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Six-figure-salary banker’s happier being a jungle hippy

Rewarding: Alex Cain and his partner Emmi Ekegren in their jungle community in Central America

A CITY banker has traded in his six-figure-salary career for a more ‘simple life’ in a jungle hippy commune.

Alex Cain, 30, turned his back on banking and a comfortable life earning £10,000 a month to set up the hippy commune in Nicaragua.

Now he aims to grow the hilltop healing community — called Colina de la Luna or Hill of the Moon — where 14 people live without clean running water, electricity, permanent housing or roads.

Hippy family: Alex (right) at Colina de la Luna with fellow inhabitants

Alex, originally from Bexley, south east London, said he would not have it any other way, despite the hardships of living off the land.

People sleep in a collection of tents and hammocks or an ‘indigenous hut’ called a ‘cabaña’ made from upcycled pallets and a corrugated metal roof, supported by fallen trees at its corners.

The jungle settlement also has a 30ft open-sided cabaña used as a communal area and they cook on open fires or with gas canisters they fill up at the local town.

With no clean water supply, Alex drives to the town weekly to fetch 1,100 litres which is pumped up 60 metres to the hill top.

Alex said: ‘At Colina de la Luna, we are a family — we grow together and anybody is welcome.

‘It’s a space for people to be free with no judgment, no rules and no pressure but with respect, love and complete honesty.

‘There’s no noise or light pollution and no distractions and it’s a time to really reconnect with yourself and nature.

‘We grow avocado, oranges, papaya, tomatoes, watermelon and then we also have banana and coconut trees.

‘Everything is very young at the moment but it is all in the ground waiting to be matured.’

Fulfilment: Alex turned his back on banking to go and live a simpler life, helping others PICTURES: SWNS

Before he ended up in South America, Alex struggled with what he wanted from life, having left school to join Bank of Nova Scotia, then HSBC and the Bank of America.

But doubts surfaced when he quit his job at the Bank of America to travel the world aged 21.

He explained: ‘I didn’t go to university and I didn’t’ even finish my A levels — I left at 17 and went straight into banking.

‘I was working for a small cap brokerage firm selling penny stocks on the high-risk AIM market, making loads of money for me and none for the clients — Wolf Of Wall Street stuff.

‘But I left the banking brokering world to travel the world — for a year at first.’

Back in the boardroom: Alex’s duties are slightly different from those he was expected to do as a broker

In his first round-the-world trip, Alex travelled to America, New Zealand, Australia, south east Asia, India and Fiji.

He added: ‘Fiji was the one place that gave me the slap in the face and I realised there was something not quite right in my life.

‘I was befriended by a local family and invited to their village.

‘I saw kids playing with sticks in a puddle, so happy and with so little and it was at that moment I realised something was missing in my life.

‘I “had everything” and yet wasn’t content. They had “nothing” and were far happier than anyone I had ever seen in real life.’

When he returned to London to work in the City, Alex felt depressed and after two years he set off to travel again but this time with a purpose.

He said: ‘When I came home, I was lucky to fall straight back into work but it felt wrong.

‘I felt depressed when I got back to London. For a good three or four months I was very sad to be back and all I could think about was getting back out into the world.

Life’s a beach: The inhabitants take a rest break

‘I was recruited by an old supervisor to sell land which I did for a few months, then quit due to the negative feelings it was stirring in me.

‘I went to temp at Bromley Council and after a few months I got an in from an old colleague at the Bank of America.

‘I felt uncomfortable with the lifestyle I was born into — it was full of greed and a desire to possess things.

‘After living such a privileged life I decided to start giving back.’

Alex spent three months teaching at an American summer camp in Pennsylvania before making his way towards South America where he planned to explore the continent.

But he did not get further than Mexico where he stayed for seven months, worked with orphaned and vulnerable children and met Emmi Ekegren, 30, a former social worker from Finland.

He said: ‘I got as far as Mexico and found this Casa de los Angeles for orphans and children with single mums who do not have a place for their children.

Work-life balance: Alex enjoys life off-grid in the Nicaraguan wilderness

‘It was just the most rewarding thing I have done in my life and I met Emmi who is my partner now.’

Returning to London, the former banker quickly bagged himself a job at a brokerage firm where he was earning up to £10,000 per month.

But after three weeks of training and two sleepless nights, he threw in the towel three days into his new role.

Alex said: ‘When I came back, the brokering was a job for comfort, I went there for conditioning.

‘But I really struggled and after two nights of insomnia, due to the negative feelings while trying to persuade people to let us manage their accounts, I left.

‘I called my dad and I said, “I need to quit this job” and he said, “Fine but as long as you know you’re on your own”.’

Alex worked at Pizza Express while studying to be a masseur, saving up money for the commune near San Juan del Sur, a small surf town on the west coast of Nicaragua, 25 miles from the Costa Rica border.

Meanwhile, Emmi returned to Finland and was preparing to move to England.

Now in Nicaragua, the couple have launched their own charity, Aiding the Cessation of Suffering, which aims to improve access to food and clean water, clothing, housing, employment and education in the local community.

Local expats, business owners and homeowners have pulled their resources together to help fund the project which aims to develop vital local amenities such as wells and ‘proper buildings’ for residents.

Residents at Colina de la Luna also donate ten per cent of finances from their communal money pot to the charity which has been used to buy water filters.

Alex said: ‘We are also in the process of building some toilets as many locals have overflowing pit toilets and it causes sickness.

‘A lot of them are forced to use overflowing latrines which run into rivers and contaminate the water which people then drink from.

‘We are really small at the moment but we are helping.

‘Education is the main objective and that takes the most funding, but we are hoping in the future we can really make an impact here.’