I can tell you from experience that fitting 11 girls into a van is doable but suffocating. Fanny packs on, cameras fully charged, and cheddar cheese Pringles in hand, we were ready to hit the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa, an elephant safari at Kadulla National Park, Sigiria, and the 1st century cave temples of Dambhula.
If you’ve never had a lizard or cricket in your room while backpacking, you clearly aren’t doing it right. Three girls to a room, none of us were mentally or physically prepared to take on the creatures, so clearly we just had to jump from bed to bed to get to the bathroom. Ever played the floor is lava game as a child? It’s even better as adults.
“My son make these. My son make these at home now” the street vendor says as he attempts to climb into the window of our van. None of us were having it and we all shuffled out to sit in the park outside. We’re innocently soaking up the sun when a monkey fearlessly jumped down from the tree to steal my water bottle, and as the one monkey was opening my bottle, another one-armed evil monkey threw shit at us. Monkey shit. As if we’re pitching targets. As we ran away (crying), the same one-armed monkey pointed its stub at me as if to say “you’re next”. If you like monkeys you’re a sick human being because those things are the most evil creatures I’ve met.Needless to say, I don’t like monkeys anymore.
As if the day wasn’t eventful enough, we were almost being attacked by a rabid dog walking back to the hostel. Mind you, none of us have rabies shots and there’s probably not a hospital anywhere in the jungle… We thought nothing else could possibly go wrong.
Of course it can.
There was no way the girls in the next room were snoring that loud so Em goes outside to check. The door isn’t halfway open before she slams it shut and looks back at us laugh-crying. Of course, that rabid dog was blocking our doorway. Trapped inside the room, we brush our teeth (with bottled water, because of course the faucet water is brown). Ro goes to the bathroom but not a minute later the door flings open with her pants still half down.
No surprise there’s a frog in the toilet. As we try to flush him down the toilet we see his little legs paddling in the streaming water. “Thank god I didn’t sit on the toilet… it probably would have jumped up my butt”. “If it did I would lay you down on the bed and fish it out I guess…”. If that’s not selflessness at it’s finest I don’t know what is.
Yet through all the hostel nightmares, we laugh-cried the situation off. Knowing that there was nothing better out there, I learned to deal with the shitty circumstances. When people know that this is all that is available to them, they adapt accordingly. We can all live in almost any type of environment, yet we don’t realize how luxuriously we live until you encounter a place like this. Never in a million years would I (or any of my friends) thought that I could survive outside of civilization in the jungle. I’m a city girl born and raised, but happiness and fulfillment doesn’t come from material goods, a luxurious lifestyle, or intoxicated ignorant bliss. The smiles on these people’s faces taught me that happiness is an internal desire; something that you choose to feel everyday.
What luxurious do you take for granted? What would you do if everything were taken from you?