‘Bath in a creek’ was the first thing that really stood out as “okay, this could be intense”. Living a sustainable lifestyle in the tropical jungle of Costa Rica IS a bit intense, but surprisingly easy. For a total of 7 weeks, Ty and I volunteered and lived on a sustainable cacao and banana farm.
To say the least, we did not know what to expect from this experience but our time there was made memorable and special for so many reasons. The farm is owned by a family who have lived there for over 10 years, for them the jungle is their home and they have an incredible way of making the jungle your home too.
Perhaps it is because of the living conditions that force you to get on with life that make it feel like home quickly. On the first day “poo” was a highly discussed topic. With no electricity, no running water, no plumbing and no bathroom, the subject of poo and poo holes was often talked about. Ty even dug his own poo hole and fashioned an old chair as a make shift toilet seat and it was brilliant.
Bucket and creek baths was the next thing we had to adapt to. Farm work itself is already physically demanding, let alone the heat and humidity, and when it rains, the mud! I should mention as well that the whole property is situated on a mountain in the jungle so just walking from the bottom to the top is a workout and a half, welly boots were essential to even walk up and down when it’s muddy. A shower or a nice soak would be heavenly after getting so sweaty and muddy but that is not an option. Instead there was the nearby creek where the only downfall was the swarms of mosquitoes we first experienced when we arrived. With no mosquitoes you can sit back and look up into the trees, see the sun streaming through the jungle, maybe watch or hear the howler monkeys calling. It was a special place to have your shower and it’s strange how normal it became.
On the whole everything became second nature very quickly. Sustainable living also opens your eyes to what you really need in life. What is essential and what is just extra. I found that a lot of things in life are just extra luxuries. Of course the first shower we had after the farm felt amazing and you miss some things, but you know that you can live without them and that’s one of the biggest lessons I learnt from our time on the farm.
One example of a ‘luxury’ was a bamboo shower. Homemade by Ty, it was literally an off cut piece of bamboo that he used an old nail to poke holes into (shower head….), tied onto another longer piece of bamboo and dug into the ground. This became our shower! It worked brilliantly as long as you had someone there to pour peanut butter jars of water into it… maybe the luxurious part was that you didn’t have to slide down the muddy path to the creek if it was rainy day, or maybe it was literally the fact that it kind of resembled a shower? Either way the view from the shower was through a clearing in the trees and it was beautiful, people pay a lot of money for views but for us that was one thing we had in abundance.
Another thing that became so precious to me while being at the farm was rain. Filtered rain water was relied on for drinking, and rain water was also collected to serve every other water need. For cooking, washing, laundry; you always consider how much water you are using and become so conscious not to waste any. I have always lived like that anyway but when there is no rain for a week and the water tanks get lower and lower we would get so excited for the rain. Plus you can sit back and know that everything you planted is getting a nice drink so win win.
It may not be for everyone, I certainly miss having a toilet nearby in the night, rather than sleepily having to put on welly boots and trudge out into the jungle to pee. But for a while, using only what you need, where nothing goes go waste and being stripped back to the bare essentials teaches you that living sustainably is so easy to do.
Being immersed in nature makes it all feel worth it. Sharing your home with the wildlife is incredible and it was still exciting each time you saw a sloth or poison dart frog, get woken up by the howler monkeys at dawn or see the capuchin monkeys jumping through the trees.
It’s hard to put into words how nature is used for a purpose without sounding like we were taking advantage of it. But nature provided everything from the edible and medicinal plants available, or a mud path you can make into steps to make a path more accessible. Even the bamboo we hiked up a mountain to collect (everything had to be used to make the climb and the effort of dragging a 5m long heavy bamboo pole through the jungle worth it). We never took more than we needed and that’s all there is to it.
For me that time living in the jungle meant not just inhabiting a space, it was truly living with the jungle. Everyday we dealt with the mud, rain, heat and the humidity, which doesn’t go away when you go to bed or cook or lounge in a hammock. Nor does the sounds of the jungle or the persistent bugs. We lived with the jungle.
The One About Sustainable Living In The Jungle is also featured on The Green Stamp blog. An awesome company dedicated to providing options of ecological wildlife tours and helping people to make more sustainable choices. Check them out at the links below.