Franklin D. Roosevelt once said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.
My father then coined this phrase and drilled it into my brain from the time I could walk. In all my years of hearing this, I did not actually understand it until very recently. I have always been one to creep out of my box from time to time, and face certain elements that were uncomfortable for me. I consider myself addicted to unfamiliarity actually. But fears are different. No one wants to actually face their fears. We assume it’s easier, less painful, and just plain better to ignore them. But have you ever really asked yourself how this fear affects your life? Your psyche? Your opportunities? I bet you haven’t. Neither had I. Until…
My trip to the Amazon rainforest.
Yes I am aware that in committing to venture into the Amazon I pretty much annihilated any possibility of a comfortable and relaxing luxury vacation. I did not quite comprehend, however, what it meant to be fully and quite literally “immersed” in the Amazon.
A great example of what a wimp I actually am, is when I literally fainted while getting my vaccinations for our trip to the Amazon. That really happened. I had actually not eaten anything that day, so bad idea just FYI. Anyway, point being I am not a brave soul. I am absolutely not the chill, fearless person I want to be someday. I just like to pretend I am and shove myself into uncomfortable circumstances. This is a hobby of mine I guess? I somehow think I am going to get great pleasure from being forced out of my box…then when I get there I ask myself what the hell I am doing. Luckily my track record for making it through my adventures is good.
What you must understand about the Amazon rainforest, is that it is an absolutely incredible place. And it has completely magical seasons. Understanding the seasons of the forest is a must. The complete transformation that takes place between seasons in the Amazon is truly fascinating and almost other-worldly. There is a wet and a dry season in the Amazon. The wet season comes in the spring, when the snow and ice melts off the Andes mountains and completely floods the forest. All of the homes and buildings are built on 30-40ft stilts for this reason. The only form of transportation at this point is by boat… as all the ground and any trails are covered in at least 25ft of water.
Mid summer begins to dry up the excess water, and the dry season begins. the water recesses back into the river, and the forest floor once again emerges, with all the trails still in tact. Do not be fooled, though. The dry season in the Amazon is still not dry. It rains at least once a day. So the point here, is mud. SO MUCH MUD.
So if you venture into the Amazon in the dry season, like we did, you hike. You hike a lot. This is a great opportunity to be able to see more of the forest, but you are still hiking for 10+ hours every day. In the mud.
Do not get me wrong, most of the time the mud is covered in so many layers of leaves that it is fine. But there are still many trails where it is just mud. They put logs on the mud, and then you walk on those. Walking sideways is a must… or you will slip off. Sometimes you have a stick to ground yourself like a cane, but sometimes you do not. So if your foot happens to slip off of this slippery mud covered log, it falls into the mud abyss. Sometimes the mud abyss sucks up your whole leg and will not give it back. This is what happened to me. Then you try with your other foot to climb out. Then your other foot gets sucked into the mud abyss. Also happened to me.
Let me just say that it was at this moment that I was forced to face so many of my fears of the Amazon. I was literally thigh deep in mud in the Amazon and completely unable to get myself out. Here is what went through my head:
1.) WHY DID WE COME HERE?! Who’s fucking idea was this?!
2.) What the FUCK is living in this mud? ANYTHING could be living in this mud! Is this where I get those crazy parasites in my body and get featured on the show ‘Monsters Inside Me’?
3.) WHERE THE HELL IS YARON!?!?
4.) Are there spiders near my head? Are there spiders in these plants? WHERE ARE THE FUCKING SPIDERS I KNOW THEY ARE NEAR ME!!!!
5.) Is this how I die?!!!
6.) Oh there’s Yaron. Wait, IS YARON LAUGHING AND TAKING FUCKING PHOTOS OF ME RIGHT NOW????!!!!!!
7.) OHMYGOD My clothes are all ruined forever!!!
8.) I cannot believe Yaron is taking pictures instead of helping me out of here right now.
9.) Who fucking DOES THIS?! No one sinks in the mud in the Amazon rainforest. NO ONE! My childhood fear of quicksand is becoming a reality!! Wait is Wennie (our guide) laughing too????
10.) Ok fine. If Wennie is laughing I guess I am probably not going to die here in this mud. Wait, actually this is hilarious. And I don’t see any spiders. Yes this is funny. I bet this happens all the time…
11.) OKAY NOW, we have established this is funny. Can I PLEASE GET OF HERE NOW?!
Yaron kept laughing a taking pictures. Which I guess turned out to be an okay idea because now we have some pics of this. Wennie (our guide) pulled me out. (It took a while.) And yes he is apparently very strong since he is like half my size. Interesting fact: he can actually climb all the way up trees with his bare hands. Besides the point I suppose but super amazing!
I sloshed around in my mud boots for a while and eventually we found a pond to clean my legs and boots. I didn’t get any parasites. No spiders got me. Nothing crazy in the mud attacked me. I was actually…just fine. And in the very moment I realized this, I suddenly felt my spirit lift a little. A feeling of peace and liberation. Almost like a flower opening, or a weight being lifted. I had been forced to face some ridiculous fears and I came out on top.
After this debacle, we took a couple of trips down the Amazon river in a very tipsy and tiny hollowed out tree log that they called a canoe… often in the pitch black night. And went pirhanna fishing.
We chilled with a Black Cayman munching aggressively on a fish 10 ft away from us…with no barrier between him and us.
We took nightly hikes in the completely dark jungle with only a flashlight to guide us and a lot of scary jungle sounds. The flashlight mainly showed us hundreds of tiny glowing eyes.
And each night I slept with the biggest fucking spider I have ever seen a few feet from my head.
Each time we completed one of these horrifying activities without being eaten alive, my sense of freedom magnified. I let go of one more neurosis that weighed me down. It is an incredibly cathartic experience to feel yourself be released from the metaphorical chains that have been holding you hostage for so long. Our fears cripple us. In small ways and large. Why do we allow this to happen to ourselves? Because we are human. And logic doesn’t ever trump fear. Not unless we consciously allow it to.
I guess the moral of the story is, if it doesn’t kill you, it may set you free. Your choice. I choose freedom. Sometimes you might die. Question is, what’s the problem because then you’re dead and you won’t notice. Just kidding chances are good you won’t die. For a while at least.