Spring Break in the GalápagosGalapagos, Spring 2013
A lot of people go to tropical islands for spring break. They spend a week relaxing on the beach, treading the fine line between 1st and 2nd degree burns and drinking out of coconuts, and then begrudgingly climb back onto the plane and fly North to drearier, slushier lands. They complain and drag their heels, but they always go. When they ask aloud, “Can’t we stay forever?” even the youngest travelers don’t expect an answer because they know they have to go and that’s just the way it is. All spring breaks must come to an end.
I know the laws of spring break, too, and so I became slightly unnerved when ours seem to be continuing on indefinitely. The week of vacation consisted of an all-inclusive “Island-Hopping” tour, an exploration of Santa Cruz, Bartolomé, and Isabela. Every meal, tour, and hotel was booked and planned for us. Guides took us to the best snorkeling spots and the most picturesque beaches. We jumped off 40-ft cliffs and swam with 4-ft long white-tipped reef sharks, hiked around the rims of volcanoes and through lava tunnels. The sun shone constantly and all was calm in the island chain.
The week came to an end, as weeks were made to do, and that’s when we should’ve packed up our suitcases and gotten on a plane home, bemoaning the gray skies of our immediate future. Instead, we took a boat back to San Cristóbal and settled down for a weekend on the beach. Yes, we would have three hours of class a day starting Monday, but you could hardly call that getting back to the grind.
I’d somehow cheated the system, and this was slightly unsettling. Surely one can’t go on living in a perpetual spring break! It then occurred to me how funny it was that I was bothered by my life being too relaxing, and how this strange need for stress was very much a reflection of my American upbringing. Growing up in the U.S. has taught me that I’m supposed to work myself into the ground in order to be successful, and now I’m left with this idea that if I’m not constantly sleep-deprived and scrambling to meet some deadline then I’m wasting my time. I’ve almost forgotten how to function without stress as a driving force.
But the islands make me consider that life doesn’t need to be centered around stress and competition and overworking. Every day that I spend with my host family I’m reminded that there are other ways to live. They go about their lives with much less urgency and they smile more than any people I’ve ever met. I hope I’ll remember them when I’m back in the states, stressed over some deadline, and remember to take a break and take a breath, because there’s more to life than work.
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