One of our close couple friends has a very simple life motto that they adopted long ago when relocating to a new city for work…“Just say ‘yes!’”. They agreed that their best chance to live life most fully and embrace the opportunity around them was to dive in head first into as many opportunities as they can, and they’ve never looked back. This approach has always been resonant for Justin and me as well, and we hold strongly to the belief that life’s greatest adventures come when you don’t think about things too much, but revel in spontaneous opportunity when possible.
For years now, my Mom and I have bantered back and forth about how much fun it would be to take a hiking trip together. We had done a week-long hiking adventure in Ireland after I graduated from college and had the time of our lives, and almost 20 years later, hiking has remained one of our favorite activities.
While raising our babies over the past decade though, I had a hard time imagining leaving them for more than a few days or maybe, just maybe, close to a week. In fact I had only done it once – for a trip with Justin to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary.
About a year ago, my Mom and I were daydreaming together out-loud about how fun it would be to plan another hiking trip with just the two of us. This conversation had been popping up for months, and finally Justin demanded that we “stop talking about it, and just book the trip.” He insisted that our time together is and will continue to be precious, that there would never be a “perfect time”, and that we should just book and he would figure out things on the homefront. (You can probably imagine what this might look like, but that’s a story for a different day). Within a few short months, my Mom and I had zeroed in on a once-in-a-lifetime hiking trip to Ecuador, a country that neither of us had been to but was on our “bucket lists.” Before we knew it, we had booked the trip and marked our calendars for October 2018.
We all know how fast life moves when you’re in the “busy season” of life, and our trip was here before I knew it. After a whole lot of logistics coordinating, preparing, and finaling packing, we were on our way to Quito, Ecuador to meet a group of active-sport enthusiasts that we would be exploring the country with for the next 11 days. 11 DAYS.
We spent the first night and Quito and gathered the next morning with our group of 20 (including our two guides), boarding a plane for the Galapagos Islands for the first stop on our journey to the three distinct regions of the country (beaches/islands, Andes mountains, and Amazon River/Rainforest). The Galapagos chain consists of 13 major islands and numerous small islands and islets, all of volcanic origin, and is world-famous for the bounty of unique and friendly wildlife.
After a series of water transfers and a bus ride into the heart of Santa Cruz Island, we found ourselves in the most remarkable pastureland that, once dotted with grazing cattle, formed a secluded private reserve where many of the island’s most notable residents – giant tortoises – now spend their days. Grazing on the foliage and wallowing in the ponds and mud baths, these gorgeous creatures were barely bothered as we walked among them, mesmerized by their size and their incredible docility. It became immediately very clear that we had been transported to a truly magical place.
Over the next few days, we learned about the rich animal life on Galapagos, and were able to witness first-hand the relaxed nature of all of its inhabitants. Because these animals are protected and have never been hunted or threatened, they do not live in fear of humans, but merely sit and carry on with their daily activities, barely noticing you are there. Taking nature hikes on North Seymour Island with our Naturalist Guides (required because Galapagos is a National Park), which we reached by yacht, we observed blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, pelicans, nesting frigate birds with six-foot wingspans, pelicans, and marine and land iguanas. Exploring the pristine white-sand lagoon of Santa Fe Island, we were anxiously greeted by barking male sea lions, while some females and week-old pups gathered near us for a closer look. You really can’t make this stuff up, and we felt as though we were the lucky onlookers to a world so far from our understanding and comprehension.
On two different days, our group also had the opportunity to be in the water with some of the marvelous wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. During our snorkeling trips, we swam alongside white-tipped reef sharks, three-foot-long parrotfish, rays, giant sea turtles, and even sea lions, “playing” with us in the water and zipping by at light speed. It was a thrill unlike anything I could have ever imagined, having the opportunity to get so close to these animals in their native environment and feeling so safe next to them. During one kayak trip with my Mom, I jumped into the bay with my snorkel mask on from the kayak, only to encounter a ray with a five-foot wingspan, flapping its wings in the water directly next to me. Surprised and a bit frightened, I instinctually jumped out of the water and back into the kayak, my Mom and I laughing our heads off at my surprise. It was a moment I will never, ever forget.
Our four days in the Galapagos Islands afforded us experiences beyond our wildest dreams. In countless memorable moments of this once-in-a-lifetime adventure, I was overjoyed that my Mom and I had “just said yes,” and carved out the time for this rich experience together. Day after day, moment after moment, we had such joy in our eyes as we recounted the plethora of experiences we had together in this magical place. When the time came to depart Finch Bay for the next leg of our journey, we knew that the memories of our adventure would never leave us and that there were still so many more in store as we continued on.