I left for the jungle in the Dominican Republic on my 4 year wedding anniversary in search of myself. The night before, I was sobbing because I didn’t want to leave my kids or husband and my mother-in-law had just started feeling symptoms of COVID-19. I had so many reservations yet I was still committed to taking this trip in a world that wasn’t familiar anymore. This pandemic made me feel concerned, scared, and unsafe to say the least. I was fearful that my family was going to get COVID from my mother-in-law. What if I get it in the Dominican Republic. This way of thinking is toxic. I already have issues with anxiety but this level is unreal. Full disclosure, I use medical marijuana to control my thoughts at night. If I don’t I will be up all night thinking about my whole life. I was very concerned with my mental well being without weed. Even with all of these concerns, I still traveled to a different country and tried my best to be adventurous and live full out.
I hate flying. I hate taking off. I hate turbulence. I hate landing. I pretty much dislike the whole experience. Do I love getting to point B from point A in a timely fashion… of course! It’s the best way to travel. I had never traveled solo before this yoga retreat. I arrived in Los Angeles and I had to find my way to my Airbnb which wasn’t hard. I had to drag my very large over packed suitcase to the shuttle that takes you to get a ride to where ever you are heading. I didn’t have my husband there to do the heavy lifting. I had to fend for myself. By the way, this is hilarious considering what my whole experience ended up transpiring into. You’ll see in a few paragraphs. I ended up making it to this very cute little bungalow about 9 minutes from LAX. I worked for about 8 hours while I had my layover there. I am a workaholic only because I LOVE what I do. I had this upcoming program I was teaching as soon as I got back from Monterey so I had to finish a bunch of stuff before I had zero WiFi. This is one of those things I reflected on while in the jungle… you’ll see soon.
It was time for me to leave for the airport and I had this sinking feeling. I still felt off. I had traveled before but never without my husband. Him and I have a very special bond. He is my partner and I feel so off when I’m not with him. I boarded the plane and got settled. Next thing you know, I am in Miami waiting for my next flight. I actually sat there watching a movie for an hour and a half without noticing my fellow retreat travelers sitting in the next area over. I met up with them and we all got on our flight. We had to fill out some COVID papers to allow us into the country along with the typical customs paperwork. It is always scary for me when I have to go through new countries. It’s not like I’m smuggling anything into the country but you always see people getting detained for random reasons and I would die if this happened to me while traveling solo. So I get into the country and I end up catching a ride with my retreat leader and then the driver missed my hotel stop. So I ended up going to the same hotel as the rest of the group and staying with this sweet woman named Marina. She was nice enough to let me room with her overnight.
The next morning we ate breakfast and got ready to head out to Samana. The drive was long and some parts were rough. We were given a fresh coconut to try. It was warm and sort of sweet but definitely not my cup of tea. I appreciated being able to try it however. I had never tried a freshly cracked coconut before. While we were waiting at this gas station for everyone to use the restroom and try their coconuts, there was a man holding a shot gun as if he were protecting his lot. Interesting how weapons are just carried around this island like no big deal.
We arrived at Mami’s for lunch and to chill at the beach for a bit. The food was authentic and delicious. I loved the beach and the views. I felt like all I wanted to do was sit on this beach drinking Pina Coladas and reading my book the entire time. That would have been my ideal trip. I always plan trips where every minute is accounted for and I never have downtime. I didn’t plan this trip but it was no different. We left Mami’s and headed to the Dominican Tree House Village. My initial thoughts were guilt because I had to have a guy bring my luggage up to the tree house because it was so heavy then it was amazement because it was so different than anything I had ever experienced. We got to the main lobby and was greeted by Stanley. He was the nicest person. We received a welcome drink of our choice and got to hang out for a bit.
I went up to my room to change. More like hiked up to my room. Haha. My bed had a net over it which was comforting yet scary at the same time. What was the net protecting me from? How could I get WiFi up here? How can I live life like normal while in the jungle? Will creatures come into my room at night? Are the night time sounds really as loud as Hilda said they are? This is the kind of thing running through my mind while I’m standing in the middle of my room which has zero walls to protect me from jungle creatures. I was alone. I usually travel with my husband and he wasn’t there. I wanted to be with my children. I wanted my daughters to make me feel better. I was alone. It started raining and then it became really hard for me to breathe. The humidity hurt my lungs. My chest hurt. I really wanted to be there and be present and adventurous. I needed this trip for self reflection. We then went to check out the yoga area. We had to cross over a wooden bridge and I felt like I might die crossing over it. It was quite hilarious for other people watching me.
