I think it's safe to say that once I (sadly) get home I won't be afraid of pigeons stealing my food or spotting a surprising roach run across in front of me anymore. If you know me, this probably will come as a shock to you. Trust me, I felt the same way, but after spending three nights in an Australian rainforest, things change.
When I first learned that I would be staying at Binna Burra Mountain Lodge, which is nestled within the sub-tropical rainforest of Lamington National Park, my first thought was "Oh my gosh, how many things in that forest could kill me?" Turns out my fears were somewhat right, even some trees can sting you.
Our afternoons were spent doing body searches for ticks (they love to get you on your stomach) and pulling leeches from our feet (even if you were wearing two pairs of socks). A giant rat stared me down on my late night bathroom run. To no surprise, the rat held his ground and won. I, on the other hand, ran faster than I ever have in my life straight back to my room, only to reluctantly return with my roommate and flashlight in hand.
It's all okay though because I made it out alive. Luckily, the worst thing that happened to me was a bad case of motion sickness on our bus ride up the mountain.
It would be unfair to only talk about the negatives though. There were hundreds of beautiful animals. We had the opportunity to listen to the songs of the more than 150 bird species that Binna Burra is known for every morning. We had paddy melons stop and say hello to us. We stared in awe at a wild koala hugging on so tightly to a tall eucalyptus tree. We saw sheep grazing on a mountainside. We went platypus hunting and saw Perry, on break from his latest adventure with Phineas and Ferb.
I recognized the beauty in all of the forest's animals and quickly realized that my biggest monster to face would not be these wonderful animals in their natural habitats, but myself. It would be my own mentality. This challenge was brought to me in a unique way.
We had the amazing opportunity to go zip lining through the rainforest, something I eagerly awaited for months. Unfortunately, it was a very old zip line that required a decent amount of physical strength and ability to use. I watched on as one by one my classmates did the course, some with absolute grace, others who.... how do I say this nicely.... well I'm just glad they were wearing helmets. One of us actually fell straight to the ground. Thankfully she is okay. The most upsetting part of the whole accident was that no one's camera was rolling to capture the moment. Some journalists we are.
I went second to last, so I had plenty of time to get all caught up in my own head and overthink every step we had to take to ensure our safety. My nerves almost got the best of me as I stood on the platform mentally preparing myself for my big jump, but I refused to let them win. I mean how many times in your life do you have the opportunity to fly through the rainforest? All it took was a leap of faith (and maybe a little prayer or two). It was a liberating feeling.
My time at Binna Burra taught me to appreciate the little things in life: the sense of pride after accomplishing something you didn't think you could do. The release of a good laugh after someone misses a step and falls down. The bond made in late night conversions when all you should be doing is sleeping. The crackle of the fireplace as the warmth of a cup of hot chocolate makes everything okay. The intensity of a game of Werewolf with new friends. The experience of a lifetime that seems to have flown by in an instant.