Galapagos Part 2: The Small Significant Details
Swim trips are unique, in that you awkwardly meet a group of complete strangers in the airport when you arrive, then less than 24 hours later you’ve all seen each other soaking wet and mostly naked, but you still can’t keep everyone’s names straight.
It’s a bit of a conundrum.
I’m an introvert by nature, but I do a good fake extrovert on these trips. Once home, many of the kind people I’ve met keep up correspondence on WhatsApp or email, but I stay silent at first, just recharging and processing my experience. It’s simply a form of self-preservation.
Swimmers are the best people. I’ve found some of my closest friends in the process of finding water and getting in. We’ve all heard: “You guys are crazy!” from passersby on a winter beach. There’s something about understanding the literal call into the sea, the joy of sharing a sport slightly out of the ordinary, and the camaraderie of not only surviving but thriving in a hostile environment. If only we had gills!
There’s also an incredible connection through shared vulnerability. At the end of our very first swim, sealions came and swam with us, wanting to engage, spinning and diving gracefully all around our awkwardly submerged bodies.
Nothing checks your swim ego like a sealion.
A kind woman I’d just met, Margaret, picked her head up and admitted, “OK you guys, I’m going to start crying, just warning you.”
I laughed and joined in, then thanked her for sharing. She was so brave! Vulnerability is a soul muscle I’m working to build.
“How were the people on your trip?” It’s the question everyone asks. On our week there wasn’t a single asshole in the group (which makes me wonder: maybe it was me…?). I’m continually amazed how close 14 strangers can become in seven days.
I strongly believe the magic is in the small details you end up sharing:
- slathering sunscreen in the hard-to-reach places
- seeing the same cool fish at the same time, which no one else saw
- sneaking a third package of vanilla Oreos (vanilla! who knew?)
- taking Dramamine and throwing up on a boat together
- listening to the song of a cactus finch
- sleeping on the dirty carpet in the Quito airport on the way home (VIP Lounge!)
I could go on and on. But one evening stands out.
After watching randy tortoises do their part to keep the breeding program successful (they’re very slow, so you have to say rrrrraaaaaannnnndddddyyyy), we ended up at a beach bar with the sun setting off Isabela Island.
Nothing tastes better than a cheap cold beer after a salty day in the water. Can I get an amen?
Three local brothers were leaping and twisting on a slack line just for fun, the light on the waves fading to gold, bottles clinking to loud “Salud!” toasts and laughter.
We were exhilarated, exhausted, sandy, sweaty, and experiencing a best-day moment, all of us, all together. A split second of shared timelessness that would never repeat.
And I could almost remember everyone’s name.
–TJ Wiley Forsyth