My Adventure “BANG, BANG, BANG. Girls its 5:00 am you guys are going to miss the boat!!! I don’t care how hung over you are, get out of bed!!! ” The sounds of my friend’s voices coming through the thick wooden door seemed to echo through my head several times before it clicked. Here I was, laying in a Mexican bed with the last night’s events rushing back. After a long night of partying with the locals and dive shop workers, it would finally be my turn to go on my adventure. This adventure started months earlier when I booked this trip to the eastern side of Mexico.
Two thousand dollars ater, I landed myself with a plane ticket, a multiple dive trips a day, and enough money to supply the nightly tequila. Spending two weeks in a foreign country is many people’s dream, including my best friend’s who I brought along for the adventure. But spending two weeks in a foreign country wasn’t where my excitement lay… mine was with the ocean. Flashing back towards that fateful morning, certain moments remain vivid in my mind; the dive gear scattered on the floor, bathing suits hanging from all angles, and the smell of the ocean humidity drifting through our back door.
Next thing I know, my mind rushes forward. I am driving through the dirt Jungle roads into a huge van with my best friend by my side and a group of other people doing the same crazy stunt as we were. The morning crew was loud, rowdy and full of anticipation for the following hours. Arriving at the dock, I pulled a sweatshirt over my bathing suit and headed towards the 15 foot boat we would be embarking on. Our trip to a locals-only island christened Isla MuJeres was a choppy one with at least 3-4 foot seas. Following the 1. hour ride out, the voices on the radio in Spanish exclaiming “encontramos muchos al oeste! Muchos, muchos you GOTTA get out here migo!! They are EVERYWHERE” startled me. Within seconds my mind went into hyper speed along with the captains and first mate’s. This was it, it was going to be a chase to track them down. It would only be a matter of time until I was back in the water doing what I loved. Setting up my GoPro camera and assuring my friend she would be absolutely fine, I was pulling my fins over my feet and mask over my head. The boat’s dual outboard motors sputtered to a stop and then I saw it.
Huge fins breaking the choppy water’s surface, shadows over forty feet long and quick gliding images of what I assumed to be manta rays. Pulling my friend to the side of the boat I heard her let out a gasp. If this wasn’t pushing the boundries of humans out of their element, I don’t know what could be. Standing up on the side of the boat, I hurled myself off, two cameras in hand. Upon hitting the water, my natural instincts kicked in and began moving with the current acting as one with the water. Then within minutes, I saw it; my first whale shark.
Polka dotted, mouth completely ajar and over 10 times the size of me and the boat, he glided next to me. Instinctively, I put out my hand to touch the side of this great animal. At this moment, my true position in this world was revealed. My tiny insignificant hand on this large creature illustrated the perspective I gained through such a hobby. Following this first encounter, I watched the manta rays with a wingspan of over 6 feet flying gracefully past attempting to another large shark swimming almost directly through me in hopes of chases the pod of food overhead.
Although it sounds crazy, I my gaze fell on the eye of the creature. Here, I couldn’t look away. All I could do was wonder how anybody could ever be under the impression that humans conquered Earth and how we were the top redator. This experience continued for over three hours in which I observed over twenty whale sharks and their eating habits as well as the lives of around 5 manta rays. Two major lessons unrelated to the science or nature of the encounter revolved around perception. The first as mentioned previously was my position and place in the world.
Although thinking this since age 12, nothing solidified my respect for this globe and human involvement more than this swim with the sharks. Observing the open ocean and its creatures truly provides an individual with insight unlike any other. The second lesson referred to the use of my dual cameras. While this occurrence was rare and quite exotic, experiencing such an event through a lens or even two seemed to be severely diminishing. On the trip out, I promised myself pictures and videos were the priority and without them I would never be able to return back to it as fully or truly as with photographs.
This assumption was proved undeniably wrong. The special moments and connections I established that day between frequent physical contact, visual contact and being one with the water were unexplainable and uncreatable. Although my pictures and video are phenomenal and excellent resources to look back on and study, if I had approached this situation behind a camera only, I feel as if I would not have felt or learned anything. As crazy and as rare my two week adventure was, I carried this epiphany with me through every dive, swim, and surf following that.
It not only changed my life, but it changed the way I choose to live life. Following this heart stopping moment, came one more. This one Just as indisputably astounding as the first. But once more, here I was again: feelings of fulfillment and understanding flooding though my body. I was staring down at the world below me, the rush of excitement and pride over taking any other conscious thought. But looking back at this moment, it was the experience getting to that point that truly captured the significance.
It started early around 7 am that I heard the voices of my friends and family waking up all around me. My body ached and all I wanted to do was roll back over. Before I knew it I heard the tent unzip and the cousins and dogs started piling in and invading my sleeping bag. Of course, how could my dream-filled sleep had fooled me, here I was in the middle of the woods. The humid pine scent air drifted through the tent and I couldn’t help but wake up with a smile. Ushering the kids and pets out the door I pulled on my shorts and my flannel with hiking boots leaving my phone unchecked under the pillow.