I went back down to the main lobby to meet everyone for dinner and to hang for a bit. Everyone was pretty exhausted already. Dinner was delicious. It was Tomato Soup with freshly baked bread and some other authentic foods that were very colorful and interesting. There was a purple banana-esk side dish that looked more like a sausage and that was hilarious. It didn’t really have much flavor. Seemed more like a potato to be honest. We all went to the pool to hang out and listen to the jungle sounds. The sounds at the time were very relaxing and I felt like I could fall asleep. Little did I know that these jungle creatures get ridiculously loud at night. I decided to head up to take a shower and go to bed.
I walked up to check out the hot water showers. Even though I was in 90% humidity I still wanted to burn my flesh off with a nice hot shower. I opened the door to find a huge tarantula waiting for me. I don’t know why I didn’t think there would be tarantulas in the jungle. I was SHOCKED to say the least. I am not a fan of spiders and I honestly don’t think I have ever been up close and personal with a tarantula. I was shaking and freaking out silently to myself as I hauled ass to my room. I was looking everywhere for tarantulas as if I was going to be attacked by them. I knew that tarantulas are more scared of me but in my mind at the time they were man eating spiders. I had a bathroom connected to my room that was a cold water shower.
I still needed to shower so I sucked it up and took my first ever cold water shower. I was looking around everywhere to make sure there weren’t any creatures joining me. I get out and quickly put my sports bra and underwear on because I was about to sweat to death while I slept. I sweat even in controlled temperatures. I jumped in my bed and tried reading. The sounds wouldn’t let me focus. I then forgot to take my medication so I had to get out of the net and do that plus I thought ear plugs might help with the sounds. Then I got back in bed only to realize the curtain by my door wasn’t shut all the way so there was a bit of light shining through and I can’t sleep without complete darkness. I get out of bed once again and try pulling the curtain shut and a lizard jumps off onto my floor. I was done. I jumped back in bed and stayed there for the rest of the night. I realized just how alone I was in that moment. As I was clutching my daughters blanket ever so tightly I cried myself to sleep on my first night at the Dominican Tree House Village.
I woke up feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and just scared that I may step on something while getting out of bed. I have never felt this much anxiety. (I could have used some weed at this point.) I laid in bed for what felt like hours the night before just tossing and turning and crying and asking God to give me a sign for what I should do. I really wanted to stick this out but everything in my being was telling me to run. Fight or flight was happening and my natural reaction was flight. I went down to the main lobby for breakfast and to meet up for our excursion. Marina asked how I slept and my response was, “Worst night of my life.” I was being 100% serious and I started to cry. I never cry. I hate crying. I feel weak when I cry. I always try and keep myself composed and I never need help. That’s my personality type. Basically wound super tight all the time. The fact that I was openly crying made me feel so vulnerable. I had to walk away and just cry. Why was I crying so much? I wanted my husband, my security, and my comforts. I was in a bubble of self reflection which I had never experienced before. I was alone with myself and my thoughts.
We headed out to the horseback ride to El Limon Waterfall and ATV excursion to remote beaches. I rode a horse for the first time up a mountain to then hike down to a beautiful waterfall where I swam under it which was another first for me. I was even able to hold a Macaw for the first time. While on the way up the mountain on the horse, I had a spiritual moment with nature. I looked out over the jungle and thought to myself how wonderful it is that I have the opportunity to be here right now. I felt the tears falling down my cheeks. I gained composure and proceeded to hike to the waterfall. We then rode ATVs all over a few towns and then to a secluded beach. I had gotten sand in my eyes from the beach and it felt like my eyes were on fire but I pushed through. Then we traveled to another beach where we were able to swim in the ocean. Another first for me. I get motion sickness very easily. I didn’t realize you could get motion sickness from just letting waves take you in and out. I felt like I was going to throw up plus I could barely keep my eyes open because of the burning. I was not having the time of my life how I imagined I would. I had to close my eyes because of the burning only to feel more sick because I felt like I was still in the ocean. I was miserable.
