Reflecting back on what I have learnt on Isabela conjures up a whole host of things, a list which is endless - I think it is safe to say that every single person I have met on this island has influenced or taught me something.
A tourist passing through taught me a new card game, Nick and Felipe showed me how to fillet a fish, and cook an incredible tuna pasta, locals have helped me with my Spanish, showed me how to salsa, surf and so much more. But, these are all things I can demonstrate I have learnt, I came to the Galapagos prepared to learn about the wildlifeand culture but during the process perhaps most importantly I have learnt a lot about myself, reflecting back on the person I was when I came I can see that my mental approach to life has changed. I have been able to relax and become spontaneous, going with the flow and not afraid when things go wrong. Like the endemic wildlife of the Galapagos I have adapted from the bustling streets of london to the peaceful methodical island life of Isabela.
Before they left I asked some of the Spring 2017 UMiami students what they had learnt. Steph who came to Isabela with some Spanish told me that she now understands so much more Spanish and sometimes doesn't even need to think about it. The other big thing she said she’d learnt is to embrace the culture, to relax if something isn't as you expect, there a big culture different here and the island is like one big family, community is definitely an important word on Isabela. From the moment you arrive you get swept into the community, and you know everyone embraces you as part of the family. There are lots of differences but thats what makes the Galapagos so special, you learn to love it and everything that makes the island individual.
During my time on Isabela I learnt that being adaptable and easy-going is going to help make the whole experience more enriching. It is likely that 90% of the things you do on this island will be different from your life at home, so rather than finding issues with it make it your advantage, embrace the fact that the experience your living is completely unique to you.
It is a great opportunity to get a first hand account of a different culture - no matter how often you travel, no matter how many countries you’ve visited on vacation there is nothing like living and interacting with locals on a daily basis. I learnt to see the unseen by listening to the locals and getting them to take you to the less visited tourist sites and hiking the additional pathway to Volcan Chico with the guide to ensure you see as much as you can, rather than letting the fatigue set in and wait for the group to return from that part of the hike. I learnt so much more about the Galapagos that I would have done by visiting and sticking to a guidebook, I learnt this by talking to people, listening to their advice and making the most of every opportunity. I fly home next week with a wealth of enriched knowledge from my trip, knowledge off the famous Galapagos Iguanas, or how tortoise conservation is bring back the species or no matter what the language barrier is try to communicate with the locals they know what there talking about for they live it everyday.
Alongside this I am going to take home knowledge about myself, who I am, how i’ve changed and how my Isabela experience has taught me to be a better version of myself. I hope that all future volunteers have an experience as inspiring and life changing as mine as it is something I will never forget.
As I have said goodbye to people on the trip it became a tradition to ask there highs and lows (although the lows were very limited and often included not getting into the island life as soon as they arrived, or not taking full advantage on day one - these are things we couldn't have changed).
The high’s seemed to be endless and it came down to a week by week highlight so that everything could be included. My first night here I sat on the beach with Kiki watching the sunset planning everything we wanted to do whilst we were here, time has flown past and last week I sat on the beach with her and as the sunset set on her last night on Isabela. We reflected on the highlights of our and trip and it dawned on us that we have done everything we set out to do and so much more. When I asked her what she was taking away from the trip she couldn't choose is it the passion for life that the locals exude or the exotic widlife? Working with the giant tortoises? Or simply living in the Galapagos? Our island experience has been unbelievable, we both came here looking for something different to our lives at home and we found it and so much more we could never have imagined. The paradise of the Galapagos captured our hearts and is something I know I will never forget.