the world is my museum

As someone who is highly prone to motion sickness, I am very concerned.

In three days, my father-in-law, husband, and I are going to be leaving for a ten-day trip to the Galapagos; seven of those days we will be on a boat, and a relatively small boat, at that. Judging from the website, it’s going to be a very nice boat, but it’s no Carnival cruise ship. I will feel the waves.

More important than the fear of spending my time on board hanging over the side, though, is the excitement of what we’re going to see. Since the time in elementary school when I did a report on the Galapagos (way back when kids did reports using things like “encyclopedias” and “library books”), I have been intrigued by this tiny chain of islands 600 miles off Ecuador’s west coast.

For most people, the Galapagos aound familiar for three reasons: finches, giant tortoises, and Charles Darwin. I’m sure I’d be able to expound on all three of these things in a much more intelligent and fact-filled way after the trip, but you know that theory of evolution? That happened there. A lot.

Museums like to present timelines of stuff. As humans, we connect to the past by relating it to our present, and imagining our future. It’s fun to look back and see how things have changed, even if it’s a little scary to see how quickly this can sometimes happen. As it is, I had to explain a clothesline to my son yesterday. He did know what I was talking about, but referred to it as “old-timey”. And did you know that phones used to have cords? Like, attached to them? Weird.

We’ve all seen those little drawings depicting man ascending from apes (sorry, Rick Santorum). We’ve also been to museums and have seen rows of objects, be they dinosaur and chicken skeletons or Barbie dolls, aircraft or artworks. Humans, I think, understand change when you can see it.

What has already amazed me through the scant research and preparation I have done (the extent of my packing currently includes Keen sandals and SPF 50) is being able to see, in present condition, how organisms have changed. Distinct populations of animals live on each island, and have adapted certain characteristics to ensure their survival in that particular niche. Beak shape, hunting tactics, shell form, ability to swim and feed in salt water…the birds and reptiles of the Galapagos are remarkable survivalists, succeeding where few humans before them have.

While we may not be able to see the entire timeline before our eyes, knowing the history of the islands and understanding why something appears the way it does is fascinating. Seeing the plants and the vegetation and knowing how intimately connected they are…we can see it anywhere we look, as all organisms are masters of adaptation, but the backdrop for this lesson is a bit more exotic (though no less dangerous) than watching the house finches at our backyard bird feeder.

Bookending our cruise will be days spent in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. We’ve been trying to decide what sights we’ll see in the city, and since we’ll gt a lot of nature out on the boat, we’ve been focusing our research, of course, on museums.

I’m kind of ashamed to admit it (and hopefully this doesn’t diminish my credibility) but we’re going here. And while I could blame the quest to get (as the website calls it) “that photo” of ourselves straddling the Equator on my GPS-obsessed male travelling companions, I’m pretty sure I’m the one who brought it up first. Can I help it that, in addition to being a well-educated, culturally-aware citizen, I’m still a tourist?

It’s been a while since I’ve travelled internationally, and each time has been an adventure. My first trip out of the country was to the Dominican Republic, where we spent a week on a desert island. Our accommodations were slightly less luxurious but offered more scorpions, cactus, and mosquitoes. We explored Santo Domingo as well, visiting churches, ZooDOM, the national botanical gardens, the Acquario Nacional, and several historical sites. OK, I admit. We did also go here. It wasn’t all completely cultural.

Our 2005 trip to Italy was equally stunning, though being seven months pregnant (and as big as a car) made for an interesting experience, and with far less wine than originally planned for. The time we spent in Venice was surreal; I don’t normally find myself in places so postcard-worthy. It’s exhausting, spending so many hours stumbling around in discovery mode, amazed and enchanted by everything.

And so while I am blessed to live a life that allows me to travel every so often, to see the world as my museum, I am also thankful that each of those experiences has changed me. I’d like to think they’ve made me wiser, they’ve shaped my own timeline and my own evolution, but at the very least, they have opened my eyes to see something new.

1 thought on “the world is my museum

  1. Emily: As I was reviewing my emails this morning I was reminded that I hadn’t checked out your site for awhile. I chuckled to read about your upcoming trip to the Galapagos, especially since I have enjoyed your travelogue with accompanying fabulous photographs made it more fun to muse about the past post.

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