A few weeks ago I visited Puerto Rico with my cousin’s family, it was a trip of a lifetime. It was the celebration of their 30th wedding anniversary. We had a blast. Puerto Rico is an amazing place with some of the nicest people I’ve encountered. Most of the time we could use English, there were a few times we had to resort to Spanish. It was fun to see how much of my high school Spanish came back to me, so now I have a new New Year’s resolution (I know, I know it’s May). We took the usual tourist trips around the island – Old San Juan, the Bacardi distillery, Costco, Snorkeling, museums and the Bioluminescent Bay.
Snorkeling was fun, and a new experience. A catamaran ride to a reef – fins, mask, and snorkel ready to go. We had sunscreen, and we used it. We burned. All of us. We think it was old and the effectiveness was…well….gone. But the key point was we all had fun. The sunburn, courtesy of out dated sunscreen, even contributed to the memories. We learned a little lesson. It’s all good. The red is now a nice tan color.
After a day in the sun we had a great dinner, and headed to adventure numero dos for the dia. We were going kayaking into a lagoon, to see water and stuff that glows at night – The Bioluminescent Bay. Theoretically, kayaking is easy. It looks easy when someone else is doing it. The ad, pictures, and description of this tranquil trip had us all thinking we were going to arrive in this lagoon after a pleasant paddle along. It was going to be like another planet floating on glowing water (cue the orchestra music) – it would make a great movie scene. It would be fabulous. We would then calmly float all the way back to reality and retire to our vacation home on the ocean. I should write for a travel magazine…right?!
Novice, party of….two…your kayak is ready
We arrive. Orientation happens. Life jackets. Oh we have to have partners. I am the odd one out in our group, and luckily (or not…no really it was all good) there was a woman in another group that needed a partner. Instructions – just sit in the kayak then spin your legs around and you’re in.
Whew, we made it.
Don’t lean right or left…just forward and backward….or it will tip and in the drink you go. Luckily, that didn’t happen. My self-fulfilling prophe-thought did not occur.
I did like the instructions if we fell in.
Don’t panic! Always a good approach.
Call for the guides to help you. Gladly, you should have seen them…hello guides!
Stand up. It turns out the water is waist deep.
They tell us that the trip out will be tougher than the trip in. Ok…we mentally prep for the trip.
Paddle, slap, tree, look out, BRANCH! Paddle, Right, left, right, right, right again, left….
Off we paddle. However, we have to head out through a bay. With boats anchored scattered around. We had to head out into “open water” and loop back to the channel. I don’t know why we couldn’t stay closer to shore for the approach. There we are, me and my partner. NEITHER of us were kayakers. It isnt’ that tough…but the waves and the non coordination of 2 strangers…yeah not so much. I got up next to my cousin and muttered, “Who the hell had the bright &^#$%%@ idea this would be fun.”
FINALLY, we reach the channel. We have to paddle harder since we are going against the current. I keep thinking to myself, “a mile of this….? And it will be harder coming out?!” The Mangroves trees around us were cool, but it would have been way cooler in a little party barge.
Picture it…floating in this lagoon. The sun is fading. More and more and more and more and more… you get the picture kayak groups arrive in this place. We get a little science lesson. This plankton glows when they get excited. As a defense mechanism, they temporarily blind the predator, which is krill, or little shrimps (redundant? I think so). As instructed, we put our hands in the water – Splash splash splash. See that white cloud glowing around your hand? Voila. There you go…the Bioluminescent Bay! The glow got more noticeable as it got darker, which was pretty cool. Then, all of a sudden, “Ok! Red/Green light group. Let’s Go. Vamanos!” They had another tour to get to and paddle back into the lagoon. The only problem…EVERY tour group in the biobay hit the mangrove waterway at the same time. ONLY now, it was dark, and getting darker. The channel is a tunnel of trees. Remember I said it was going to be harder coming out….whew, a reprieve that it wasn’t. The current had shifted and it was easier and plankton floats. So we could see the GLOW all the way out…theoretically. It was easier to move forward but there are no lanes. Kayaking bumper cars of 6 tours of novice kayaking tourists all trying to scramble– IN THE DARK – following their groups indicative glow stick markers.
We made it…
…to the open water bay. With determination, deep paddling strokes, and a little bit of adrenaline we made it to our goal.
While I was in the middle of this little endeavor, I was thinking to myself. “Really? Why did we do this?” We laughed about it all the way to our oceanfront casa. We laughed about it that night while pampering our sunburns. Within a few days I realized that we talked about BioBay all week. We didn’t just talk about it we laughed about it. Some of the stories got a little more embellished. Single words became inside jokes. I said to my cousin, “I think that excursion was one of the best parts of the week. Notice how much joy the stories bring.” The beauty of the whole thing is that even thought no one was excited about the bio bay after the fact, we all found humor. It did become a highlight, or perhaps just a faint glow…but it is there. To be fair, it was at the end of a long tiring day. It could have been better if we were on the later tour. And you could tell how much the guides knew and loved their jobs.
We all have the ability to look at something from different perspectives. Even in a bad situation there is something good we can take from it. In every situation there is probably some lesson we can learn and see how we can interpret the events from a different perspective. This is more than just a polly anna, positive spin approach. It is a decision. When did you decide to look at the teachable moments? From a leadership perspective we have the ability to look at things from a different perspective all the time. Within my research I found a theme within my group of interviews. We called it idealism/realism. It was the difference between how we see and work toward the ideal. Every once in a while we are hit with a little realism that things aren’t as good as they could be. The other side is also true…there are times when we are further along than we anticipated. The beauty is we adjust as we go along.
What is going on right now that is glowing in a little different way than you expected? How can you reframe that to learn from the situation?
5 responses to “A glowing excursion”
I loved this story, and can absolutely picture it! Best of all is the message you took away from it and shared. Thank you!
Beautiful blog. The glass being half full was truly captured in rendition of the ‘kayaking trip from hell’. I love your writing and your soul.
Share more. Share often. Thanks for your words.
The bioluminescence bay by kayak is one of my favorite memories of PR. Never laughed so hard in my life! Next time you are in town ask Cheryl about it 🙂
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When things don’t go as planned, you can either balk and complain or sit back and see what happens. The latter is harder and a little scary. But there’s usually some kind of pay off for being open and…yes…brave. Sometimes it’s a cool experience, and sometimes it’s a whole new perspective.
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There is truly an advantage in taking unpredictability and turning it into a welcoming, creative, interpretation. You turned the “kayaking adventure” from “What the heck” into a successful, welcoming and fulfilling moment.
Once again, your writing and your insight is inspiring…I always look forward to what you have to say.
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