Our whirlwind trip "Around The World" came to a fitting end while cruising in the Galapagos Islands. It was here in 1835 that Charles Darwin observed finches that had altered their beaks slightly on different islands. They had done this to access the seeds that they ate, themselves having evolved differently on each island. I gave a final lecture on "Darwin, the Geology of the Galapagos, and Future Trend in Climate Change", as we cruised to four different islands in our three night stay here.
As I sit here at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix and wait for my final flight home, I am reminiscing about this fantastic journey "Around the World". We traveled 28,266 miles on the private jet and together with the extra miles on my two commercial flights, the total mileage is over 32,000 miles. All in three+ weeks too! Certainly, it's not the number of miles that harbor the rewards. It is the experiences and the impressions that I am moved to write about. I truly feel that 'we don't take trips' so much as 'trips take us'! And this one seems to have changed me in very subtle ways. Unlike a very few of my fellow passengers, who seemed to too easily get miffed when things didn't go as planned or places did not resemble the familiar surroundings of their home, I chose to look first at each place and culture, without too quick a judgement of what it was. I chose to see what these 10 countries had to offer in terms of their unique lifeways and differing worldview. In Egypt, the newspapaers always write passionately and informatively about topics of world significance. Thus, their population is extremely engaged in world and local affairs. (I say this as the television monitor here in Phoenix updates me regularly on the last movie star arrest or some such item that sounds like so much "fluff"). In Viet Nam, the people look forward to growing both their national and personal economies - so that their larger society can benefit and move forward. There is less of an emphasis on personal gain there. Iran also is passionate about their position in the world and to me it looked a lot like America - divided politically and socially. The huge difference there is that they actually know something about America, Just about every American I spoke to about Iran had only an evil idea about the place - as if the people there had three heads or something. Ironically, the Iranians seemed to love Americans but were confused about our governments' attitude towards them! Togo and Benin were certainly a step back in time as people there live simply and grow their own food for the most part. Poor, friendly, and quite content with their lot in life. And the Galapagos was like another planet with the fresh lava flows, surreal creatures, and familiar desert air.
As I think about all of this (admittedly too much stimuli in such a short period of time), I realize how blessed I am to have all of these wonderful and unique travel opportunities, and how lucky I feel to get out there and actually learn something about other places. It is so rewarding to see first hand how other people live and think, rather than have someone else (the media, my government, a corporation) tell me what it's like out there. I can assure you - anything you think you might know about some place is invariably just a sterotype that gets imprinted in our brains as a "truth", when actually it is nothing like the truth. I wish that every American could go to Iran and talk to the people there. I hope everyone gets the chance to see the Great Pyramids in Egypt, the temples of Kyoto, and experience the hospitality of the Moroccan people. If they did there would be a lot less suspicion in the world and much more love.
Enjoy these pictures of the Enchanted Islands! And thanks for reading and commenting on the blog! South America starts January 11 but who knows, I may write more in my cyber-manuscript.
The Galapagos Legend - A Very Happy Ship!
A view of Isabela Island and some of her lava flows. This is the largest of the 13 major islands and is oftentimes active with running lava.
Here is a close-up look at a pahoehoe lava flow on Fernandina Island. You can almost imagine it moving.
These marine iguanas were having a party on the rocks at Santiago Island.
These are some of the incredible cactus to be seen in the Galapagos.
On little visited Rabida Island, we saw some prickly pear cactus that grew on tall columns. This one was flowering!