working with dreams, understanding what my body needs to be at its best, etc etc etc etc. Practices that help me grow and integrate physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually…that’s a passion for me.
So I had inklings around these things and last year confirmed without a doubt that whatever I do with my life, these things are at the anchor of it. That and the flexibility it takes to do these things…not once and a while as something I enjoy, but at the heart of my life.
So what is next?
I wish I had a clear answer on this. I am now back in Argentina and just had a glorious 5 weeks of visitors, first my two aunts and uncle and then my parents. Right now I am just trying to catch up on writing and photos and exercise and then I have some research to do and decisions to make. I know I need to up my skill set with the things I listed above, and so I am researching courses, programs, masters in these areas. I also need to keep exploring how to pull all of this together into a life, one that includes an income. That is top of mind. Again, I am so open to any ideas, suggestions, questions, connections.
Hopefully this helps make some sense out of what I’ve been doing. For more info, stayed tuned on the progress of my book. I swear I am writing it. Or just talk to me, I love that too!
What a lucky girl I am to have two friends come down the the southern hemisphere for a visit. My dear friend Melissa came over Thanksgiving and met me in Mendoza. More than once we ran into friends in a plaza or restaurant and it elevated that feeling of Mendoza being my home right now, which felt pretty darn good. Icing on the cake…I finally had someone to go take a tango lesson with me! We ventured on the Buenos Aires subte to a very bohemian Moulin Rouge-ish venue and giggled our way through some suave moves. …now accepting Spanish teacher/tango teacher applications, por favor!
Fast forward 10 days and I was off to Uruguay by ferry to meet up with another good friend, Michael, who I had met while we were both in South Africa for the World Cup. We headed straight for Punto del Diablo, a chilled out beach town close to Brazil. A rainy day meant we were able to catch up while taste testing some Uruguayan wine. I wish I could tell you the tasting notes unique to Argentina reds vs. Uruguay, but perhaps a wine class is in order for 2014 when I return to Mendoza.
The real highlight though came from a note I had scribbled in my little moleskin notebook, my favorite accessory a la Hemingway. Much earlier in the year I had been told to visit Cabo Polonia for a ‘hippie village meets remote beach’ experience. My philosophy with travel is to write down all suggestions and advice just in case, but to get a feel for whether the ‘Recommender’ has a taste for similar adventure and vibe that me, ‘Recommendee’ has. I also run recommendations by others I trust and do a bit of my own research. I’ve had people tell me hot springs were terrible to then go there and have the most glorious day basking in therapeutic mineral waters held by a gorgeous canyon, aka, heaven. And then I’ve had people tell me to turn right at the dirt road just before the entrance to the national park, go over the hanging bridge, and you’ll find a great swimming spot where you can picnic and hang out with locals. This recommendation was of the latter sort…such a gem.
Cabo Polonia is a national park with the unique twist of a ride over sand dunes and down the beach in a massive 4×4 to get to the desired destination. We were on the upper deck which gave us a panoramic view for miles and a mechanical bull-esque experience to boot. Read: it was as bumpy as picturesque. From there we hiked down the beach to the casita where we would be staying. There are no cars or roads and minimal electricity, the simplicity of it all really lending to an experience of raw beauty. We spent a day hiking out to the lighthouse and entertained ourselves with imagining the dialogue that was going on amongst the hundreds of seals on the rocks below. We spent another day hiking out to a point along the beach, climbing up sand dunes and running and skipping down them like little kids.
We had a beautiful, almost full moon lighting our walk to dinner each night. Sadly the brightness meant that we missed out on noctilucas, the bioluminescence that turns the water into a green, sparkling work of art with a new moon. I never mind an excuse to return to a place though, and now I have one. We had other wildlife visitors to entertain us. While walking along the beach to dinner, we saw shadows in the distance along the water. As we got closer it became clear that it was a herd of cows out for a moonlight stroll. We ran into them again the next day further up the beach. We also stumbled onto a little penguin, traveling solo who had just cruised up onto the beach and was looking around curious, if not a little confused. As were we; a penguin on a beach in Uruguay?
My Uruguay adventure ended in La Paloma, meeting up with another friend I had met in Mendoza. We were lucky to see sunsets from this western coast, but even luckier to have a fire on the beach under the stars with a side of wine. I’ve always wanted to have a fire on the beach. It felt like the perfect end to a year of new beginnings and adventures. So dreamy!
