Let the Thumb Twiddling Commence

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It is nearly February 3rd, and that means I disembark the Sea Bird in nine days. The past six months have been flushed by in a whirlwind, both literally and figuratively. While I am more than thrilled to have a sabbatical from toilet cleaning, I will miss my floating home. I have grown fond of 6am dirty chai’s and caveman grunts that pass for early morning crew greetings. I know I will miss my naps on the lido, being in the foc’sle when hundreds of dolphins are chattering away outside, finding the best fish tacos at roadside stands, and racing friendly sea lions.

But I’m also so tired. I feel 30 years older. I’m not able to play the piano. I have no privacy. Just the other day I had a conversation with the doctor onboard and four crew members separately asked me to elaborate on my current health state. My roommate walked in on me in the bathroom this week. Three times. No one trusts us with locks. I miss my kitties and visiting my friends and family. I miss sleeping with more than 8” clearance. I miss being involved in the issues I cared so much about at college. So while my imminent parting is bittersweet, I know I’m ready to leave.

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Me at the end of my 6-month contract

What scares me most is going forward. I have no idea what the next few months will look like. All I know is that as soon as I get off in La Paz, I have a flight to Costa Rica and a room booking at a surf hostel. Will I survive the cheap, miniscule propeller plane that my suitcase probably won’t fit in? WILL I TURN INTO A CAREER SURF BUM?? Perhaps my lifelong dreams shall materialize after all!

But actually, Costa Rica has an end date. So begins the weeks of thumb-twiddling. Should I renew another contract at Lindblad? Do paralegal work? Find a career in conservation? Work at the local grocery store? Move to Hawaii and live in a tent while I clean more toilets? Pursue photography and writing while I eat bread crusts and ramen for the end of my days? Where do I even begin looking for a job when I don’t have a location in mind? I feel like I might as well be rolling a pair of dice to determine my next move.

But now that I think about it, I don’t even own a pair of dice.

If anyone has any job offers, PM me and I will bake you cookies.

 

Tips for Staying Alive in Baja

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Baja is undeniably beautiful. I have never witnessed a place of such contrasts. One day, you might be trekking through sand dunes as far as the eye can see in search of life. To your despair (and wonder), you can only find bone-dry turtle shells, hollowed-out pelican bones, and the occasional eerie dolphin carcass. The shifting white sands whip beneath your feet as the landscape comes and goes while you stand still. On these days, you feel like you’re living on another planet. Tatooine or Jakku perhaps.

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Give it three more days, and you will be amazed to find the incredible biodiversity of marine life under the surface at Los Islotes. Hundreds of tropical fish scurry away from you (my favorite being the parrotfish) while you free dive 40 feet beneath the surface to find all sorts of starfish and crab going about their merry lives. Because the water is so clear, you can see the itty-bitty snorkelers at the surface while sun rays shine down and you have a moment of calm respite before you ascend. On your way up, 4 or 5 sea lion adolescents might join you while they do barrel rolls around you in an elaborate game of tag.

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Then there are the islands where everything wants to kill you. Take Isla Catalina; a seemingly enchanted island from far away characterized by mountains, a turquoise blue beach, and otherworldly cactus. However, I’m convinced this island has ulterior motives. For example, this island is home to the infamous rattleless rattlesnake. That’s right, they’re just as venomous as normal rattlesnakes but they can’t warn you when they feel threatened in a cruel twist of evolution. Also, narrow cliff tops set by loose, crumbly stones. And when you fall, you will be guaranteed a thorny cushion to make sure you go numb while you spend half an hour plucking inch long needles out of your body.

