Last week I undertook the biggest challenge I’ve embarked on since I lived in Costa Rica for a little under two months – I went to the Amazon for five days and it felt like an eternity. People who know me know that I am the embodiment of a city kid. I am basically Carrie Bradshaw inside the body of a small gay man. I much prefer traffic crammed streets, skyscrapers, and city lights to the supposed “tranquility” of nature. Because of this, I decided I would challenge myself and go on this Amazon expedition. Traveling pushes you out of your comfort zone, but I’m not entirely out of it now that I’m living in Rio for a second time, so I decided to give myself that little push to see what else I could conquer.
My week in the Amazon consisted of many once in a lifetime opportunities: swimming with pink dolphins, seeing the meeting of the waters–where the Amazon River meets the Rio Negro but doesn’t mix, feeding wooley monkeys, and kayaking through forest bayous by moonlight. I learned about the environmental impact of global warming and the toll it’s taking on the many river villages that quietly dot the Rio Negro. I met caboclo people (mixed indigenous and Portuguese descent) and saw a caboclo man produce rubber from its natural source in the forest. Needless to say my mind was overwhelmed with new information every day.
Every Buddhist quote you read, every meditation book, even Oprah's masterclasses, implore you to set aside some time, walk into nature, absorb it’s apparent tranquility, and connect with your innermost thoughts. I used to beat myself up for not being able to do this and I was confident that these five days in the Amazon would be the perfect opportunity to finally take on that specific task. For an obsessive overthinker with mild anxiety, there’s nothing worse than being in a place where you all you can do is think. In retrospect, it’s funny how such tranquility and calm can bring out insecurities and demons you thought you had left behind, buried, even freed yourself from.
The last time I experienced anything like the Amazon was when I lived in a small, coastal town in Costa Rica. I ended up leaving early wrought with homesickness and a bad case of ethnocentrism. This was two years ago, but the moment I arrived at my Eco lodge in the Amazon, a familiar feeling arose in my body–a tightness in my throat and a knot in my stomach. This feeling didn’t go away for the entirety of my experience in Costa Rica and when I felt it in the Amazon I was both annoyed and thankful.
Annoyed because I thought I had outgrown this feeling, and thankful because I was being presented with a lesson I needed to learn, and boy do I love those. This time around I didn’t judge myself for having this reaction like I did when I was in Costa Rica, I simply listened to myself and understood that my idea of tranquility is much different from most people. For me, there is nothing more tranquil than a city. This doesn’t mean I’m shallow or unable to disconnect. Quite frankly what is there to disconnect from? At twenty years old I want to be connected at every level, constantly stimulated by people, devices, and experiences.
I thought I would struggle having spotty Internet and an inability to watch Netflix while I was in the Amazon, but what I struggled with most was my lack of connection to the energy of people I am encountering every day. This is what I love so much about cities–the connection to the hundred upon hundreds of people I pass by every day. I may not even see half of these people, but the ones I do see and the few that I speak with leave me feeling alive. I’m easily the most extroverted person you’ll ever meet, a trait that doesn’t really mix with a life in nature. I find the stories of people, their faces, the way they walk and talk, much more interesting than trees and wild animals. The Amazon taught me that I have some things I am still working out, insecurities and issues I haven’t really moved on from. It also helped me understand myself more and it made me more comfortable with my extroverted nature, showing me that one man's poison is another man's cure.