It was tempting to keep traveling north and explore more of Peru, but I had a feeling pulling me south back to Argentina. It occurred to me that although the adventures I have had this year have blown my mind, the feeling was fleeting. It was fleeting because I hadn’t yet created the life to support being able to do this sort of long term travel/ wandering. The goal was never just to travel, although wow…how amazing that has been. The goal was and is to create a new life entirely around my essence, passions, and values. With exploring other cultures being one of my great passions, it made sense to start this journey by traveling. Really simple actually: I love this, so I’m going to do more of this and see what happens. (click links to read my article and other blog that talk about these things a bit more)
I knew that doing this alone was important too, but wasn’t exactly sure why. What I’ve learned is that traveling alone has really let me leave a lot behind; job, commitments, familiar crutches and time suckers. What has come with me are fears, habits, and who I am as a person, how I process things and make decisions, what I feel. So traveling solita exposes me to unknowns and I learn to listen to myself, process things myself and really to just be myself in the truest sense. Sometimes it is lonely and sometimes it is such a gift and opens up all sorts of opportunities.
So with my goal in mind and embracing this unique opportunity of the ultimate alone time, the travel aspect started to feel like it was fleeting. I felt like it was time to settle for a bit and focus on writing, reflecting on what I’ve learned and to decide what is next for me in this journey. Mendoza had always been in my mind as a great city for living and I traveled for a week by land to make my way back to the land of Malbec.
I took a pit stop in San Pedro de Atacama, a very picturesque desert in Northern Chile with many a volcano gracing the horizon. The vast emptiness of the landscape resonated with the emotions that I was feeling…I thought it had been scary traveling alone at times, but as soon as I headed south to “officially” start living my new life, every fear and doubt bubbled into my chest. I felt so anxious, I missed seeing new landscapes even before I arrived in Mendoza. I took these thoughts by bike out to a laguna for the day. That night I met a writer, a girl starting a fair trade business with her sister and a guy who is creating a documentary on healing in the Amazon…sooo, basically my life. Point for synchronicity!
When the bus came into Mendoza I remembered what an oasis it is, the green tree canopies shading every street in this dry desert town. I walked through the familiar streets and welcomed this city as my new home as I passed flower stands calming my fears with thoughts of buying a fresh bouquet to make my apartment my own. It is spring here now and the whole city smells like a flower. It’s incredible.
Now all I have to do is find an apartment. Who knew what a cultural experience this could be? For weeks I told anybody and everybody that I was looking for an apartment. The usual response was something along the lines of “ok great, I’ll let people know.” “Thank you, but can’t you just tell me a website I can go to? I want to find a place this week.” Now that I’ve been through the experience I can see why people laughed when I said this. A lot of people live at home until they are married, even into their thirties. People tend to stay in places for a long time with a typical lease being 2 years and requiring someone to vouch for you. There are websites as it turns out, but most things happen by word of mouth.
So I started trying to do things to meet people and put myself out there. I started going to a language exchange group to practice Spanish and share English. I met with the Vines of Mendoza, a company through which you can buy a vineyard and make your very own Mendocino wines. (I’m allowed a shameless plug in my own blog, no? I’m now writing for The Vines blog about the wine experience and culture of Mendoza). I met up with friends that I made at the hostel while I was here in April and May. After a week on buses and the most intense neck cramp, I treated myself to a massage and a local woman at the spa offered me a room in her home, although she didn’t have water or electricity somehow. So all of this helped me get acquainted and involved in Mendoza as a home and eventually I did find a place for a month and immdiately bought some flowers. Oh the luxury of my own space!!!
At first I was so excited, all I did was stay in and write and cook and watch movies in Spanish to keep practicing. I found that being in nature isn’t just a hobby or occasionally fun, but something that is critical to my happiness. So I took a weekend trip to Uspallata, a mountain town where I was able to watch the sun set over a river and the full moon rise with my new Mendocina friend who had gone horseback riding and hiking with me that day.
Part of me felt intimidated and tired of always going out on my own and always trying to meet people. And yet, when I stayed holed up in my apartment in the city I missed interactions and the impromtu invite or conversation. So I said yes to an invitation to go to a wine tasting event for the day. And I sought out events in Mendoza and was able to find a polo tournament and talk some friends into going who brought more friends and suddenly we had the most wonderful day in the sun, tasting champagne and watching the horses and riders compete against a gorgeous mountain backdrop.
Stay tuned for more stories of my life here (there are many now) and also for my book. I finally started writing it and as you can imagine, am feeling quite inspired by the adventures I’ve had this year.
One of my favorite things to do is to take in all of the little cultural musings that make a place a place. Taking in the nuances of a place helps me to consider what makes it unique. Reflecting on how it compares to “home” encourages some critical thinking about why things are the way they are in each place, what I can learn, what I would change, how am I now changed. It also keeps the experiences alive, so when I think of a story or look at a picture, I can feel the memory. (*uses of the word “they” in this post are obviously generalizations and I don’t mean to speak for an entire country. It’d be like someone visiting the States and saying, “they” seem to like Starbucks.)
And so here are some of the nuances I noticed in Peru:
– Even more so than other South American countries, there seemed to be a great amount of curiosity and concern about my solita status (single and traveling solo).
