Earth Day 2020: Celebrating Mother Nature via Memory Lane

Although travel is off the table right now and it feels bittersweet to talk about pre-COVID-19 trips, I wanted to honour Earth Day by sharing some memories from my time in the Galapagos Islands (an otherworldly archipelago located off the coast of Ecuador) — a destination that made me feel more connected to, humbled by, and in awe of Mother Nature than any other place I’ve been before.

Was my trip to the Galapagos Islands a dream? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked myself this question lately.

Blue-footed booby, Bachas Beach, and a sally lightfoot crab | © Ashley Nitransky

At the beginning of February, I took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to these enchanted isles with G Adventures, a pioneer of responsible and sustainable travel.

Now, roughly ten weeks later, my present-day reality couldn’t be more different from the time I spent in Ecuador — those days filled with seemingly endless adventure and spontaneity and sunshine.

As I continue to adjust to this new life of isolation and social distancing, I’m struggling to believe that two months ago, I was walking on a blindingly white-sand beach littered with sea lions; that I was snorkelling in crystal-clear seas alongside Galapagos penguins, and watching the sky alight in a blaze of gold and violet from a tiny boat in the Pacific Ocean.

Sunset from G Adventures’ Monserrat ship | © Ashley Nitransky

When I look back through my Galapagos photos, those feelings of elation and wonderment — those feelings that stayed with me for the entirety of my trip — come rushing right back.

I remember the euphoria I felt stepping off the plane in Baltra, a small, centrally-located island and gateway to the Galapagos. I remember the thrill of seeing animals I’d only ever read about — blue-footed boobies, giant tortoises, and marine iguanas — a dream of mine since I penned a list of all the places I most wanted to visit nearly a decade ago. 

Marine iguanas sunbathing at Tortuga Bay | © Ashley Nitransky

From the moment I stepped foot in that otherworldly archipelago, I was in awe of the scenery and overwhelmed by the abundance of wildlife. I spent hours upon hours observing animals in their most natural, undisturbed form — and that simple act humbled me in a way I never thought possible. 

It’s hard not to feel a deeper connection to the natural world when you watch a pod of dolphins swim and breach and play only a few metres away, or when you see a marine iguana — a species found nowhere else on earth — saunter across your path, completely unperturbed by your presence.

Marina iguanas on the beach at Tortuga Bay | © Ashley Nitransky

I came away from this trip with a newfound reverence for Mother Nature, and a personal pledge: to be a better traveller. Yes, I already make an effort to travel sustainably, but being in the Galapagos inspired me to take a long, hard look at my travel habits, and underscored the fact that I can do better. I want to do better.

Much like the Galapagos caused me to reassess my own travel habits, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us all to consider our role in this global climate crisis we’re facing. With quarantine measures in place, air quality has improved drastically across major cities like Delhi, Tokyo, and Shanghai. Suddenly we’re realising how closely our health is connected to that of the planet, and we’re seeing glimpses of what’s possible if we take action against environmental degradation. 

Lava field at Sullivan Bay | © Ashley Nitransky

Today, rather than heading to a park or a hiking trail, I’ll be commemorating Earth Day at home. It feels strange to celebrate a day dedicated to Mother Nature from the confines of my apartment, but I’m grateful for the time to reflect and contemplate everything that’s at stake in our fight for a greener future.

As I rally together with thousands of other people online to mark Earth Day 2020, I’ll be thinking of the Galapagos Islands. I’ll be thinking of those remarkable animals and landscapes, and I’ll be taking stock of all the ways I can do my part to ensure that magical archipelago is there to humble and transform travellers for generations to come.

Ashley is a Content Editor at TourRadar. When she’s not writing, travelling, or obsessively checking flight prices on Skyscanner, you can find her attempting to fine-tune her photography skills or watching a shark documentary.

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