Benefits of the bare necessities: jungle living in Peru

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I remember a distinct moment feeling happy with my decision to go to Peru. It was the morning after I had arrived. I was in the bathroom about to shower, and I could hear what sounded like a huge festival out on the streets. It was the sound of local music and people out and about, but there was something so joyful about it. I don't like loud mornings but that was something I could have gotten used to. I never did find out what it was, so now I just tell myself it's the morning sound of Peru.

I didn't go there with the intention of figuring my life out. I found a project I was interested in and wanted to learn more. I don't think I completely knew what I was getting myself in for (i.e tarantulas, anacondas and falling in crocodile-infested swamps), but I think that was a good thing.

I was volunteering as part of a conservation project in the jungle. My journey began in the city of Cusco where I stayed with a local family before moving on to the jungle, the Tambopata National Reserve. Located close to the Bolivian border, I spent the majority of my trip based in a camp next to the Madre de Dios river, an electricity and wifi free zone. It was truly back to basics - showers were taken outside with water pumped from the river, food was vegetarian as there was no fridge to store the meat and when it got dark we used candles to see. The chef called it the easy life - no stress, just the sunrise and sunset.

During the trip I was also lucky enough to witness Machu Picchu. We travelled through the Sacred Valley and then hiked from Aguas Calientes. Sitting at the top of a mountain overlooking Machu Picchu was probably the best view I've ever seen. That was my 'wow' moment, when I couldn't believe I was here and seeing this.  

My experiences while I was there pushed me to my limits in ways I hadn't anticipated. I'm not sure if it was the adrenaline of being abroad or the fact that I had some sound advice from the several self-help books I was reading, but I found myself facing some of my biggest fears. I was scared of camping out in the jungle by the lake where I had convinced myself at any point during the night, an anaconda would slither into my tent and literally eat me there and then - but I camped and I lived. I was scared of getting lost and of course it happened. I panicked for about 10 seconds, thought about crying and then gave myself a serious talking to and bossed up. It was a long situation but I managed to find my way to my hotel with the help of a Peruvian woman. Not only did I not die but I also learnt a lot about myself. I don't know if this makes me a stronger person, but I'm definitely a lot less scared.

The more I think about it, the more I truly believe the time I spent in the jungle was essential for my wellness. With no electricity or wifi, nothing beyond the jungle really existed in a weird way. My mind was stress-free, I had ample thinking time, and to be honest, these are things I didn't realise I needed until I had them. I didn't realise how stressed I had been before my trip and it made me really evaluate life in a way I guess I hadn't considered. I hate to think what would've happened to my life course, had I not have taken this time to step back and embrace the quiet.

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By Suzanne Kimuyu

Kayla Doris