How must it be, be the first one to find a star in the firmament, amongst a sea of stars? To be the first one to discover a new place on Earth? A mountain no one has ever climbed before. A cliff, a bay, a volcano, a desert, a forest, a river no eyes have ever seen. Something that hasn’t been mentioned in history books. To be the first one to leave footsteps on a beach that has never been stepped on before by any other human being? Or the first one to feel, with the tip of your fingers, the cool water of an ocean that has never been traversed before? To be able to name a place and know that you have permanently placed it on the map? A discovery is born and the world will never be the same.
That must have been the case one accidental day in the year 1535 when Fray Tomas de Berlanga’s ship stalled in a mysterious archipelago in the middle of nowhere. On his way to settle a dispute between conquistadors Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro, his ship was forced to stop due to strong winds and currents that had forced it off course. By mere coincidence, Fray Tomas de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama at the time, found this magical but inhospitable place and called it “The Enchanted” – an adjective that would forever suit the amazing complexity of this place. In a century when the world was being shaped, drawn, and divided, the Galapagos Islands finally found their way into history. Though its own (geological) history had been going on for millions of years before that, the role the Galapagos would play in a later and more crucial discovery would have to wait until the arrival of scientist and explorer Charles Darwin.
Explorers and discoverers of yore must have found it hard to explain the thrill, the excitement, the fear of the unknown, the surprise when paradigms are broken and beliefs shattered. However, even though it might seem every place in the world has been discovered, it’s not necessarily the case. Modern-day explorers are constantly on the search for something new, something that has never been seen before, or a new way to see something that has already been seen many times. Maybe it is not the object observed, but the subject observing. Aren’t we all a different version of ourselves every day? Each of our different selves observes the world with different eyes every day. I will certainly be the only me in a particular place, on a particular day, leaving my footprints on a dirt road that will be erased by the wind the next morning. No one will have seen it through my eyes, my feelings, and my reality. No one will know what that place truly meant to me. And that same place will have gained new meaning after years of change, experiences, and the life I might have gone through. It will be a whole new discovery.
It’s an abstract idea that might be hard to comprehend, but we all carry curious and creative spirits within ourselves that yearns to discover and be discovered. To find something new in a place or a person is only a reflection of something new we find in ourselves. By discovering the world, by traveling out of our comfort zones, we ourselves are discovered.
Explore white sand beaches, rocky cliffs, hidden lava tunnels, turquoise waters filled with life, birds in every corner. Every step of the way during your Galapagos adventure will feel like an amazing discovery. No one will have stepped on that beach before, no one will have felt the freshwater currents like you, no Galapagos albatross will have been admired the same way you admire it, and no one will have felt a peaceful connection with a Galapagos Sea turtle like the one you will have felt for a split second when it looked right into your eyes. The Galapagos might have been discovered years ago by Fray Tomas de Berlanga, but they are patiently waiting to be discovered by you. And believe me when I say this: you will discover the Galapagos Islands, but you will also discover yourself through them. Observe the world with new eyes and you will see it for the first time, every time. That is the true meaning of discovery.