My Reflections on Island Life
It’s been exactly 60 days since I set foot on a flight from Chicago to Quito, Ecuador. 58 days since arriving in San Cristóbal Island. If you’ve ever been on a flight toward an unfamiliar country, you’ll know the feeling of butterflies right before you step off the plane. That feeling is equal parts excitement and queasiness, you’re eager to get off and simultaneously nervous for what you’ll find. While landing in San Cristóbal, I vividly recall the absolute awe and terror that rippled throughout my body while I watched our plane near a land mass surrounded by never-ending stretches of ocean water. The island seemed big and overwhelming back then. With the passing of time, the island started feeling smaller and smaller.
Island time is so strange. Days are slow–people are not in a rush–schedules are resisted formalities. Months are lightning speed fast, 3 weeks go by in a blink. Before you know it, you’ve only got a month and a half left in the Galápagos. Time flies when it’s well spent.
Some days are full of round-the-clock adventure. Other days, I’m napping in a hammock, recovering from the week’s activities. Today, I only interrupted my hammock nap to buy a scoop of pistachio ice cream at the pier. While my life here sounds permanently blissful, I will admit some days I feel like Tom Hanks in Cast Away.
I LOVE all of the places and things I’ve been able to see. I’ve learned so much in my short amount of time here. Hiking San Cristóbal is beautiful, swimming with sharks and manta rays is awesome, lying on a beach blanket next to a sea lion is unforgettable! But I won’t be the first or last person to admit that living on a small, remote island, can sometimes feel really isolating. Living in an archipelago is fun, except for when you desperately long to connect with your loved ones back home and you can’t find the wifi signal to call them. Or when you’re in need of a material “necessity” and you’ll NEVER find it in a shop on the island. You’ll realize that collectively, it’s the little things that make a place feel like home.
Living on a remote island that is isolated from a continent, with a bigger population and diversity of people/places/things, really amplifies homesickness. However, I came to the Galapagos with full intentions to make myself uncomfortable and challenge myself to experience life wildly differently–I definitely have. My program has fostered friendships and given me a more intimate connection to our planet. I can confidently say the Galápagos has changed me.
My point is: living on an island can often feel like paradise, but you have to keep yourself active and moving so you don’t reach Wilson volleyball desperation. If you want to study abroad in the Galápagos, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You will make the best of your time here when you step outside your comfort zone. Embrace the isolation and keep an open mind.
Take the leap!