“No estás casado?” (You’re not married?) Nope.
“Tienes hijos?” (Do you have kids?) No again.
“No te gusta hijos??” (You don’t like kids?) Yes, I love kids. I have an awesome nephew.
Sometimes this was followed by a marriage proposal.
I am not a fan of overuse of common facebook phrases, but I can’t help it here…”Machu Picchu was the low light of my travels” – said no one ever. But honesty might be the single most important thing, honesty with others of course and especially with yourself; so I have to be honest.
It felt amazing to arrive in the Sacred Valley. I energetically felt the “sacredness”, especially arriving fresh and raw from the jungle. And in spite of this, I felt a gap, something missing (Hint #1). I had a strong feeling that I was meant to be sharing this with someone, a friend, family, a love. Someone to try on fun llama hats with me!
I returned to Cusco after my time in Pisac with hopes of meeting a travel buddy also seeking an adventurous, remote journey to Machu Picchu, to go it alone and really connect with how the Incas approached the land. Bonus if said travel buddy had a tent! No such luck, no such serendipity (Hint #2). In the mean time I enjoyed wandering the narrow, hilly streets of beautiful Cusco, full of eye candy, leg workouts and traditionally dressed women with llamas. It sure is touristy, but wow is it beautiful. It makes up for every tourist with another beautiful vista of tiled roofs, cobbled streets, ancient churches, bustling markets and a plaza that just makes you sigh.
Finally, against everything I know to be true about myself, I booked a tour. A tour! I have since realized that it is a form of travel that many people enjoy or even rely on. I respect that. I however, am not one of those people in most situations. I like being able to figure things out and explore, following my intuition, senses, my heart. It can be fun speaking to locals, seeking the details of how to go about an adventure, preparing for it, owning it success or failure. If you have ever camped, it is entirely easy to safely approach Machu Picchu on foot without a tour. And I intend to go back and do it. But for whatever reason, I went against my gut and booked a tour.
The girls I hiked with were super friendly and good company, although we had different hiking abilities and outdoor experience. The guide, on the other hand, had a serious case of machismo and often told me I was wrong when I asked questions and such.
“So I saw some Incan mummified children in a museum, who were sacrificed…” “No you didn’t.” Really, hmm.
“I read at the Machu Picchu museum…” “There isn’t a Machu Picchu museum.” Interesting because my ticket stub here says…ok whatever.
They proudly fed us way too much food which sadly reinforced this uncomfortable feeling I kept experiencing about feeding the perceived fat (bellies) while taking from the perceived fat (wallets) of the Westerner tourist in Peru.
But Hint #3 that this just wasn’t my time for Machu Picchu came from Mother Nature herself. After a gorgeous first day of a 5 day trek, we woke up to an equally gorgeous foot of snow. Beautiful for memories, devastating for our trek. We would be forced to return to Cusco (first time in 10 years they say) while stewing just as much over the loss of our money which would not be returned as the bitter reality that we’d be reaching Machu Picchu on a bus, quite different than the Incan approach.
I contemplated whether I should just count my losses and start over some other time. Ultimately, I did take the train to Aguas Calientes and walked the 400 meters of vertical steps to the entrance. I got choked up when I filed into the site and was able to find a perch overlooking her on time to watch the shadows transform to gold as the sun crested the peaks of maybe the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. (and I’ve seen A LOT of mountains!)
I spent the day using every ounce of strategy to navigate against the crowds and it worked as well as it could. I climbed Machu Picchu, la montaña, which is actually the name of a peak opposite of its striking sister, Waynu Picchu, the back drop to every Machu Picchu photo. It did offer stunning views and give me a sense for what the Incans navigated to create this sacred city. Man, they built huge steps for short people! This was a workout day. And ironically, it was 90 degrees without a cloud in the sky (although I did get a glimpse of snowy Salkantay in the distance, the namesake of the trek we had started.)
LLamas act as the landscapers at Machu Picchu, happily munching away on grass and posing for pictures. I tried hard to picture an Incan village/sacred site in action. I hope the central patch of perfect green grass was a futbol pitch! The masonry is truly astounding. The history, the views, the immensity of it all…it really is everything you dream about when you put it on your “Do Now” list (the term I like to use instead of bucket list).
In retrospect, I realized that I went from seclusion in the jungle with like-minded people, operating by sun and candlelight, following the rhythms of nature…to the most sought after tourist destination in South America. Oopsies! So maybe my timing was off, however, I have learned a lot in processing that and was still “wowed” along the way. Maybe it hasn’t been the highlight, but it did shed good light in my life and on this journey.
I’m back! Note to self, don’t break a MAC computer cord in Argentina where you cannot purchase apple products. And now for some long overdue posts…
Following my adventure in the jungle I was grateful to have my friends Doug, Jake and Joe from the retreat traveling with me for a week. We set out to explore Pisac, Peru, which is near Cusco in the Sacred Valley.
