Trying to decide what to bring in preparation for the jungle community you’re visiting? You’re camping long term, living with a bunch of strangers, eating off the land, exposing yourself to lots of new things, etc. Time to evaluate what you need and what will help you truly thrive in this new living situation!
Some travelers are prepared for everything—look in their backpack and find an outfit for every occasion, a first aid kit that can treat all ailments and even a few comfort items for those homesick occasions. Others, like myself, go for the minimalist method. Unless I’m going on a long hike or camping trip that really needs preparation, I like to keep things simple.
In this post, I’m going to address some of the things I both needed and just wish I would have had in preparation for the jungle life, specifically during my time at InanItah, an intentional living center on Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua. People who find themselves there are looking for time spent off the grid, community living, time and space for self exploration, spirituality, and whatever else, no rules or requirements for entry here.
The property was breathe taking. The people were warm and full of love and amazing stories. It was such a special place to call home for a minute. Unfortunately though, we had to make a quick getaway one morning because I had realized that I’d developed a sort of fungus on my legs and ankles (#GlamLife) due to the amount of rain we’d been getting and mud that I’d been constantly walking through or maybe a specific plant I’d brushed up against. Really rethought our lack of preparation for the jungle after that (:
Mind you, I wasn’t doing much hiking, mostly just walking around the property. We had a lot of the creature comforts one needs—showers, kitchen, even a low key swimming pool—not exactly roughing it too hard but I was still exposed to things my body wasn’t used to. I was prepared for rains here and there but the weather was abnormally relentless for that time of year. I wish I would have been a little more prepared both for the rain and remoteness of InanItah, because of my health and just to feel a little more comfortable.
Disclaimer: This post isn’t going to be helpful for preparation for the jungle if you’re really going to be roughing it. But if you’re feeling like going to InanItah or to one of the many other jungle communities/hostels that are popping up all over the place, then you’re in the right place.
Preparation for the jungle life!
1. Multiple pairs of long socks. If I had come with a few pair of dry long socks, I would have spared myself from getting a jungle fungus. After talking with the girl who recognized my skin issue for one that she had had, I finally understand why she sported knee high socks and Crocs all day every day. I will literally, never travel without knee high socks EVER AGAIN.
Pro tip: Don’t bring cotton socks, though. They may be warm, but cotton absorbs up to 27 times it’s weight in water, so obviously that’s not going to help us in the jungle. Try merino wool, which can absorb water very well, but be mindful of the time it takes to dry them out, better have a couple pair.
2. Head lamp. I never travel without a head lamp. It’s such a good just in case item, and for your time at InanItah, it’s no different. Whether for maneuvering the composting toilets after dark, dealing with a lack of electricity during dinner time, or just making it back safely to your tent, trust me, you’ll be happy to have it.
Pro tip: Bring a rechargeable headlamp. There’s plenty of space to charge your devices within reason.
3. First aid kit. I usually travel with a few key pieces, more so if I’m going on trip that requires it. For InanItah, you should be prepared for insect bites and cuts and scrapes for sure; maybe think about an immunity boosting something as well due to the fact that you are living in close contact with a lot of other individuals. If one person gets sick, it’s real easy for it to spread real fast.
Another thing that can come up in community living is lice. Doesn’t matter if you’re in a tent community or a really nice hostel. If one person has it and doesn’t know, it can spread easy enough especially when sharing a space.
Pro tip: coconut oil. There’s also plenty of coconuts to be eaten at InanItah. But having coconut oil is handy for it’s antibacterial properties, utilize it to protect cuts from infection. I used coconut oil and tea tree oil mostly to assist in the healing process of my awesome jungle fungus, too. (:
Lice don’t like oily hair either, so putting a little coconut oil in your roots helps to act as a deterrent just in case. Plus, it makes you smell yummy!
4. Treats. Bring something to treat yourself with! There is plenty of food to go around at InanItah and it is all delicious. However, there are a lot of similar themes in each meal, despite the creativity of the amazing individuals we had leading us in the kitchen. But when you’re feeding a lot of people in any community, variety can be tricky.
At InanItah and at a lot of communities like InanItah, the meals are mostly all vegan or at least vegetarian. If you’re not used to it, it’s something to adjust to. And if you’re already adjusting to community living for the first time or full time camping, why not bring yourself a few comfort foods to treat yourself with here and there?
My problem is that when I go awhile without treating myself to something I consider a treat, I indulge hard when I get the chance. But if I always have the opportunity available, I indulge in very reasonable amounts.
Pro tip: Nutella. Bread from Zopilote, a nearby permaculture farm/hostel. Hopefully you’ve already bought coconut oil for your first aid kit. Toast a couple slices of bread. Mix the nutella with a dab of coconut oil and bananas from the farm as a super satisfying spread. Super pro, add peanut butter. You’re welcome.
