I fall asleep under a mosquito net. I wake to the sounds of the birds and the leaves. I shower next to a tree under the clouds and walk barefoot on the dirt and sand. I am living more closely to nature than ever before.
I’m sitting on the porch of my bird’s nest style bungalow. It is a tiny wooden shed like structure. It is tiny to the point of being comfortable, not so tiny that I feel crammed in. It contains a bed and a mosquito net and the front porch has two chairs. There are no special perks here, only the simple pleasures of living and being a part of nature.
On the porch now I hear only the sounds of the trees and birds in the distance. This could be in Canada for all know since this scene can be recreated anywhere. But in fact I’m still working at the Lonely Beach in the south of Cambodia, on the quiet Northern part of the island of Koh Rong. This morning I worked as a server in the restaurant with no walls. Last night I worked behind the sandy beach bar lit only by candlelight. Everything here is outdoors and open to the elements of nature. We’re situated in the jungle by the beach. This is where nature convenes, and we as the workers and guests inhabit the space with the bugs and birds, lizards and snakes, fish and urchins.
I never used to be a nature person. It’s only in the past 7 months that I’ve learned to live much more closely to nature. Bali taught me about the beauty of open-structures that are always allowing nature’s elements into a room. Now Cambodia teaches me about living even closer to nature by showering outdoors with a bucket, sleeping without solid walls (only a mosquito net) and working under the stars on a beach in the pitch-black night sky.
In a powerful yoga class back in Ubud, one of the teachers had us do a listening exercise. Lying on your back with closed eyes, train your ears to pick up on noise happening at the farthest point away that you can hear, and focus on those sounds. Then after 30 seconds, listen to something that sounds just slightly closer. Eventually, pay attention to the sounds in the room near you, slowly and gradually until you hear what’s happening right around you, possibly your very own breath.
Sometimes I skim through nature without even realizing that the wind and birds are making noise around me. We can try this same exercise with our vision by focusing on things as far away as we can possibly see. It’s difficult to hold the gaze sometimes; our eyes just want to look closer.
I try to find the right words to describe the effects that nature has on my body and mind, but it’s something that ought to be directly experienced. I walk barefoot down dirt paths covered in twigs and foliage and ants, and it feels pleasant and natural- the way we are meant to walk in such environments. Sometimes you need to walk slowly so that a sharp twig doesn’t pierce your sole, but this mindful way of walking seems to be the right pacing in such a place anyway.
Although, in just over a week, my Cambodian visa will expire and I’ll be leaving this place on my solo journey again. Back on the Southeast Asian road where tuk-tuk drivers will call to me from the sidewalks offering a ride, and where the streets will be packed with manmade constructions and consumers. It’s the rhythm almost all of us operate in, but it takes stepping out of it now and then to come back to nature, and to our natural, undistracted selves.
When were you most connected to nature?