Imagine a day without water

A few years ago, I volunteered at a nature reserve on the island of San Cristobal in the Galápagos. As a biologist, visiting the Galápagos Islands had been a lifelong dream. I couldn’t wait to get to the reserve and do my part to protect this precious ecosystem and experience the amazing diversity of wildlife. 

This volunteer experience was marred by many unfortunate, and completely avoidable, problems. I’ll write about them in another post eventually. One of the biggest issues the volunteers faced was having access to clean drinking water. 

Upon arriving at the reserve, which was located far away from any town or store, I found a disturbing sight. I went into the kitchen to refill my water bottle and was told to get water from a large vat that had “sabanas sucias” written on the side. Dirty sheets. Our drinking water was being housed in a vat that obviously once contained dirty bed sheets. Hopefully this vat was thoroughly cleaned prior to being filled with our drinking water but based on how things were done at this reserve, it was probably wishful thinking. 

The vat had a basic water hose hung over the edge. I asked where the water came from and they told me it came from a near by river. I asked what they did to clean the water, which was darkish brown and had little sticks and other debris, since there was no filtration system. 

The reserve manager explained that they use three drops of bleach each time they refill the vat to clean the drinking water. I didn’t want to drink bleach at all but three drops hardly seemed adequate to clean a vat that was several feet high and too big for me to get my arms around. 

All of the volunteers were uneasy about drinking the water. We tried to make tea whenever possible, which was also rough considering how hot and humid it was. Everyone began to have digestive issues, especially me as I have Crohn’s disease. To be honest, it might not have even been the water. The reserve cook was an incredibly unhygienic woman who never washed her and did not seem to understand what cross-contamination was. 

I was there during the rainy season and everyday was a torrential downpour for several hours. Clean drinking water could have easily been collected. I asked why they didn’t collect the rainwater and I never really got an answer. They seemed annoyed that I kept asking questions about their environmental and sustainability practices, especially when I brought up that they could be growing their own produce on the sprawling reserve instead of buying food from the ships coming from the mainland. 

I was supposed to stay at the reserve for 3 weeks but left early due to mounting health problems and frustration with a nature reserve not actually practicing sustainability and conservation. 

While I didn’t truly experience a day without water, this was the closest I have been to having to worry about whether I’ll have clean drinking water from day to day. It really put into perspective how fortunate most of us are. The majority of us don’t put any thought into where our water comes from. We just turn on the faucet and trust that clean water will continue to flow. 

Today, pause and be grateful that you have easy access to clean drinking water. Reflect on your water habits and see where you can do your part to reduce the waste of our most precious resource. Maybe even try to live one day without water. Would you survive? 

Souvenir Box

Over the years, I have collected many souvenirs from my travels. After my first major trip about 7 years ago, I bought a travel box to house my collections. I put many things from my first adventure in Maui, Hawaii in that box. Things that I still have to this day. Lavender from a lavender farm tour I went on. Napkins from a delicious restaurant I ate in.

Looking through my little souvenir box, I see a lot of it is random paper items like receipts, maps and ticket stubs. Things that I had planned on using in some creative travel craft project that was never created. I’ve cleaned this box out a few times over the years, but it’s so difficult to throw any of it away. I know I don’t NEED a ticket stub for a train ride in Italy from 6 years ago, but I still want if for some reason that I don’t fully understand.  

Among my collections are currency (mostly coins with a few small bills) left over from my trips. I have euros, pounds, pesos (Mexican and Colombian) and a few Ecuadorian coins. I’ve always loved foreign currency. The bills are always so colorful and decorative, unlike the bills we use here in the United States. Often, I feel like currency is reflective of the people it represents. In many of the places I’ve traveled, the people are colorful and full of life, just like their beautiful currency.

On a recent trip to Colombia, I decided I wasn’t going to buy or keep things to put into that box anymore (except currency, of course). No more shot glasses or keychains that will never be used or gifted. No more collecting postcards from every city and sight I visit. No more saving every scrap of paper handed to me. Instead, my boyfriend and I bought two beautiful art pieces to hang on our walls. To date, they are my favorite souvenirs. Things that are on display for the world to see instead of locked away in a box for me to occasionally reminisce over.

Every time I open this box, I have a rush of mixed emotions. Joy remembering all of the amazing experiences I had and the incredible people I met. But also sadness. Sadness that those experiences have come and gone. Sadness that I will never see some of those people again. Sadness that I’m sitting in my apartment looking through the past instead of currently being on an adventure. I often have feelings of being trapped after I look through my little travel box. Trapped back in a life that didn’t satisfy the last time. Or the time before that.

So now I’m trying to decide what to do with the contents of this box. Do I continue to lug around my past experiences, keeping them hidden away for just me? Or do I actually clean this box out? Get rid of the little faded scraps of paper. The 6 year old candy bar I never ate. The now crushed dried flowers.  

What kind of souvenirs do you collect and where do you keep them? Do they bring you joy or sadness?