Ah, the jungle. It’s full of beautiful scenic views, majestic streams and waterfalls…

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By Jacob Meyer. Ah, the jungle. It’s full of beautiful scenic views, majestic streams and waterfalls, melodic symphonies that come from tropical birds, monkeys that hand you fresh fruit and coconuts, relaxing nights in hammocks near the cozy fire at day‘s end, and in a nutshell, bliss. This bubble bursts as I feel my back start to ache and get stiff and I wake up for the eighth time in the night, only to discover it has just reached midnight. The dream is gradually overwrote by reality. The scenic views replaced with thorny vines, muddy terrain, and my feet, since every step requires caution and the place to check for the annoying leeches. The only “view” was at the peak, which turned out to be a bunch of ever-so fascinating clouds. Relaxation is a mere joke as we climb up and down near-vertical slopes for hours. And there are obviously no generous, food giving monkeys.

So, why did I take the option of doing this trek even after hearing it was hell? An excellent question. I figured that I would loathe the decision during the trek, but afterward feel rewarded and that I accomplished something (still trying to figure out what). It truly was a rare and outrageous experience I can look back to and have a good laugh about. I now have more appreciation of the smaller luxuries I usually take for granted. In the long run, I am very glad I did it.

Once I was back into civilization, the Swiss Cottages felt like the most luxurious resort out there, even though the shower spontaneously breaks down, the room doesn’t keep a comfortable temperature, I have to actually learn, and the list can keep going. At first, these minor inconveniences might be read with negative connotation, but really they add to the overall experience. The flaws are insignificant when compared to the positive side of the expedition. Diving in the underwater tropical paradise of the South China Sea, meeting amazing and different people, and doing something that makes a difference, all outweigh the tiny problems. Everything about the trip has made me crave more.

Every part of the expedition adds to an experience found nowhere else, whether it be the food, the diving, or the people. What I find to be most fascinating is the different culture and lifestyles. To see how other people live and work really makes me reflect on my life. Even the small glimpse of the life of the tour guide for the trek made me realize how different our lives can be. It seems the more places I see and experience, the more I realize how big the world really is, the little I know about it, and how much more there is to learn.