Today I realized I have an obsession. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Galapagos. My recent addition to using twitter isn’t helping things. I love reading every news story remotely relating to it, minus some sap promoting their tourist agency.
Looking back I realize I never have written why I love the Galapagos so much. I remember when I first went there, an eventual friend Lauren, who was making her second voyage, emphatically would tell people “me encanta Galapagos” to litterally anyone who walked by which always resulted in marriage proposals as a solution to how she could stay forever. I attributed it to not traveling enough and being young, but now I have the same urge…I literally want to go up to people and tell them I love Galapagos. The problem is that I do it in the US, so I don’t get any marriage proposals, just inquisitions into why I am not normal and dont want traditional things, along with a realization that its not good to relate every conversation back to something that happened while I was in Galapagos.
What happened to me? I have been all over the world. I like gritty backpacking. It makes me feel that any minute is an adventure. I long ago concluded that if I had a gun held to my head and was kidnapped and eventually died while overseas, this was probably the best way to go and worth all the risk because I was doing what I loved. So why do I have such an obsession with a pristine place? a tourist mecca? a place where its totally optional to know the native language?
As a local once told me in error “Galapagos means enchanted and todo es posible aqui.” Galapagos actually means saddleback, which is far less romantic, so I still like to think of it with the wrong defintion. I came to Galapagos on a whim because I found a cheap way to go, through volunteering, and I figured I would never be as close and it would never be as cheap to get to again. It hasn’t been and yet I still go (and I guess when you consider I have seen more animals than most see on any cruise without ever being at sea for more than a day or paying more than $100 it has been). But I don’t love it for the animals, I love it because of the culture and people.
It is still a small place where everyone basically knows everyone and yet its not nearly as catty as most. There is still a great sence of family, although the divorce rate is through the ceiling. What I mean by family isn’t a mom, dad and kids. Its that your kids can run around the neighborhood and everyone has an eye on them and you talk to your neighbors. Its the attitude that everything is possible and that you have a support network. The people of Galapagos make me laugh and rearrange my priorities. They make me realize school intelligence isn’t everything and a job is just a job when the lighter for the stove goes missing and they magiver lighting a piece of paper on fire and then remark “inteligente ecuadoriano”, something I would have never thought to do.
I spent an entire month there realizing that all my computer and math knowledge was of no good when people dont understand the difference between facebook and email and don’t care to learn. I constantly felt stupid, as I would struggle to machette without getting stabbed with thorns or almost get kicked in the head by walking on the wrong side of a horse or cook without a cookbook. I would stare in awe as an entire family would each place one ingredient to make a stew blindly and in perfect unison and ask me how to make their kids bilingual and I would try and explain but realize they didn’t even understand how kids learned to talk to remotely understand what I was saying.
For me Galapagos makes the panic go away. I was always a nervous being but now I just mentally picture the sea and realize there is nothing to worry about when I start to feel overwhelmed. Its scenary is not what I imagined. I literally knew nothing when I got there and feel that sadly this is all to common. People picture a tropical place when they think of exotic things and want to go to places that are tourist destinations without fully understanding the place itself. Galapagos appears more like the desert combined with iceland than anything else to me. I love how different it looks. The weather isn’t perfect, especially if you forget you aren’t a latina and don’t wear sunscreen, but its beautiful. Its even beautiful at night when I see so many stars that I don’t even recognize the constellations that are common for me and my friends look on in irritation because they have had the stars their entire life and don’t understand how special this is. Each island is different, reflecting the differences in ages of the islands. I like to think of San Cristobal, my favorite island, as a well aged wine, and isabela as a young teenage beach week, still smoking and figuring out the world.
Maybe I’ll never fully understand my love. Maybe it just fell at the right time in my life or maybe I would have always fallen in love with the enchanted island. All I know is now its the only place that has ever felt like a second home to me. The good news is despite initially feeling some dumb, I realize how I can help. Galapagos is a place where you are super aware of the impact of everything you do. When I visit there I always think of this and with that reflection, I use my knowledge from seeing all of the world to help locals learn different sustainable ways. Yes sometimes they look at me like I am crazy but sometimes, like when I tell them how to make yogurt rather than buy it, they are happy that I came.