I’m terribly sad because of it, only having one week left with Kalu Yala. In the time that I’ve been living here, our valley in the mountains of Panama has become a second home to me. I wish I had the opportunity to share each moment with my friends and family back home; photos just don’t do it justice. But hey, I still have one more week, and I’m not going to spend it being sad about life.
Today, I was reflecting on how I’ve personally changed and grown since arriving here. The following is my self-analysis:
- When I got here, I talked a lot about myself and my travels and my life. Not because I thought I was particularly interesting, but because I felt that I had to prove myself in some way to this group of amazing people suddenly surrounding me. Everyone had amazing stories about their trips to monasteries in India and camping in the wilderness of new Zealand, and I had just gotten my passport not six months before. Today, I realize that we all have our adventures and how they affect us in different ways. No one adventure is better or more exciting than another; it all depends on the person living it. I notice now about myself that I talk much less about my own life, and ask more questions and listen, because I’ve lived my own stories. I want to know theirs.
- Growing up the way that I did, I was never quite “body positive”, so to speak. I’ve always been curvier, and I was never able to wear the same clothes as my friends growing up or play the same sports or look as thin as them at school dances, and on and on and on. I was made fun of a lot because of my body type and the way that I looked in middle school (middle schoolers are literally the WORST), and that never quite left my head. It has always been a constant struggle, figuring out how to present myself on any given day of my life. I arrived here at Kalu Yala with this mental block of my physical appearance. I remember one day in the first week, we all went to Paradise Hole, a nice spot to jump off of a 25-foot ledge into a river, and I wore a sports bra and running shorts because I wasn’t comfortable enough with myself to be around people I didn’t know in a swimsuit. I was so embarrassed with how I looked, and now I look back and realize how ridiculous that is. I write this post right now, actually, wearing a bikini top, combat boots, and a sarong tied around my waist, and I think I look great; for the jungle, at least. I walk around comfortably in a bralette and leggings, as everyone in the jungle does, and personally, this is amazing progress for this rut I have been in my entire life. I never thought that I would get to a place where I felt good about myself, and yet here we are. Everyone, including myself, is absolutely beautiful in their own unique way, and I love that.
- I have always been a very introverted, intrapersonal being. I keep to myself and don’t want or need a constant human connection. I need a lot of time to myself and being around a lot of people for extended periods of time stresses me the hell out. My first week here, actually, I broke down sobbing because of the social anxiety I was feeling about suddenly being surrounded by one hundred people all of the time, when I was previously already having difficulties being around two. You’d think there would be plenty of places in a jungle to be alone, but they’re harder to come by than you’d think. However, throughout my weeks here, I have learned a lot about finding your personal safe spaces, whether it be a physical location or a mental state. I can get up early and meditate by the river, or find a nice, secluded spot and read. Being around one hundred people all of the time no longer scares me; in fact, I think I might be really lonely when I get home. I love our stimulating conversations over breakfast and making dinner with my friends in the city on the weekends. Being around so many people has become such a joy in my life, and I hope this feeling stays with me.
With these things in mind, I am grateful for the jungle and the people that it has connected me with. I am grateful for Kalu Yala and the wealth of knowledge and personal growth it has brought me. I am grateful to be living in such a beautiful country, as it inspires me to travel more, do more, be more.
After I leave Kalu Yala a week from today, I still have two more weeks of traveling around Panama, so stay tuned! We’ll see what I come up with before I head home…