The Galapagos and “finding the words”

I want to write about the way I was M O V E D by the Galapagos.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever lose that AWE that I have for traveling, if places will start failing to impress me somehow… and maybe that sounds like a silly concern but it’s crossed my mind even though it’s never happened. I was moved in a new way, in a way that felt different yet familiar, in a way that has still left me coming up short at expressing the trip since I’ve returned. My first few days worth of reactions looked like me crying as I told friends how amazing it was. Then, that familiar feeling I get where I try to explain my travels or experiences and I’m unsure how much people want to hear because there always comes a point where I get glazed over looks… usually… people can only hear so much of something they cannot comprehend. “It sounds AMAZING”, they’d say! But you cannot explain it.

How do you explain being surrounded by HUNDREDS of schooling hammerhead sharks? What it’s like as the current rips past you at 3 knots and you’re holding onto rocks and army crawling across the bottom until you find a safe boulder to hide behind, out of the currents grip, just to await a theater styled view of predator sharks coming up from the deep? How do you explain the feeling you get when you look into their eyes as they come within a meter’s reach just to realize you aren’t what they’re looking for? Because I still haven’t found a way to express the way it made me feel even though my primary expression was squealing joy through my regulator. How do you express being humbled by your place in an eco-system and what it’s like to stare into the eyes of something that’s evolutionarily perfect, that hasn’t had to evolve for as long as we’ve known them to exist?

How?

How do I explain what it’s like to hang my feet over the side of the boat while we’re underway and that it’s my favorite place to be onboard? There’s something about dangling your feet while the salty spray mists up at you, with your favorite music in your ears and the sun beating down. That FEELING had almost lost me and I was E M O T I O N A L about it all. Sometimes the grief of a remembrance can be haunting even when it feels so comfortable.

How do I explain what it was like DIVING AGAIN after almost 2 years out of the water? Because it was like a coming home… a voyage back to the part of me that is made of salt water, sun kissed skin, and damp dreads that never dry. The part of me that knows as soon as my head sinks below the surface, I am free. Nothing else has ever mattered to me when I’m underwater except what’s right in front of me… I leave the problems of the surface exactly there, on the surface. The ocean gives me the opportunity to energetically cleanse myself and I feel at HOME with the sound of bubbles in my ears. I’ve logged over 3,000 dives and this trip reaffirmed for me that the ocean has only become a bigger part of me after all this time. But how do I explain this to you if you have NO IDEA the world that awaits you under the water? …and the TIME it takes to spend enough time in that element, and to be able to see so many species, and travel so many places that you could potentially see and experience what I have? Because maybe it suddenly dawned on me… the things I’ve seen that are indescribable! Words fall short for feelings because life is meant to be lived and all these moments leave me awe-struck.

How do I explain the way it felt to reconnect with a friend I met scuba diving when I was 15? We felt like we were young again as we explored, laughed and danced underwater and had our MIND BLOWN with pods of dolphins and killer whales? We coined the phrase, “we live here now” and spoke broken Spanish to the crew and did the Macarena sopping wet on the dive deck after one of our favorite dives. I got to remember where I was then and where I am now and the in between became so clear to me for the first time… all these experiences and MOMENTS are always leading me to my current situation with more knowledge, awareness, and instructions for moving forward. I got to sit with the FULLNESS OF MY LIFE on this trip and it was a perspective I needed.

How do I explain the SISTERHOOD of geeking out about diving with my lifelong friend and a new one who joined us? How do I explain what it’s like to share my passion with other women who share the same one? How do I explain those looks of KNOWING that happen underwater, through a mask, without words but that simple KNOWING of understanding… the, “how the fuck is this our lives right now?” Of it all? How do I explain what it’s like to meet and fall for a new human who matches my experience level and enthusiasm for diving? When I’m polyamorous and am already SO IN LOVE with other humans but still have space to love more? How do I share with you that I fell for our dive guide on the trip, that we shared knowing looks as instructors and guides underwater… and that it lead to writing notes and kissing under a deck of stars? That we geeked out over equipment and technical diving and found our similarities while we talked about dive instructor life and travel? That I got to experience a new connection with a person who knows a HUGE part of me intimately, because we have that in common already, and bonding over it was SOUL FOOD for both of us? How do I explain that to you?