5. Natural soaps. Nothing speaks to me like the concept of an outdoor shower, of which there are multiple at InanItah. You can get naked and get sudsy while the sun shines down on you (or while the rain also comes down on you and it’s freezing in which case fuck outdoor showers).
Since it’s outdoors and off the grid though, extra care needs to be put into the types of soaps and shampoos we use. So, if you have the means, aim for something that’s a little more earth friendly before you head to your jungle community.
Pro tip: Dr. Bronner’s—biodegradable and works for everything, including your hair—and a loofa to help stretch your soap supply and really clean off the jungle dirt. Then utilize that coconut oil to help keep your hair moisturized without needing conditioner. Coffee grounds are also a great exfoliate, and at InanItah, the coffee grounds used are all set aside and available at virtually all times.
6. Raingear. Like I said, it was supposed to be dry season when we were there and it rained every day, a lot. I expected rain here and there but we didn’t even have the opportunity to dry anything out even if we were rotating our clothes mindfully. If you have the money and space, grab some simple rain boots if nothing else.
Those who are super prepared travelers might read this and think well duh. But if you are a bare bones and long term traveler, like myself, having the right gear involves a lot more prioritization than just research of what’s the best. I planned to be in hot, coastal places for the majority of my time in Nicaragua. I was also traveling for 3 months, to try to be prepared for everything would have made my pack pretty heavy and I refuse to travel with more than fits on my back.
Even when we decided on InanItah, I still didn’t imagine myself roughing it too hard. I mean, there was a pool for crying out loud. In hindsight though, I should have budgeted a little extra money to buy a few things right before this section of my trip and then donated them to InanItah afterwards.
Pro tip: zip lock bags. I usually carry an extra 6 or so gallon zip lock bags with me when I travel, they always prove to be useful and virtually weigh nothing.
7. External battery. I travel with a small external battery and it is so helpful in situations like this where electricity isn’t guaranteed all day or if I wanted to charge something overnight. Every now and then, being able to cozy up in the tent and listen to music or read at night without worrying about my devices dying was so nice. One of those comfort things as well as enjoying private space and time to zone out.
8. A lock. Theft happens. At InanItah, it wasn’t an issue within the community, more so with passersby. When traveling to a third world country in general, one has to be slightly more aware. I don’t believe that this reflects the quality of humans in third world countries or anything like that, for the record. But imagine you have only ever had just enough all your life. Maybe you live on an island and have never been able to afford to leave that island even for a weekend trip. Then you start to see privileged travelers popping up all over the place with our fancy backpacking gear, iPhones, cameras, etc., would you maybe be a little tempted if an opportunity presented itself?
So, just bring a lock to put on your tent during the day and then lock it from the inside when you sleep. Our tent space was a good distance from the communal areas so I’m really glad we had a lock to deter any opportunists from perusing our belongings.
9. Work gloves. If you’re going to live at a jungle community, more than likely there is some sort of work-trade involved. At InanItah, the volunteers would work 4 hours a day, Monday through Friday, doing various work that sometimes involved landscaping or gardening.
This kind of work is great. It’s gets you out, doing hard labor and all with the time and space to have some moments to yourself. But after a day of trying to battle jungle plants, you’re going to find all sorts of cuts and probably a blister or two. Bring some work gloves and spare yourself the discomfort. Then donate them to the community you’re staying at when you decide to leave.
10. Cozy power piece. You know what a power piece is right? It’s one of those things, a clothing item or piece of jewelry maybe, that makes us feel powerful and confident and comfortable. That big cozy colorful sweater or comfy gypsy pants with crazy patterns. Typically, it’s something specific to your unique personality.
My main power piece happens to be a loose fitted cardigan with a giant hood from Zhen Nymph. I travel with it everywhere. And as a minimalist traveler, everything I carry with me better be super efficient. This jacket keeps me feeling cozy, somewhat adorable even when I smell bad, and is perfect for keeping me safe from the mosquitoes. On those sort of desperately rainy days, my power piece gave me a little extra comfort that really does make a difference.
11. Open mind. Don’t bring predetermined expectations that you are going to be magically transformed into a yogi god or goddess and that all of a sudden the universe is going to start glowing out your butt. Open your mind and heart to a new community and a new situation and be ready to embrace what comes of it.
Maybe that sounds obvious, but we are a society of instant gratification. Sometimes, we expect weight loss to come from a pill and spirituality to come just from showing up to the right party or reading the right book. The property that InanItah sits on is pretty magical, full of all kinds of good energy from all the people who’ve lived on it, but even it isn’t going to just magically make you wholesome and mindful or whatever it is you want to be just from you stepping foot on it.
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
— John Muir