Old Habits Stick With You

Growing up, I’ve always been amazed and curious about bugs, critters and little woodland creatures alike. The weirder looking, the better.

For example, as a kid I had a (probably unhealthy) fascination with frogs. I memorized everything about the frog species in my small, rural hometown area of Quebec. You name it, I knew it. I’m talking tree frogs, green frogs, toads and more; I learned their breeding patterns and how to discern males from females.

This amphibian obsession actually prompted me to start collecting them. I’d hitch these containers together on wheels and drag what was beginning to look like a frog ecosystem around my yard. At 12 years old, I was literally breeding frogs and collecting odd insects.

Skipping ahead to the present day, my fascination is still alive and well, but the city life of Montreal doesn’t offer much to feed my curiosity. Trips to the countryside have become an absolute necessity.

Going on this trip to Thailand, I was warned by all my friends and family not to touch anything potentially dangerous, since I’m the type of person that would let a stray dog lick the inside of my mouth. (This exact scenario actually did happen to me in a Mexican hostel. Don’t ask.)

But on a hike the Outpost team took today, I finally got my wish.

We’re hiking through a dense, quick jungle trail to a Buddhist monastery, Wat Pha Lat. The route to this mid-sized temple complex is surprisingly quiet, since it’s literally in the hills overlooking the huge city of Chiang Mai. We read that the monks who live and worship at Wat Pha Lat carved the path themselves in the 1930s, and it isn’t very well known to the public.

Of course we still saw a few tourists on the trail, but that wasn’t the most exciting part. Not for me. While I was suppressingĀ the urge to touch everything, and everyone on the Outpost crew was well aware of my critter-touching detox situation, we were maybe 20 minutes in when our camera operator shouted, “Girls! Come here, slowly.”

jungle insects chiang mai

Jess and her new pal, the stick bug. (Outpost / Michael Fraiman)

There, on the ground, barely visible beside a patch of tall grass, was an enormous stick bug (or, as Siri just informed me, a breed of Phasmida).

My eyes immediately lit up. “Can we touch it?”

“Yeah, just be gentle,” the camera operator replied.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so eager to kneel in the mud as I was in that moment.

The crew instantly began snapping pictures and shooting video, and I finally got to touch a wicked, rare bug that wouldn’t kill me. I posed with my new friends for as long as I could hold him, until finally we had to set him back down and continue on our journey.

Dreams came true that day, and I named that stick bug Toby.

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