Wait, am I on an episode of Survivor?
When I first learned that I’d be traveling to a remote island in the Great Barrier Reef, my mind flashed back to a favorite movie from my childhood: The Even Stevens Movie. As we boarded a tiny private plane that fit only about ten people each and were told that we were only allowed to bring one backpack with all of our belongings to get us through our time on the island, I nearly had a heart attack. As soon as I saw the blues of the Great Barrier Reef, my fears were vanished. I was in absolute awe at the beauty that is Lady Elliot Island.
Unfortunately, my fears returned as we made our landing. The island has a small strip of land cleared for the planes to land, a strip so small I was sure we were headed straight into the ocean ourselves. Spoiler alert: We didn't. But we also were not greeted with leis by the people of the island like The Even Stevens Movie. So I guess I didn't completely win there.
(Here's a little #TBT in case you forgot what The Even Stevens Movie is all about. Such a classic).
Eating Kangaroo and Jello by the Ocean
The plane was the first of many fears I would learn to conquer on this trip; some of them were as drastic as snorkeling with sharks, others more simple like not wearing makeup and getting used to seeing my natural self every time I looked in the mirror. I had no sense of time, no wifi, no connection to the outside world---at first this seemed terrible, but it ended up being one of the most liberating feelings. I could finally leave behind all my worries and lose track of the daily struggles I all too often overcomplicate. I laugh now thinking about how on the island my biggest problem was finding dozens of ants and bird feathers in my bed before I went to sleep (by an embarrassing 9 PM) and waking up to birds screeching in the tree above my tent by 6 AM. Not to mention my paranoia that there were cameras filming us and that I was secretly on an episode of Survivor. If only I could always live like that.
The highlight of the trip was staring at the sunset over the ocean. For the first time in a long time, I heard pure silence. We all stood there in awe with few, soft spoken words leaving our lips as if we were standing in a holy place. We all knew we had stumbled upon something special, something that not many people will be lucky enough to experience in their lifetimes.
In that moment, I was met with conflicting emotions. I never wanted to close my eyes and miss the sky's colors change, but I was also surprisingly homesick beyond belief. I wanted nothing more but to be able to share the moment with my loved ones.
The sunset over the ocean also brought me sadness because I quickly realized this beauty could be lost all too soon if we don't take action. This view that I wanted my loved ones to see, this view that I hope one day I can show my own children may slip away. The worst part of all it all is that we hold the power in our hands now to stop this from happening, but we're not doing anything about it. We can't go on living so selfishly as if what we are doing to our planet will have no consequences.
Remember that when you're inevitably watching Finding Dory this weekend. Take it from me, it's getting a lot harder to find her in the reef. The corals are bleaching and fish diversity is subsequently decreasing in drastic numbers. Fifty percent of the corals are already dead or dying. Dory may soon not have a place to call home.
It's our job to help her find her home.