It’s taken me awhile to write about the Galapagos Islands, but it’s also taken much longer than I expected to really absorb my experiences during my nine days in Ecuador. Unlike my travels to other destinations around the world, I can’t say that I simply visited a place when I visited the Galapagos Islands.
Yes, this is one of the most significant, pristine, authentic geographical locations on this earth. Beyond the physical act of stepping foot on the Galapagos Islands, though, spending time there transported me to a different mindset, a new way of processing the way I view the world and the places I’ve chosen to travel.
The world is in a constant state of motion. When I travel, I seek out museums built to commemorate people and events. I drink coffee in local cafes and take photos of interesting architecture that I find. The vast majority of destinations hope to impress travelers with amusements and entertainment, activities to keep people occupied during their visit. Even in those places where natural attractions are a tourist draw, they are constantly in a state of flux as people come and go to admire the landscape.
The passage of time, forward motion of progress and history, buildings and traditions created by days, months and years are what the vast majority of destinations use as their selling points. In the Galapagos Islands, it is the strange juxtaposition of the passage of time without time touching the destination that makes it such an awe-inspiring place. The destination’s natural integrity and the extreme care and passion on behalf of the Ecuadorian people to keep time from violating the Galapagos Islands makes it a place unlike any other in the world.
It would be so simple for companies to build high-rise resorts and cash in on such a raw environment (and many companies are trying to do just that), but doing so would destroy the very thing that has created this unusual place. It is the lack of museums, cafes and architecture that makes it such a compelling place to be. Taking a step in the Galapagos Islands is like walking on the earth as it was one-hundred, one-thousand, maybe even one-million years ago.
I’ve been mentally scribbling down words and thoughts parading through my head since returning from the Galapagos Islands: Clean, renew, raw, possibilities, equality. But also: Destruction, fear, hierarchy, extinction, entitlement. We live in a world where the delicate balance between authenticity and ego can easily turn a place like the Galapagos Islands into a destination paved by concrete and trampled on by people rushing from one site to another.
The Galapagos Islands isn’t a destination. It isn’t a place to simply tick off the bucket list. It is a lesson in patience, persistence and appreciation for the fact that the world doesn’t have to march on at such a blistering pace. In the culture we live in today, that’s a startling—but liberating—truth. Suffice to say, nine days in the Galapagos Islands can change a person.