When I look back at my nine months solo backpacking around Central and South America, I’m still amazed at the scope of activities and countries I covered.
The World Cup in Brazil, living with a Guatemala host family for 5 weeks, taking Spanish lessons, deep sea diving in Honduras, Christmas on a beach in Costa Rica, trekking for 5 days through jungle in search of Colombia‘s Lost City, Machu Picchu, the memorable bone-breaker that was Death Road in Bolivia, Argentina‘s Steaks (!), and of course the amazing people and friends I made en route.
There is still one experience that stands out head and shoulders among the rest. The time I spent a long weekend with a shaman in a jungle in Peru and consumed the powerful hallucinogenic brew known as Ayahuasca. Former wild child Lindsay Lohan has been in the news lately about how it helped her conquer some of her demons.
I gained some powerful insights and reflections on my life leading up to that point that made me question several things. I saw in vivid detail, that my excessive partying and debauchery lifestyle was hollow and I was following that path to what would be a point of no return – utter destruction.
An alternative fork in the road was presented to me. One that led away from the misery and chaos to a higher quality of life – one where a wife and three young children welcomed a fresh, sober, clear headed Aidan fully engaged and connected with his dreams and ambitions.
I also spoke with my deceased Father asking him several personal burning questions, the answers of which surprised even me. He encouraged me to seek out a couple of members in my extended family who were in emotional pain, and to assure them that his healing hand was over them and that their sadness would ebb away.
There were two visions presented to me:
- My friend P. who joined me on this retreat, would be shot in the head within 5 years unless he changed his hedonistic lifestyle. I saw that happening as clear as day, outside a nightclub. The sense of loss I felt watching it was incredibly powerful.
- I was told that my grandmother would pass away before the month of November.
It was the single most strange/lucid/scary/exhilarating/exhausting/emotional/(insert other extreme adjective here!) experience of my life and shook me to my foundation. For five hours I was rocked around with my head bursting with these images that afforded me no escape.
Recalling it now still sends a shiver up my spine.
That was seven months ago. How have things changed?
I wanted to let some time pass before writing a follow-up post, because I wasn’t sure if any changes felt would be long term or just a temporary phase. Being back in the throes of work, integrated into society again, I felt the time was right to comment.
Friends have noticed a significant shift in me since I’ve returned to Ireland. Certainly it is most striking when we would be having social drinks at the weekend.
Previously I’d be like a dog on heat, getting shit faced drunk and hitting on anything that resembled a girl within a 1 mile radius. Copy-Paste, virtually every single weekend.
Now I’m more controlled, less swayed by my impulses, a lot calmer and not driven by my loins.
I’ve curtailed the excessive partying and become a lot more appreciative of my network of friends and connecting with them on nights out. They miss the old Aidan. Only glimpses of that person come through now but it no longer fits who I am. It feels like I’ve outgrown it.
I jokingly tell some of my friends who’ve known me the longest, that I left something behind in that jungle in Peru and it honestly feels like that. But in many ways, I’ve actually gained something too – that clarity of thought, the bigger picture perspective where I can look beyond the superficial shallow lifestyle that I toiled in, but never truly enjoyed.
Now, I’m back focussing on my passions again – writing, working on my health and fitness, and living a simpler stress-free existence. I’ve started meditating and find I’m more likely to come home from my workday and reach for a spiritual book instead of the TV remote.
My buddy P. is coming to Ireland next week to visit me. We haven’t seen each other since our experience in the jungle and I’m keen to know how it has changed his behaviour, if it has had any bearing at all.
My Grandmother passed away suddenly in the final week of October, and I found myself recounting the Ayahuasca vision many times to family and friends over that week. The interest in it is amazing, but most of those I told confessed that they couldn’t go through what I did.
I suppose that’s the point. It’s not supposed to be fun. Once the portal is opened, there’s no knowing what’s going to be waiting on the other side.
I took those steps, and it fundamentally changed me. For that, I’m grateful.