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Yes, Baja has all of the above, and I have been lucky enough to experience it. However, I wish I had been more prepared for certain longer adventures when things went awry, so I will share my newfound Baja wisdom with you before you make the same mistakes next time you find yourself here:

  1. Wear more sunscreen than you have skin. And a hat. All the time. You’re going to burn. You know, just go ahead and sleep with both.
  2. Bring more than one bottle of water when you leave for an entire day of hiking in the desert. You won’t regret the extra weight and you won’t be hallucinating flamingoes on mountaintops.
  3. Always bring a bandana. These things are life-savers. I use mine for sun protection, wiping the sweat and dirt from my face, picking cactus thorns out of my legs and arms, and quelling bleeding wounds. Also, try to remember to wash it once in a while.
  4. Carry a radio. I go off by myself pretty often, and knowing my track record, I anticipate sticky situations. Especially when there be rattleless rattlesnakes roaming about.
  5. Ditch the snorkel if you’re a good enough swimmer. It’ll slow you down and those sea lions/whale sharks like to swim fast.
  6. Always bring your camera everywhere, but don’t always take pictures.
  7. Try to get yourself marooned on a beach at night. The stars are out of this world (huzzah).

Whale Sharks vs. Leo

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Four days ago, I was faced with one of the most difficult decisions of my adult life. In order for me to correctly communicate the gravity of this situation, I must first tell you about my obsession with Titanic. When Titanic first appeared on the big screen in 1997, I fell in love as a mere 4-year old missing half her teeth. I also enjoyed running around the backyard in circles talking to plastic horse statues at this stage. I don’t know why my parents let me watch it at such an impressionable age, but after school, I’d grab my allotted 2 tootsie rolls and settle in for the saga of Rose and Jack.

Titanic soon became my life. When my older sister had play dates with her best friend, I would tag along and make the friend’s older sister play Jack while I lay on the kitchen counter grasping a piece of chandelier glass I fashioned into my own heart of the ocean before letting it fall to the floor. My parents even bought me the CD soundtrack and movie poster for my unfailing commitment.

This story does not end in 1997. Fast forward 16 years, and Titanic was the reason I got written up as a lifeguard. Apparently, some official from New York State Parks was auditing Gilbert Lake State Park, but no one thought to give me a head’s up. Which is why I was stoically standing at the bow of the motor boat with my arms out in Rose’s pose while the boat carried along at full speed. I wouldn’t have pulled a Titanic if I knew he was watching.

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Genuine photograph of Gilbert Lake shenanigans

Fast forward again to 2016. A job opportunity presents itself on a ship. Real life Titanic minus the sinking! Sign me up.

Commence dilemma.

I was having a normal day on December 30, 2016 and wasn’t even thinking about Titanic. It was my day off and we were docked in La Paz, a quaint seaside city in Baja. I got off the boat, took myself to tacos and walked the waterfront until a friend informed me the luscious LEONARDO DICAPRIO was in town. LEO = JACK = THE LOVE OF MY LIFE. Panic.

Apparently Leo was snorkeling with whale sharks and would be back to the dock where the Sea Bird was docked at 2pm. Una problema. I was supposed to leave the dock myself at 1:30pm for my own whale shark adventure. In what world would fate bring Leo and I across the world to a city of 200,000 together and separate us by a mere 30 minutes? Not a kind one, that’s for sure.

So began the next hour of weighing whale sharks against Leonardo. It was the most trying hour of my life. In my deliberation, I considered the following:

  • The potential of false information that Leo would arrive at 2pm to the aforementioned dock. Celebrities use guises to hide from people like yours truly all the time.
  • What if he would be in a bad mood? He might not want to even interact with me, and what would that do to my inner 4-year old counterpart’s self esteem?
  • What if I saw Leo whale sharking? Imagine the underwater selfie of a whale shark, Leo, and moi. I entertained this scenario for far too long.

So with all this in mind, I made the decision to leave on the whale shark adventure. I even brought my wildlife camera lens so I could search for Leo in the other pangas.

Alas, I did not see him, but boy did I see whale sharks. As soon as I jumped off the panga and saw one 9-10 feet long swimming at me with its mouth wide open, I forgot all thoughts of Leo. For the next hour or so, I followed the whale shark around while I got Blair Witchesque footage with a friend’s go-pro. I even got smacked in the tail by one and figured it might have smacked Leo as well – practically a high five between us.

So for now, Leo shall remain a figment of my imagination and perhaps it is better this way. In any case, I’ll never let go. My heart will go on.

(Video footage to come at some point – here’s some photos from last week in the meantime!)

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