Visit to the jungle: a life changing experience

In the summer of 2013 I came to Ecuador to work in a volunteer project and to see the beautiful country. A bit disappointed of the so so temperatures of Quito – while confronted with the Facebook summer pictures of my friends back home – I decided to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian jungle. I booked a midweek in one of the few lodges very deep into the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. It was a decision I will never regret.

Everyday we went on expedition: spotting monkeys and pink river dolphins from the canoe, hiking through the thick jungle, learning about all kinds of insects, spiders and birds. Also about the medicinal use of plants. A whole new world opened to me this week. Overwhelmed by the amazing environment that was so different from everything I had been used to for all those years, I couldn’t help overthinking my life.

I don’t want to make it sount too cheesy, but there’s no other way of describing my state of mind that week than saying I was overjoyed. The daily routine of getting up in the morning, the everlasting change of clothes in front of the mirror, putting on make-up, leaving in a hurry for a job that doesn’t give real satisfaction, daily checking your “friend’s” status updates about their lives and the unaware agitation that comes with comparing it to mine… It all just didn’t matter anymore. And that was a great feeling.

The fact that I lost my backpack during the nocturnal bus ride the night before we took off to the lodge, only confirmed my mindset had changed. I spent the whole week in the same clothes that I was wearing at the moment my luggage got stolen, but I couldn’t care less.

Even though I liked to be around my great fellow group members – it is true that you bond really quickly in a new environment where you are almost 24/7 together – I most enjoyed being the first person to get up in the early morning, to take a shower with the shower curtains open so I could look out over the jungle and it’s animals. I also loved to lay at dock at the riverside at night, to see the stars and to listen to a true symphony produced by the jungle inhabitants.

In 5 days I overthought my materialistic lifestyle back home of which some parts appearently bothered me. Things of which I wasn’t even aware of before coming here. The following months I still felt that I needed a change. Long story short: I quit my job, gave notice and packed by bags again. I’ve been back in Ecuador for half a year now and I know it was the right thing to do.

My story may be a bit radical, but I’m sure that everyone who experiences being in an back-to-basic environment that close to the nature, will be surprised by the confrontation of the huge gap that exists between life at its purest and our western way of living. In my opinion an interesting experiment that I recommend everyone to experience for themselves.

Written by: Margaretha Gommers