“Where we’re going, we don’t need roads…”
Doc Brown’s voice clamored in my head as our Land Rover geared into four-wheel drive, engine revving as it was maneuvered over the uneven and rocky peat-bog terrain of the Falkland Islands.
As we inched closer to our destination – Volunteer Point – I could feel the anticipation mounting. We would soon be coming face-to-face with three different colonies of indigenous penguins.
During our drive, we learned about the simple farm culture and history of the Falklands. Las Malvinas (the name given to the islands by the Argentinians) are still currently affected today by what the people refer to as the “conflict.” In 1982, the Argentinean army invaded the land for seventy-four days, attempting to stake their claim to ownership of the possible oil-rich land. As one of the most remote areas owned by the British, the timely and deft response of their fleet resolved the conflict, although the remnant of at least half a dozen mine fields still linger along the main travel routes as haunting evidence of the encounter over thirty years ago.
After a very informative and bumpy two hours and passing many a “Christmas dinner” – baby lambs – prancing across the countryside, we finally arrived upon a utopia. As far as the eye could see were penguins – King, Magellan, and Gentoo penguins. The majestic birds showed absolutely no fear of humans as they waddled their way closer to us – my camera practically began fuming from the rapid-fire clicking of the shutter. I observed that the majority of the adults were individually tending to their recently born chicks. The Magellanic penguins were an odd sort, some poking their heads out of foxholes like gophers and others wandering aimlessly by their lonesome. Meanwhile the King penguins practiced a more clique-like mentality, walking five or six to a group. The fluffy brown Kings were newer – maybe one year old – waiting patiently to join their molting friends and become beautiful black, white and yellow like their elders.
By this point my Canon EOS was in flames.
I walked over the grassy ridge, admiring how spectacular and strange this terrain really was. When we think of penguins, we imagine ice and glaciers and polar bears (Oh my)!! But this sight before me was nothing of the sort. I scrambled down from the vibrant patches of green onto the pristine white beach, watching the goofy birds playing in the surf like children. Some were nose diving into the waves, others were riding them out, and still others were flopping and flapping their wings like an excited toddler in the summer spirit.
As our time with the creatures came to an end, our driver asked us how our experience was and all I could utter amidst my awe was, “Spectacular – once in a lifetime.”
Reflecting upon my penguin holiday along the long and arduous drive back to civilization, I thought to myself how privileged I was to be there. This wasn’t something you see every day, and certainly not while sitting behind a computer all day long. There is such great value in exploring the world, and an amazing appreciation of life upon returning home to it after these long journeys. Hard work is important in getting us there, but work isn’t everything.
Mark Twain said it best:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
This holiday season don’t just dream about it, do it! Go see the penguins, the Eiffel tower, Angkor Wat, the Pyramids of Giza – whatever! – but,
Have a dream, set a goal, and DO IT!
You’ve worked hard this year and you’ve earned it. There is no time but the present.