For many years I tried to fit into a life, a rhythm, a routine, that in the end was not for me. After time spent soul searching, I found my North—my passion. I have since dedicated time and energy to develop my dreams in ways that fulfill this passion. Since making this choice, I have felt only satisfaction, autonomy, and personal growth. Through hard work and dedication, and despite uncertainty, I smile everyday. I smile for peace of mind and independence. I smile toward living the life I felt I needed to live; the life I was meant to live.
It is incredible to see that when your heart and your mind are on the same boat, special and unique moments full of positivity arise as a result of paddling in the same direction. You learn how to persevere in the world, and how to appreciate that unexpected and challenging events need to happen in order to have great moments. You learn that bad is not a lasting reality, but an indication that something great is yet to come, because there would not be greatness without failure, or positivity without negativity. It is not a matter of good or evil, but rather a matter of resilience. And with this balance, you begin to feel that you do fit into, and you are a part of, a life filled with passion; a life that reflects yourself.
For me, my passion is the ocean and the interconnections and experiences that lead me to its edge and remind me of how it shapes my balance.
CUE’s last expedition to the northern tip of South America, Punta Gallinas, was a test of passion and one of the most personally challenging and rewarding adventures of my life. Punta Gallinas is a very special place where we are in a process of working with the local indigenous community, the Wayuú, toward sustainable ecotourism initiatives. Through this partnership we have worked to show how a live shark can bring together a team of crazy guys like us, to promote a sustainable local economy from what was typically a dinner plate.
During this expedition, we had several reminders of the adventure we were living: from broken cars, to misplaced rope, to many hours of driving through the elements of rain and mud, to endless times pushing cars through sand dunes. Although the first day was exhausting, the group stayed positive, united, and energized despite the difficult terrain and journey. Finally, we made it. After a good night’s rest we arose in the morning hoping to greet the ocean, however a heavy rain ensued; a heavy rain in the desert. This never happens…but as I said before, you need challenging events to happen in order to have great moments that shift the balance.
As we changed our plans to forgo the ocean that day, out of nowhere a light appeared in the sky and the weather cleared. Typically, strong winds in the afternoon make it difficult to go to the ocean at that time of day, but after the rain the ocean was glassy, with more than 40 meters of visibility. To the ocean we went! And what a thrill it was: We saw many Dolphin Fish, Barracuda, Black Tip Sharks, and Silky Sharks. Needless to say, this left us feeling rejuvenated, happy, and smiling…but this was not the end.
We were 20 minutes away from returning to shore, when we saw a massive shadow at the bottom of the ocean, slowly coming toward us. As it drew closer and closer I started to feel anxious—you never know what wonders you might find in the ocean. But then I saw the familiar patterns of white dots, organized in lines across the submerged body, and I felt humbled by the grace of the biggest fish in the ocean: the Whale Shark. At 7 meters in length, she arose from the depths, not to swim past, not to cross, but to share a moment. “Luz Mila,” as we named her, stayed with us for almost 40 minutes, circling in curiosity and slowly looking at each of us in turn, eye to eye.
I have to say that nature always surprises, but this was a life encounter that truly changed my life, and most likely all in the boat who witnessed this magnificent creature. It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I still smile when I think of it—I’m sure I will for the rest of the life. Returning to shore, the experience was further shared as we showed the video to the Wayuú community, and watched as they smiled, looked on with surprise, and beamed expressions of pride in their ocean. Tears came to my eyes when I overheard the small children immediately telling their parents that they wanted to swim with the sharks. It could not have been more rewarding.
The trip ended with a (now expected) arduous return with long hours of driving, damaged cars, and more rain…but it simply didn’t matter. Our minds, spirits, and conversations were brimming with memories of the Whale Shark and its infectious and affective impressions in the community, appeasing the challenges of the road. It was a life encounter that changed us as individuals and as a team. It was a gift of great positivity and energy, reminding us to keep our challenges and difficult moments in perspective; as we find a new balance.
And that for me, is life. Stay calm and paddle harder in the worst moments, as there is always something better coming…but only if you think it will.