The Youthful Adventurer and I hadn’t even boarded the first plane on our journey to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador when I began to wonder whether I was heading to a tourist trap populated by visitors from the tri-state area. In line to go through security, we’d been just ahead of a rude, impatient, obnoxious young professional frustrated that we, that anyone, that everyone was in front of him. He had first-class tickets! Everyone in the queue quickly learned of both his status and his temperament. I cast a shit-eating grin his way when he was stopped by Homeland Security for carrying too many wires in his computer case. Karma acted quickly that time, but I couldn’t help but wonder, were we headed to a place full of our own kind?
I know several Ecuadorians living here in New York; would a trip to the Galapagos Islands feature a horde of brash tourists from the American Northeast? It was a valid concern. Years ago, we visited Puerto Rico at New Year’s at a moment when most of our neighbors from the Upper East Side seemed to be there. More than 150,000 people head to Galapagos every year, and I wondered how many would be embarking on their journey from their local airport, JFK.
Flying on the second plane of our trip, from Guayaquil to San Cristobal, we are hardly comforted. A type-A New York lawyer is seated directly behind us, he’s on his honeymoon, and he’s complaining. He whines about being seated in the middle, how he has told his assistant never to book him in the center of the row. I wonder whether his marriage will survive the trip. I wonder whether I will survive my own flight with him seated, in the middle, behind me.
Then we get there. At the outset, I worry like the honeymooning New Yorker does, not about my seat assignment but about the state of my life. I worry that the trip will not be as inexpensive as I need it to be, that I won’t be able to pay the departure tax, that I will be unable to get my car out of the parking lot at JFK, that payments won’t be made, that my phone will be turned off. If I see something, I worry about it.
But then I sit while we wait for our ship. A sea lion sleeps on the dock between us and our boat; I’m the one who will have to step aside. I am almost immediately transformed. My suitcase is almost dropped into the water as it is being transferred from dinghy to ship; I am not even fazed by its dampness. We circle Kicker Rock in a Zodiac. Bills and work and surly tourists already seem very far away.
By Wednesday or so, my normal routine has been broken. It feels like all I have been doing forever is getting up, hiking, lunching, resting, snorkeling/biking/swimming, dining, lying on the sun deck, and watching the moon. All worries, cares, concerns have been left behind.
© Lori Tripoli