San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands | October 23, 2015 | 2:32pm
It's my second-to-last last day in the Galápagos Islands. For the past 10 days, I have been living a dream - snorkeling with sea turtles, scuba diving with sharks, speaking Spanish with the locals, soaking in the hot equatorial sun, and marveling at the abundance of life here - sea lions, marine iguanas, pelicans, finches, blue footed boobies, and of course the iconic, pre-historic-looking giant tortoises.
But a week and a half ago, I was standing in a field, surrounded by the rich golden hues of fall, in central North Carolina. Next to me stood my best friends, Beth and Gia, radiating happiness in their elegant white dresses. The wedding was perfect. As we drank and danced the night away, I felt an overflowing sense of gratitude to be so close to them.
The next morning, I boarded a flight to Ecuador.
As I sit on the sharp, slippery lava rock on Carola Beach (Playa Punta Carola) watching sea lions pop in and out of the water, I feel very far away from my life in North Carolina. The 2,661 miles of physical distance is one thing. The mind space is another thing entirely.
In the days leading up to this trip, I felt like I was living a double life. While friends came in from out of town and debated where to go for happy hour, I arranged skype calls with colleagues in Ecuador. The guys in the wedding went to pick up their suits. I went to pick up a water-resistant jacket emblazoned with the words Galápagos Expedition 2015. I woke up extra early on the morning of the wedding to finish packing my giant duffle bag and double-check my camera gear before running out the door to buy coffee for Beth.
Everything happened all at once. But at least I made it to the wedding. I missed the engagement party because I was working in Chile. I missed Gia's bachelorette party because I was filming a documentary in the Canadian Rockies. Photojournalists, as a general rule, are not the best at making it to social engagements. Our calendars tend to fill up with events happening in other parts of the state, country, and the world.
Six days ago, I cruised into the Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on a sport fishing boat with Steve Walsh, co-director of the Galápagos Science Center. He casually mentioned his need for a full-time communications person on the island. He chuckled and asked if I would consider taking a job down here.
Of course I would. But what would that look like? Snorkeling and scuba diving every day. Watching the sunrise from Puerto Chino (the east side of the island), and watching it set from this spot on Carola. I could practice my Spanish on a daily basis, and read and write, and go running on the beach... and miss out on whatever was happening back in North Carolina. I would definitely miss some weddings.
But that would be okay. I think my friends would understand.
As for the job offer, it wasn't really an offer - just a thought. The small research center would have to find funding before adding another full-time position. But it's a fun thing to think about - island life indefinitely. Could I do it? I like to think so.
When I get home, things happen very quickly. I go straight from the airport to my office and stop in just long enough to debrief with my boss. I drop my bags at my house, but with no time to unpack, I simply transfer my essentials (camera, toiletries, cell phone, wallet) into another bag that I packed before I left. Two hours after I get home from Ecuador, I leave again - tossing my fresh travel bag into the back of Sage's Subaru. We drive to Georgia to pick up my brother and then continue onto Florida to attend a music festival over Halloween weekend. We see my favorite band play. Four days after I get home from that trip, my best friends visit from California. We go see my favorite band play again. I feel like I haven't slept in a long time.
Everything happens all at once, all the time. I guess I prefer it that way.