We met an amazing man, a stone shaman of sorts, in a rock/mineral/crystal shop who oozed “elderness”. Following his advice we rose at 4am the next morning for what would be one of the most breathtaking full moon to sunrise hikes ever.
After a steep climb through impressive, ancient agriculture terraces that I loved in equal parts for the ingenuity and perseverance as for the beautiful lines they created in my photography, we were rewarded with new views and Incan ruins to explore around every bend as the rising sun worshipped them with golden rays. Something feels so magical abut rising so early and waking up with the sun, like you have some secret hours in the day that you’ve somehow earned. We had the place to ourselves and took advantage of the opportunity to have breakfast on the terraces, do a fun jump photo sequence and practice some Andean breathwork above the valley.
In town we made some amazing acquaintances as well. If you ever visit Pisac, be sure to seek out Kaneye at the “Whole in the Wall”. You can taste the love, dedication and wholeness in her baking and hear it in her voice. What started as a quest for gluten free bread quickly became a new friendship…and yes, amazing gluten free bread too! Pisac is also known for its extensive handicraft market. I spent some time talking with local artisans about their natural dyes, weaving designs, and handmade products in hopes of striking up a partnership to put others in touch with their talent and artesan wisdom. Stay tuned!
Another hike took us into some unplanned snow. Very atmospheric, very wet and cold. What occupied our conversation most though was whether or not the sweet, locally dressed woman with a child strewn on her back had left her herd of alpaca with us with a smile and hopes that we’d take them for the day. As we captured the subject of debate on camera, the alpacas didn’t waste time debating that all they cared about was finding the nearest grass to chow down on. Lunch is served! We weren’t able to herd the alpacas and still hope that we didn’t disappoint our new friend. Ah magical Pisac!
The air is so sweet and so dense that you just want to eat it. This was my first impression of arriving to my 5 week stay in the Peruvian Amazon. My senses were overwhelmed in the best way possible. I had my own little hut complete with mosquito netting, a desk, candles and a hammock. It was about a 15 minute walk into the jungle and I spent much time there writing, being and listening to the symphony of sounds flow with the time of day.
I had met a couple of acupuncturists while hiking in Argentina who had told me of this place in the Amazon. It is winter in Argentina and I decided it would be a good time to give myself the gift of my own space and time to soak in my experiences from this year. And of course being deep in nature is the best place to do this!
There was life everywhere! When the sun shone through the canopy, all the different leaves and vines and life would light up with a bright glow. You can quite dramatically feel the vibration reach a unique intensity around you. There were hummingbirds, ducklings, butterflies by day and tarantulas, bats, cockroaches and spiders the size of my head by night. I only saw a few snakes…no anacondas!…but I’m sure many more were hanging out. To be clear, the mosquitos did not discriminate between day and night; they were relentless!
We spent our time doing everything from yoga, Qi Gong and other body work, to dream work, meditation, walks in the jungle and incredibly refreshing swims in the river (a tributary to the Amazon!) with the piranhas. Playing music and singing were a huge component as well, and perhaps my favorite.
The jungle has immense healing properties that we were able to experience. There are many sacred plants there that are known for their healing properties. It was like that saying “there’s an app for that” except, “there’s a plant for that” no matter what you were trying to address. We ate so clean and so healthy and also worked with different plants and teas depending on our personal health needs. All meals were cooked over open fire and enjoyed by candlelight. I feel completely detoxed and am experiencing energy like I have never felt before. You can check out the movie Sacred Science for some more insight into this place and the healing stories that it has supported.
We had many ceremonies, sometimes with local/indigenous shamans, aimed at collective healing and transformation. In the last such ceremony as we were holding an all night vigil, I was feeling intense gratitude and was focused on sending love to my family. I literally thought, “I hope they can feel this love right now.” A few days later when I left the jungle and checked my email, sure enough I had received a note from my Dad about this. During that same night, at 2am, my parents woke up to an owl that had flown to the window and was wildly hooting away, trying to get their attention. They both said they could tell its message was something in relation to me. Don’t call me Harry Potter or anything, but things like this really do validate my belief in collective consciousness.
If I had to choose three words to describe my experience, I’d say intense, awakening and community. This month gave me the opportunity to connect with nature and like-minded people to continue discovering, learning and growing in such a unique way. Every person and every situation has something they can teach you. How cool is that? I’m grateful for the experience to focus on the art of living and tapping into my connection to all that is alive.
With experiences like this, it takes me quite a bit of time to process and integrate it into my natural way of being. So while I could gush about how amazing it was (and it was), I really believe it will be in my day to day life that I feel and live the discoveries and practices I experienced in the jungle. I’m now off to make my way down through the Sacred Valley, home to some old rocks you might know as Machu Picchu, en route to Argentina.