Walking into the bright sunlight and looking around at the typical family craziness I couldn’t help but smile at the constant stupidity. My grandmother making pancakes over an open fire, children running in and out of peoples legs down to the water and up on rocks bigger than the car, the adults sitting around talking. Weighing my options, I opted to it with the adults and listen in on what seemed to be an important conversation. Disappointed, I come to find the conversation back on their careers, stress and family drama. It was then that a thought flashed through my mind, how could these topics be dominating the conversation?
Looking around at my surroundings I couldn’t breakfast that tasted Just too good to be made in the woods, we decided to take our annual hike up the highest peak of the mountain in the area. Grabbing my backpack and my knee brace I knew this would be a 20 mile Journey that I had ventured a handful of times previously. Although shaking myself back to reality, I could have done this trail a hundred times; but not post knee surgery… Grabbing my backpack and I followed my uncle and grandfather out of campsite and up a path of uphill weathered rocks.
Up and up we climbed until we it plateaued outward onto a field. This field had a mix of wildflowers and short new trees blossoming in the spring sun. Off to the right was the entrance to our secluded trail hiding in the shade. This shade only furthered my worries and served as a dark omen foreshadowing my task that lay ahead. That was another moment of realization, this camping trip and hike were othing more than a test for myself; a test that would determine my toughness and perseverance through any pain. Following a brutal recovery time, my right knee was in a state of complete dismay.
Although physical therapy eased the stiffness and shakiness I knew I was pushing the limit by going on this hike. I pushed on, up the windy trail that seemed to inflict some new feelings unknown previously. 4 miles in, the scenery was changing, now moss covered walls and waterfalls took the place of trees and rocks. The wildlife was drastically changing also, the birds sang louder, the currying ground creatures seemed more curious, and weirdly my perception was also. Looking around, the lack of human interference was astounding.
Venturing on, I could feel the swelling of my knee against the metal and the dull ache in my hip returning. Knowing it could only get worse, I made it my mission to callously feel the pain and numb my nerves. Several hours later and a shooting pain from shin to hip the sun hit my face stronger than ever before. The trail opened up to another smaller field than before with a breeze and boulders lining the edges. I walked-or should say limped towards the edge of the field. Looking down tens of stories and tree tops I remembered why this seemed so important.
Feeling my leg begin to shake I sat down and looked around. The sound of running creeks and waterfalls, animals running rampant, the laughter of my family and finally over the cliff filled my senses. The cliff side allowed you to point out state borders, different towns and trails below. Although too high up to see any people, cars or animals I felt on top of the world. Suddenly I felt as if I was peeking into the lives of many, but nobody else seemed to even notice. Ironically, although I felt as though I was standing on top of the world I elt smaller than ever before.
Upon looking out on the scene below my significance and place in the world was once again thrown into question. As such a small human at the mercy of the nature and environment around me in conjunction with the observation of towns and states below, my problems and concerns vanished. It made me think of how many other people below didn’t even know I exist let alone imagine any problems I may be having. Thinking back to the morning conversation between adults, I could have laughed at the silliness. What seemed to be so important and life threatening no longer had any meaning or impact on me.
When being thrust into a moment in which you are able to see the bigger picture, I believe this puts not only your problems but life meaning into perspective. The scene below me brought me back. Back to Jumping into Mexican waters where fears and any human perceptions bottom of the mountain. The picturesque scene below will forever be burned into memory, similar to the swim with whale sharks. Although completely different, the naive human perception was once again illustrated. Each of these exciting experiences truly changed and impacted my life which ultimately reconstructed my perception of the world around me.
A quote that defined these moments for me was written by Langston Hughes in his work titled “Salvation”: “l was saved from sin when I was going on thirteen”. This quote-the opening line to the short story “Salvation”, introduced how important the main idea of this story would be to the narrator. Although my story does not take place in a church or reference any spirituality, I felt that this quote symbolized a life changing moment for that narrator just as the main idea of my story had. One major point of this quotation was the age he gives, as this was the age that I seriously got involved with the outdoors and the ocean.
This led to my adventure in Mexico along with my love for nature and the outdoors which is prevalent in each of my stories. In the original quote, the narrator uses the phrase “l was saved from sin.. ” in which I feel can be interpreted in many ways. In the short story, it was meant to illustrate an element of the church while for me, it proved to save me from a perspective I could not imagine living without today. Being saved from sin can be interpreted in different ways based on their lives and morals, but as for me, the greatest sin man could have is not being thankful or respectful for the environment around them.
The naive nature of humans has fooled a significant amount of the population, but due to my involvement with the outdoors, I have learned to not take the planet for granted. It also taught me that although we dominate the Earth and are on the top of the food chain, we by no means have as much power, significance or meaning that we think we do. Being able to be put in settings in which I am able to stand back and observe this first hand such as with a predator above I or standing on a cliff overlooking states has given me the opportunity to stand back and re-evaluate my priorities, worries and place in this orld.
Ultimately, both of these events played large roles in my life by humbling and enlightening me. Through the power of nature I was able to understand the naive mentality associated with mankind. Not only was I enlightened, but I was able to alter my thought process to be one with the environment in which I live instead of living above it. This moment allowed me to gain respect for the planet and for the creatures we share it with. This respect that I earned could be considered “savior” from a life of little understanding or ignorance to a progressive and educated individual.