A first hand insight into the lifestyles of Kalu Yala, a harmonic human habitat of eco-astronauts dreaming a new model of living in the rainforest on Panama. In collaboration with kaluyala.com + photography by Leygh.
The sun rises like it always has and jungle creatures creep out from shaded ranchos. There’s the soft mist that smells like mystery, lingering in dewdrops on river stones. Chairs rock in tall grasses and foreign strangers serenade each other in stories. I don’t know where we are, but that we are home.
There’s a scent of memory in the air like we’ve done this all before and don’t remember when. It could have been before time; something like an old reflection of a dream we’ve never had or a song we’ve always heard and never sang. There’s something about a forest that will do that to you, strip you of your sense of identity until finally, you find yourself.
Lost between each other, melted in a name we call community. I’m surrounded by 120 new faces and hours outside of any civilisation in a Panamanian eco-village called Kalu Yala. We are all looking for something and we don’t know what. Here in the village, there is no hierarchy and it is a sustainable spot, we grow our own food and make our own rules.
In this land life is lawless, there is only the compass of morality to guide our way and it makes us family. I’ve found here that family is a relative term. Merriam Webster defines it as, “a group of persons of common ancestry”.
Leaving the world for a while makes you remember an era we’ve long lost, a lineage of tribal living we have fallen away from in our desperate grasps toward civilisation. In the pursuit of becoming civilised, we have forgotten civility. We have forgotten each other; in the ladder of society.
I lost myself climbing at stars and now here in the jungle, I have found they were never that far. It’s a full moon, the fire crackles and seeps smoke between musky palms. It meets stardust and melts with an open sky above.
Around me is a ring of people and beside me, a wide-eyed Californian spins off in dreams. “I want this forever.”, “What?” I reply, he answers “This, right here. Strangers unveiling themselves as long lost family, people as equals.
In the jungle, there is no status but the smile on your face. In society, I felt small -- I felt like there is something to prove that never was. The question I keep coming back to is, "was it worth it?". Is 5 days of working and 2 days of partying the equation to a beautiful life? Have we been conned?.
I am asleep in the wooden barracks, my air mattress flattens onto splintered wood and around me, 15 people snore over the warm call of night moths. I am happy and I don’t know why, there is something beautiful in this.
Showers are done naked in the river and, humans bob like otters. We lather each other’s musky skulls with foamy rubs via Doctor Bronson’s Organic Peppermint soap in a conga line--, it’s not sexual but it is sexy. We are free and flowing between fish and rainbow shaded stones, and an unraveling brook washes behind, providing us with fresh moments of serenity.
They say you can’t step in the same river twice, and maybe I agree. With each glance I’m new, caught between smiles and laughs that cost nothing and lasts longer than a beer. The day is spent completing chores and though we work, it is not really working-- more like living.
Sometimes we pick spinach, sometimes we wash toilets, sometimes we dance and always we sing. There is nothing to climb but trees and hearts and we have no money and we don’t want it.
I’m hiking in the jungle with a dozen faces between days of open sun and hard rain. It’s funny the way the world sounds from the jungle, as if I melted and wound up here between an old idea of myself and an ancient reflection of humanity. A wavy-haired being beside me calls out to the wind. Maybe he is a wolf, maybe he's human, I have lost the need to differentiate.
Night rolls in and above me is a canopy of starlight. Below me is the river and it twinkles like a mirror. I know no home but now. Here I am at peace, peace with the idea that this is all I ever needed.
There’s a nature in my heart that sings in these humble moments of silence and in that I am free: at home with the Earth, in love with the sky.
If you read this; know there is love waiting out there for you somewhere in this wild world, and it might be in the last place you expect.
Once upon a time, I was a businessman grasping blindly with high aims towards the top of a sky rise, hungry to stomp out anyone in the way.
In that race, I lost myself chasing after an idea that was never mine.
I hope you forget the world and find yourself,
I hope you remember your bliss.
Check out Leygh's instagram for more stunning photography from Kalu Yala.
- PSYCHIC GARDEN