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3 Things Living in the Jungle Taught Me

I grew up on the North Shore of Sydney in a comfortable home and had my own bed. So when it came to sleeping on a dirt floor covered with a banana leaf in a hut with pigs and a tribal family; it propelled me outside my comfort zone.

At 18 years old, before starting my consulting business (at 20), I was undertaking studies in Human Connection and did my thesis on Tribal Communication. For research, I flew to Papa New Guinea, befriended a helicopter pilot, who suggested that I have experiences living with remote tribes. Whenever he had a spare seat, he’d tell me to pack a bag, drop me off with one of the female tribal elders in some remote jungle location, and leave me for a week.

I travelled down the Sepik River in a dugout canoe with an anthropologist, sleeping in the open air with many mosquitoes. When travelling in the highlands one time, I arrived in the middle of two tribes at war, fighting each other with bows and arrows. They saw me, stopped fighting to let me through and after, continued killing each other. I slept with a gun under my pillow and rocks beside my bed with guard dogs ready to pounce at the front door.

To say life in New Guinea’s highlands was a contrast to the life I knew is an understatement.

Here are the 3 lessons the jungle gave me.

1. Seize opportunities

If life offers you an experience that you’ve never had, embrace it. It’s easy to plateau and become comfortable when things are going our way. But you’ve got to keep learning, growing and expanding your horizons to live a prosperous life. Step into the unknown despite the fear that arises; it will positively affect your relationships, business and the way you create in the world. Comfort zones are not a place of residence. Keep pushing the envelope.

2. My hard is soft by comparison

Life in tribal cultures is mapped out. Women are second to men, and their role is to look after the males—and there’s no fighting it. When children come into the tribe, everyone looks after them. The women work physically hard. They’re put to the test every day to produce food for the immediate family—plus their tribe.

I’d never seen people, especially women, work so laboriously. The things I grappled with, like working in my family business or deciding what I wanted to do with my life, no longer felt challenging. I felt privileged to have a choice.

3. Appreciate what you have

Most of us are blessed with opportunities. We have access to clean water, food, housing and technology. We also get to pursue our dreams—if we choose. The highlander tribes were very remote; no roads in or out. They’d never seen a white woman, nor had any contact with the outside world. There were no stores, no luxuries; but they also didn’t want anything more because they didn’t know it existed. Their world revolved around the seasons of the jungle. Their days, weeks and months were guided by the natural environment, with the sun and moon as their clock—and they were happy!

I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t strive to live a big and colourful life; you most definitely can. But always find time to appreciate what you have—even when facing challenges.