And how do I explain the grief that simultaneously accompanied my joy? How do I explain that the day I left, I found out my friend was brutally murdered by police in a hospital while seeking mental health help? Because I actually cannot explain this… but I can tell you I cried the whole time I packed and drove to the airport and got my COVID test… the whole flight and in between… I was that girl you look at in an airport and think, “poor thing! Why is she traveling right now?” But what they don’t know is that my autopilot is movement so even though I don’t remember packing, some things are second nature to me! So, I managed to get myself to Ecuador despite a van breakdown on the way to the airport and an emotional breakdown due to the loss of my friend. I managed to get there even when I doubted that I could because I knew I needed to do what I do best. I knew that my SOP is movement and travel and I knew that my best chance for healing was to go remember what it means to be alive! So, I did that. I did it even though I don’t know how I did. But how do I explain what that was like when it was all a blur, until I arrived a few days later and finally saw my friend’s face, and felt the water move underneath me again as the boat pulled out of the harbor? That was the moment that I started to remember again… that was one of them.

How do I explain that being rocked to sleep on a boat is my favorite? That I was conceived on a sailboat and born in the summer and that my father owned a marina so when I wouldn’t stop crying he’d put me in the boat and take me around the lake and I’d finally settle down? How do I explain that I am water and that I feel more grounded and safe in my body below the surface or in the sky than I do on the ground in this world and this society? How do I explain that to you? You- who maybe knows me, or who thinks they know me?

How do I explain that I have SO MANY PARTS OF ME, and environments and places that I thrive in and feel alive in, but yet… there is no one in my life that has fully witnessed me in all of these environments? How do I explain the beauty yet loss that I feel in that? Maybe I write so much because I want you to FEEL what I feel and experience the pieces of me that light me up! I want to share it with you so you can witness me and feel inspired to find the pieces of you that drive you into joy. I’ve always been driven to joy, not duty. I think it is our duty as humans on this earth to make the most of the experiences we are given, to be the authors of our own lives, and to realize our dreams by showing up in the world knowing that what lights us up is where our gifts are.

How do I explain that there are so many layers I have to process for every experience? That sometimes I need to sit with things for months as I re-live it with new lenses to see the full spectrum of my experience? How do I tell you about the grief that I unpack with every goodbye and the way a place changes you, taking a new piece every time but also breaking you open to new love and possibilities? How do I explain that it takes so much out of me to be fully present that I sometimes need to spend days hiding in my van by the water somewhere, writing like crazy, so that I can find the words to express the how and the WHY of it all? How do I explain this to you?

Do you see what I mean? I’m finding that these experiences, these moments, these journeys, are multilayered. I’m finding the beauty and juiciness in trying to express the way I am MOVED by these places. The Galapagos brought me back to myself, a version of myself that I love, that I’ve missed. It brought me back to community and love, and the joy in sharing your passions with people you value. But mostly, this trip brought me back underwater. It GIFTED me back into the water! And I’m proud that I took the risk and made the commitment to make something happen that’s always been a dream of mine. The Galapagos reminded me of who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. I’m sure you can understand that?

So here’s a reminder… to book the trip. To buy the ticket. To not wait until next year or (insert some subjective timeframe in the unscheduled future)! I reconnected with a friend on the west coast a few weeks ago. He echoed to me a journey he felt he needed to take to Guatemala but he also echoed his doubts, the inconvenience of the timing, and other variables I cannot remember now, but I looked at him and told him to “book the ticket”. I said, “all the details and logistics can be figured out afterwards but just.book.the.ticket” because once you have the date and the ticket, everything else will fall into place. But that’s just me! I’m obviously not much for waiting since I believe in living my life now but I learned a valuable lesson lately in the circumstances of my most recent travel- I was reminded the day that I left, how short life can be when I found of my friend’s tragic death. I was reminded of our impermanence, and I was gifted with the perspective of travel and the strength to get myself there, despite the circumstances.

Diving has always been my first love. I spent 2 years with little scuba diving in my life and I got to finally go do a trip FOR ME! Not for customers, not for my boss, not for work… FOR ME. And I’m still riding the highs of that trip 6 weeks later (as I publish this). I’m still searching for the words in what are only feelings and memories, a mixture of sweet and salty. Physically, I’m in North Carolina. But MENTALLY, I’m still face to face with a Galapagos shark, cheers-ing non alcoholic drinks post dive with my girlfriends, smoking cigarettes in between dives with my scuba lover talking sharks, tech gear, and a shared love of diving. Mentally I’m still dangling my feet over the bow, headphones in my ears, watching dolphins chase the horizon as the boat moves between the islands. The part of me that longs for bare feet, wet bikinis and the hissing sound my scuba tank makes as I turn the tank on… THAT PART of me, is still there. That girl will always be the biggest part of me. That’s what I learned in the Galapagos, THAT’s what I remembered… that I am MANY THINGS, but mostly water.

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