…and tripping over roots. Life is all around us, constantly filling any silence with diverse sounds and displaying vivid colors to catch our eye. The plants and animals that make up this world can be breathed in, seen, felt, and heard when one knows where and how to do so. Guyana’s biodiversity is overwhelming, it is beautiful, and it is also a challenge. When I first experienced this country’s incredible ecosystem, my senses were overflowing and there was so much to take in.
The rare sightings and frequent sounds of birds always seemed to take priority during our time in Guyana. The country’s nearly-pristine rainforest is the perfect place to take in the surroundings and listen to various tropical bird species. The dense foliage provided difficult opportunities to find birds through my binoculars, yet their songs and calls seemingly begged for my eyes to remain searching upward towards the canopy. And that’s where they remained, until we went on transect lines to search for mammal tracks in the soft earth — this is where the challenge was for me! As we walked through the forest, I felt like a bobble-head, looking up to follow birds and glancing down to prevent myself from tripping over tree roots. Each time we spotted new and captivating tracks, I had to consciously keep my eyes down and prevent my ears from drifting back to the ongoing sounds of avian life (sorry, Matt).
Learning to explore wildlife and the world from every angle was a core theme — and apparently, challenge — that stuck with me throughout this Earth Expedition, and it is something I still think about to this day (when my attention is not focused on birds). While I would consider myself an observant person with solid awareness, there is always room for growth when exploring the unknown areas of the world.
…and be in it, live in it fully, cherish it, drink it in. Being able to take a step back from the “norms” of work, technology, priorities, to-do lists, and social lives takes practice and mental strength; Baja, Mexico provided many amazing opportunities for us to try and let go, relax, and be in the “now”. From starry night skies we experienced from the comfort of canvas cots, to the playful sea life that raced our boats and brought us to joyful tears, it was very difficult to not be in the moment.
One impactful moment for me was when we sat in a circle on the final day and shared terms, thoughts, quotes, stories, and memories of our experiences with the natural world. Even after knowing each other for eight or nine long days in the Baja peninsula, I had never felt more connected to each of my peers and instructors, not just as friends, but as a cohesive, familial unit.
Learning how to appreciate the moments and live in them fully is oftentimes accompanied by one’s ability to exceed beyond the limits of their comfort zone. During our first group discussion, we talked about the three zones embedded in our personal experiences: the comfort zone (eating a grilled cheese in your home), the risk zone (eating foreign foods of a different culture), and the danger zone (eating sharp, inedible objects). We were each encouraged to take advantage of our time in Baja and wander to the risk area of our comfort zones. For me, the risk zone was experienced throughout the trip: surrendering the use of our phones while in Baja, opening up to my peers, giving presentations to the rest of the group, and swimming with whale sharks (I have yet to encounter a greater, more thrilling moment…).
Overall, this first Earth Expedition trip to Baja was extremely rewarding, challenging, and full of memorable experiences. I have been able to apply some of the life lessons gained from Baja in my daily life at home, and hope to continue embracing the “now” and stretching the limits of my own comfort zone.
“Tienes que estar donde tus pies están.”