This year, I’m going to be featuring some guest writers on my blog, other travel writers whose work has inspired me. Each person will be writing a post about the following question:
What’s an experience you’ve had on the road which has changed your life?”
The goal is to gather some intriguing tales involving the power travel has to affect our lives — for better or worse!
The first blogger in this series is the awesome Katie Featherstone, a blogger from the UK whose site — Feathery Travels — specializes in budget travel, offbeat destinations, and the art and music she comes across. She also happens to be the person who gave me the kick in the pants necessary to get my blog’s Facebook page rolling! Here’s the fantastic post she wrote about a travel experience which changed her life:
Living in the Woods of Espiral de Luz
Things have changed since I last wrote about this place, this little patch of woodland that crept into my heart and refuses to be forgotten. I no longer wake up expecting to hear the sound of insects, before realizing the sad truth and missing the beautiful simplicity of that life, but when Nathan asked me to write about an experience that changed my life, living in the forest was still the first thing that came to mind.
With over a month and around £100 left between us, Dan and I were getting desperate, so when a bread-selling hippy invited us to stay with him in the woods we set off the next day. Reaching Espiral de Luz (Pedro’s fledgling eco-village) isn’t simple on your own. The nearby village of Paredones, Bolivia is half an hour from hippy mecca Samaipata by taxi or an hour and twenty minute long walk down from the highway if you’re broke. As we soon found out, the rain and risen river had made following our directions impossible. The forest was thick, and as we clambered over knotted roots and pushed through spiky branches with our backpacks, I wondered where we were heading. As the darkness crept between us, I was relieved to come across a gateway — Pedro and the haphazardly organised woodland inside.
Espiral de Luz had none of the amenities we’ve come to expect from the modern world (electricity, plumbing, walls, windows, doors…). To eat, we sat on benches built into the walls around a table made from foresters’ off-cuts. Our food was shared and simple, usually costing around 60 to 100 Bolivianos (£6-£10) a week and supplemented with edible plants from the woodland; the muddy river below was great for bathing and we were eternally thankful for the clear stream of mountain water that hydrated us through the hot days.
Though we were supposed to be working between breakfast and lunch, it was hard to give back as much as Pedro helped us. We finally had a chance to try building with stones and mud, did a little work on the kitchen roof, and planted a small food garden. Mainly though, Pedro rescued our dwindling funds by inviting us to join him in his whole-grain bread cooperative. Though baking isn’t really my thing, Dan took to it like the proverbial duck to water and was soon learning the recipe — bashing through three giant batches of kneading several times a week and generally being a successful baker’s apprentice. Dressing up as smart as we could and selling it together in Samaipata, I could never have imagined how successful we would be. Though our Spanish was dodgy, people were kind and we always managed to sell our seventeen loaves, even if it took all day.
After saying goodbye to a series of other passing travelers, it was finally our time before I could bear to accept it. Five weeks had passed, but I’d never missed the luxuries of showering or flushing toilets, even the lack of WiFi had hardly crossed my mind. Occupied by the constant, ever-changing necessities of that simple life and dazzled by its setting I’d never needed more. Back in the “real world” I felt like a goldfish flopped out of its bowl, floundering in the excessive, uncertain space around me and unsure of how to recreate that previous sense of contented security. It’s been over a year since we left the woods, but I’m still a reluctant member of consumerist society. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be back…
Awesome story, right? What’s a place you’ve been to which has crept into your heart and won’t leave? What made it so special? Let us know in the comments below!
- Living in the Woods of Espiral de Luz - February 11, 2016
How exciting. Living in a forest is such a foreign thought for me but it definitely sounds like it would be exciting. I think that it would be a great adventure.
What a beautiful experience! I used to hike, and we would stay a few days at a time on the mountain. I really miss those times! Sadly though my Korean husband will have none of that. I hope to one day be able to experience that again though. Reading this post brought back memories of the peace and contentment I felt then. 🙂
It brings back those feelings for me too, Jackie! I miss camping out in the woods in tree forts with my brother, and playing laser tag all day. Forests always make me reminisce 🙂
Beautiful pictures! I admire your travel off the beaten path! Keep on traveling 🙂
It really sounded like an incredible experience. And you were very brave to do that. Only a few souls would dare venture out. And the baking theme… Necessity is always the mother of invention:-).
Wow. That’s all I can say, really! What an incredible experience and story. I was glued to the screen and super enticed by her experience. I don’t know that I could just go live in the woods for 5 weeks! I love when she said, “the muddy water was perfect for bathing”. HA! Totally understandable how that experience changed her life.
Haha, thanks Katie! 🙂
Thanks so much for sharing this guest post! I really envy the bravery here and often wonder if this is something I could do myself. I do enjoy my times living ‘off the grid’ with no access to my cell phone or wifi (while traveling abroad with no cell service), but I do want to try taking it a few steps further and really roughing it for a week or two. This has breathed new life in to that dream.
Looking forward to the next guest piece!!
I’m sure you would be great Lindsay, it became quite natural after a while. 🙂
Nathan, first of all, this is a great platform for helping travelers tell their stories and for readers to get inspired to change their lives as well. Kudos to you!
Katie, I don’t know if I could’ve done what you did for that long but I can only imagine how life-changing it would be to live off the grid. And the fact that you accepted an impromptu invitation to experience life in the forests. That’s super ballsy and I’m in AWE of you! I love that you guys were baking in the woods too! A whole-grain cooperative? I’m amazed at the entrepreneurship of it all!
Thanks Izzy! It didn’t seem ballsy at the time, but now I’m back in the UK it feels a bit more dramatic somehow.
This is amazing and inspiring. I’ve always remembered a simpler life as a child when the street lights were my curfew and I would be out playing at the park or riding my bike. I feel like those days were less stressful without social media and an online presence. Great post!
Thank-you! Yeah, I don’t think social media can be very good for us really…
What an awesome experience! I really want to unplug and reconnect as I feel like I’m so much more internet reliant than I used to be. Thanks for sharing this experience!
It’s a blogging problem too, but I think we all need a break sometimes!
Very inspiring post! Living simply like this for a period of time has been something I’ve always wanted to do.
Thanks Matthew, I hope you can do it at some point. :)k
What a beautiful experience. We had a similar feeling when we went and stayed on an island for almost two months without running water or electricity! It was really an eye opening experience and refreshing. Although, it was rather difficult to run a travel blog at the same time! Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the modernized world and just reset. Thanks for sharing.
Yeah, I had to give up on the blog for a bit Megan!
I was so happy to be invited to do this, thank-you Nathan!