Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell

Manly Destinations

Posted from Culver City, California at 10:12 pm, September 29th, 2011

Audrey has been doggedly helpfully posting potential journal entries on the fridge for the past month. While I’m reasonably certain that “The Dancing Lemurs of Madagascar” was suggested for her entertainment rather than as something to be taken seriously, she has also come up with some good ones, including this entry’s subject.

Growing up, there were four places that I most wanted to go to in the world, but the thought of actually seeing all of them in person seemed too surreal to ever be possible. However, at age thirty-five I’ve been lucky enough to not only have visited each of them, but to have done so multiple times:

  • Yellowstone National Park. America’s first national park seemed like the epitomy of the rugged West from the bygone days of explorers – big animals, jagged mountains, and an unimaginable array of thermal features. Midway through my teenage years Ma & Pa planned the annual family vacation around their eldest son’s dream, and the Holliday family visited Wyoming. The park met every expectation, and return visits were made in 1998, 2000, 2002, and most recently in 2009 with Audrey.
  • Alaska. While no one would know for sure, it wouldn’t be surprising if my dad had talked about taking his son to Alaska on the day I was born. From that point onwards he repeatedly announced that we were going to Alaska after I turned eighteen, and the intervening years saw him preparing for the trip. Then, in 1994, we stepped off of a plane in Anchorage and spent a month seeing the grizzlies and caribou of Denali, the tundra of Central Alaska, the eagles of southern Alaska, and other sights in one of the world’s wildest places. In 1999 the roles were reversed when I took him to Glacier Bay and we spent a week kayaking with whales, seals, wolves and glaciers. Finally, in 2002 the state was the scene of perhaps my most significant coming-of-age experience when I spent three months on the road, with two of those months spent in Alaska. There’s no doubt that this state will see future visits.
  • The Galapagos. It’s tough to imagine now, but until 1994 our household never had more than five TV channels (and barely that many when the rabbit ears were on the fritz) so nature documentaries on PBS had at least a twenty percent chance of being the best thing on TV. I don’t know how many of those programs featured the Galapagos, but the weird landscapes and fearless animals made an impression, and a decision was made to someday, somehow pay a visit to the islands. This future trip seemed so exotic – the islands are a speck in the middle of the Pacific – that the reality of being able to go there wasn’t something that truly seemed plausible. It was an unexpected revelation in 1999 to know that, while expensive, these remote islands could be the first major vacation destination of my post-college life. That first trip led directly to chartering a boat and visiting again in 2003 and 2006, and those two trips will likely be the most memorable vacations that I will ever be able to share with friends.
  • Antarctica. Most of my childhood possessions are now gone, but the February 1984 Ranger Rick magazine is still on the bookshelf. The winter “Antarctica” special edition grabbed my imagination as perhaps nothing else has since, and Antarctica became the place that I wanted to visit more than anywhere else on Earth. Anyone who has ever contemplated a journey to the bottom of the world is aware of the costs involved, so this trip was a dream that I couldn’t quite imagine as a reality. Then, in 2003, while sharing a house with JB Straubel, I mentioned the trip to him and he nonchalantly replied "You should just go, you’ve probably got enough saved". For whatever reason, that comment cut through any hesitation I had about the costs, and six months later I was on the deck of the M/V Polar Star looking at the most amazing landscape on the planet. Two more trips in 2004 and 2006 did nothing to lessen my enthusiasm for the southern polar region, although it did lighten my bank account – I learned several years later from Ted Cheeseman that there was spirited debate amongst the staff about how much credit card debt the youngest person on the ship must be carrying.

There have of course been other incredible trips – Iceland, Southeast Asia, Egypt, Europe, all over America, the humpback whales of the Dominican, the whale sharks of the Yucatan – and one can only wonder at the reason for such good fortune in being able to experience so much. The future will hopefully hold more travels – as noted above, Audrey is hellbent on seeing lemurs do the sexy dance, Australia & New Zealand undoubtedly hold an amazing variety of adventures, and there are dozens of other places that would be great to experience. It’s a small world, but it holds an infinite number of destinations.

The Skipper and Ryan in Glacier Bay

The Skipper and Ryan in Glacier Bay, 1999.

Group photo in the Galapagos

This is probably the single greatest group of people who have ever traveled together on the same boat in the Galapagos.

4 responses to “Manly Destinations”

    1. …because you can fight bears in two of the mentioned destinations and ride on the backs of killer whales in three of them? The only bears you’ll be fighting in Hermosa Beach are the hairy gay kind – not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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