So how could I be miserable in this majestic place? I had all these sad feelings and feelings of overwhelm. Now that I have reflected on this moment I think I may have been having feelings of not being worthy of this experience. I definitely felt mom guilt but mostly I felt like I wished I was home with my family because I had missed out on so much the last couple of months. I had worked non-stop for months so that I felt I deserved this vacation. I was going to do yoga in the jungle with people I didn’t know and I was going to get out of my comfort zone. I did that in the first day. I did so many firsts and got way out of my comfort zone.
We got back to the tree house and all I wanted to do was go to my room and cry. I felt great when we were out and about but then as soon as we were heading back I got those feelings of anxiety. I was going to be alone again. I was going to hear all those scary sounds that reminded me of the movie Jamunji. I could hardly breathe because of my panic and crying, I couldn’t catch my breath in the depths of the jungle and humidity. I stood in my room covering my crying eyes asking the universe what to do. I wanted to stay but knew I wasn’t supposed to be there. I needed to be with my family. I had been absent from my home in more ways than one just because I put work as my number one priority instead of my family. I realized if I’m not living my best life in the Dominican Republic then what was I doing there instead of being with my family spending my down time building our bonds and being there for my daughters. I should have stayed home and put time into the things that actually matter. My oldest daughter hadn’t been responding very well to me working full time instead of 3 days a week. I am self employed so there is no reason I can’t tailor my schedule to what my family needs. I have that option and I am so thankful for that.
The mind is a dangerous place. I am one of those people who easily overthinks and over analyses absolutely everything. I had to really determine whether or not I was leaving because I couldn’t handle the jungle or because I was realizing whats really important to me. I think it was a little bit of both. This experienced checked me back into reality. Yes, I had this opportunity to experience new things and get out of my comfort zone but at the price of leaving my family and making them feel like they are lowest on my priority list. I left for this trip on my 4 year wedding anniversary. My husband is a very understanding person and I am so grateful. I right then asked my retreat leader to find me a way home. I didn’t want to be there for one more minute. I had guilt about leaving because I was so ready to try new things and test my limitations but I needed to leave. I needed to be with my family. The taxi service was closed at this time because it was 8pm at night. The manager of the tree house was so kind and asked her husband to take me the 3 hours away to Santo Domingo.
Along the way, it was kind of scary considering the lines on the roads are more of a guideline not a law to the drivers. We were 20 minutes away from my hotel and we got a flat tire. He got out and started trying to fix it. I began to cry. It was like the universe was testing me in every way. It took about 30 minutes for him to fix it. We had to drive about 25 mph and then we hit the military stop. The Dominican Republic is under a tight curfew of 7pm-5am due to COVID-19. The military is heavily enforced and they had us pull over. They had their guns out. They needed to see proof that I was a tourist traveling because tourists are not held under the curfew because who knows when tourists are leaving the country. He had to call the manager of the tree house so she could verify it even though he had a letter. It was so scary. I thought I was about to be detained. They were yelling and acting like I was not a tourist and I needed to show them all the proof that I was not a citizen. I showed them everything and the manager spoke with them so they finally let us go. I was on my way to the hotel. I could feel my anxiety release. I got checked in and called my husband and my mom to let them know the situation. Turns out my oldest daughter had woken up shortly before I called. She always sleeps through the night. We are very connected and this was another sign to me that I was making the right decision by leaving. At that point I felt compelled to get home by any means necessary. My flight wasn’t until Wednesday and it was about to be Monday. I was determined to get home. I called the airlines and changed my flights. I had 12 hours of traveling ahead of me the following day. I arrived home and my husband and daughters greeted me at 11pm Monday night in San Francisco. I had never felt so relieved to be home.
This experience was a way for the universe to check me. I need to be more present in my home life. I need to rebuild those bonds again and learn to adapt to a new work schedule. I have the opportunity to schedule my life in a way that makes sense to what we all need in my family. I am so thankful for flexibility. I needed to reflect on what my priorities are. The universe works in mysterious ways and I strongly believe I was being pushed into uncomfortable situations not only to test my limitations but to bring awareness to what I was doing and what is important to me. I am thankful for this experience but even more thankful for my family.
This is right where I needed to be…