Definition of adventure: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity; to engage in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.
Steve and I returned last night from our second trip of the year. This one was our adventure trip. The interesting thing about adventures is that they feel romantic, exciting and idealized as you plan them, but the reality of an adventure (if you do it right) is that you will be thrown out of your comfort zone and into a foreign and uncomfortable state where you hopefully will experience unforgettable environments, meet interesting people and somewhere along the way challenge yourself into changing just a little bit. At least that is how Steve and I think of an adventure.
Our 10 day visit to the Abacos Islands in the Bahamas did not disappoint in the adventure category and kicked us into that uncomfortable state right at the onset. I suppose I set myself up for a big shock on this trip because I idealized and romanticized it as my tropical paradise vacation escaping the Colorado winter. Leading up to this trip I couldn’t regulate my body temperature to a comfortable state despite layering clothes and hovering around the fireplace. I fantasized about this sunny beach escape. I packed clothes that I would need in hot weather and I longed to feel the sun’s warmth penetrate me to my core. We landed in Marsh Harbor early afternoon. The island where we were staying was a 20-25-minute ride by motor boat from Marsh Harbor (in good conditions). Steve rented a boat for the week (that’s the only method of travel in this part of the Bahamas). We quickly stopped at a grocery store to get supplies and then to the marina where we loaded up our 21’ runabout motor boat. We got quick instructions on the GPS and how to get where we were going and then we pulled out anxious to beat the imminent sunset. The winds were not cooperative and the waters were rough with high swells that tossed us in every direction. Once, I almost got tossed overboard. Soon we were on the open ocean and were getting pounded with walls of icy cold water over and over again as our boat slammed down after each swell. There was no dry place to take cover. We had to stand and take it and surrender to our fate. But we weren’t in that surrendering mood and soon the F word was flying and both of us were completely drenched. My optimism faded with the sun. I hated this adventure right away.
The island was called Lubbers Quarters and is inhabited by approximately 20 people, 12 of which are permanent residents. We stayed at a quaint secluded place with 3 cabins nestled in the woods connected by a raised plank boardwalk that connected to a main house where the bar/kitchen was. The owners (Austin and Amy) are a wonderful young couple who built the place themselves with a vision of an eco-friendly retreat. It was very clean and comfortable and absent of the creature comforts one might have in a larger resort: no heat, a small efficiency kitchen, limited lighting, limited hot water, no Wi-Fi (except at the bar), no TV, no after-dark activities (except drinking at the bar) and no comfortable seating other than the bed. Six cats provided companionship on the property to anyone interested in some cat snuggling. Steve chose this place because of its seclusion and remoteness. I am not complaining about it, just describing it. For the right people seeking a remote experience, this is an ideal get a way. The west side of the island has a long sandy beach that was always vacant and dirt paths are the “roadways” to get around the island. If you needed supplies, you had to get in your boat and venture to another island or Cay (pronounced Key).
Our first days were cold and windy and I couldn’t warm up with the light clothing that I brought. We didn’t leave the island on these days because the waters were rough and I was still traumatized by the trip over. This down time allowed us to connect with our fellow guests, Todd and Amy as well as with the owners Austin and Amy. All four are wonderful, interesting and kind people. Day three I came down with bronchitis as did Steve. Without proper attire to stay warm, I accepted a sweatshirt loan from guest Amy and was humbled by hostess Amy’s nurturing with homemade oatmeal, a healing stew, turmeric chai teas and an extra fuzzy blanket for the bed. One of my challenges in life is accepting help from others as I prefer to be the helper, so this was out of my comfort zone.
Our adventure still had more boundary pushing to do. On one of our sunnier days we discovered a beautiful picturesque deserted beach that was absolutely magical. While on this beach we became a walking buffet for the sand flies (“no-see-ums”) and Steve and I each were covered with 200 – 250 bites. These plague like insects can cause you to go insane with the un-relievable itching that will last up to a week after bitten. They are invisible and attach to your clothing and shoes and thy get into your room where they continue to feast on you all night long. A few days into our trip, my discomfort had gotten to a level that literally broke me. My idealization and romance was shattered and I was deeply immersed into that foreign and uncomfortable state. I thought of nothing but my warm bed, a warm bath, warm clothes and to be free from the bugs and their itchy bites. I would have done anything to be rescued from this adventure.
I had a meltdown. And that when the magic happened.
I had no choice but to surrender. I wasn’t going to get away or be rescued. I wasn’t going to be cured of my illness or my itchy bites and the weather was going to be what it was going to be.
It was at this point of surrender when I settled back into an Adirondack chair with a warm purring kitty in my lap, turned my face to the sun and started to actually see where I was. I have never seen water this many shades of blue (the artist in me counted 7 shades of blue and turquoise). The people that surrounded me were generous, warm, sweet, loving, interesting and deep. Hostess Amy prayed over my soup and tea for my healing. I soaked in the unmatched beauty of my surroundings, the people and the gifts that continually poured out to me from this place: reading books I found in my cabin, eating healing foods, kayaking with a curious sea turtle, boating through pristine waters, discovering beaches and hideaways, watching manta rays glide by, accepting feline healing love, connecting with new friends, painting a gecko on a piece of beach wood, collecting sea glass and watching incredible sunsets and sunrises over the bluest water and gorgeous beaches I have ever seen. My surrender led me to a space where the magic and beauty was able to overtake me and I was able to really experience and appreciate each moment.
In the end, I was sad it was over. Our adventure had a rough start but it taught me how to live in a surrender space where I let life happen and just exist in it. The control freak in me resisted that surrender from day one but thankfully she was eventually broken.
So the questions is: Was I changed? Yes. Deeply. This surrender space has to become part of my regular routine of life. I need to let go of my need to control my surroundings and my experiences and to accept what is and what is happening as the experience that I NEED to have right now. Within the turmoil of life is an undiscovered beach with turquoise waters and curious sea turtles. That is where I need to be.