I have a bumper sticker on my car that says “Life’s Better Outdoors.” One of the main reasons I decided to pursue marine biology/environmental science was my love of things outside. Fresh air, animals, sunshine, there was no way I ever pictured myself working 40 hours a week inside. Growing up, my family frequently took camping vacations. My brother and I became pros at setting up a tent while our parents unpacked or bought food. Since I’ve been living on my own for the past 7 years, I haven’t taken a single camping trip. I don’t have a tent, so that could be an issue.
I have missed camping and one day I made s’mores using a camping stove on my porch. For Christmas, I received a sheltered hammock system with rain tarp and bugnet. I asked for a hammock thinking it would be a lot lighter than carrying around a full tent and I read it was very comfortable. For my summer job as a trip leader I’ll be camping for almost a full month in California. I decided to test out the hammock in the backyard.
Setup took a little longer than expected, about 35-40 minutes. I waited until I was really tired and practically falling asleep on the couch when I went outside. I got in the hammock and zipped up the bug net so I wouldn’t get eaten alive by mosquitoes. I laid in the hammock for about 2 hours without being able to fall asleep. My feet were elevated and my whole body was curved. When I started losing feeling in my feet, I gave up and went in the house to sleep. In the morning I researched “how to sleep in a hammock.” I found out you are supposed to lay diagonally across the hammock so you can be more flat. I tried lying in the hammock that way and it was a lot more comfortable. I will have to try it out another time, and hopefully be able to stay the whole night. Otherwise I need an alternate sleeping arrangement for my month in California.
Do you have a hammock sleeper system? Ever tried sleeping a full night in a hammock? Was it comfortable?
I've known for a little while now that I would need to get rid of most of my possessions by the end of May. For some strange reason, it has been a dream of mine for many years to sell/donate my "stuff." I knew it would be really difficult to do, but was never sure if I would ever do it. Now I am trying to plan what to keep, what to store, what to sell, and what to donate. I started going through my books and got rid of some. Although I've still got about 20 that I saved for the "store" pile. I also tried going through my box of electronics. For some reason I found it difficult to part with cable cords, phone cords, internet cords, etc. because I may need them "in the future." I also couldn't part with a bunch of old CD-ROMS that aren't even installed on my laptop currently.
One thing I was able to part with was my CD collection. I haven't bought any new CD's in probably 3 or 4 years. At least with CD's I was able to put all the music on my computer. So the only loss is the disc itself, not the music. That I can live with. Now I just need to find a place that wants to buy a random assortment of about 60 old CD's.
A lot of my stuff carries no emotional attachment. The problem for me is thinking that I may need something in the future, so I might as well store it if I already own it. Does anybody else have the same problem? How did you get rid of your possessions?
In addition to our month-long road trip, my family took annual trips to Florida, Maine, and beaches on the east coast. We did not live on the coast, so visiting various beaches every year inspired my interest in marine biology at a young age.
I was especially enamored with marine mammals and wanted to be a dolphin trainer before I was a teenager. I even convinced my parents to let me attend a traveling camp at Sea World when I was 13. During high school I read more about dolphin trainers and conditions that the animals were kept in. I decided that career path wasn't for me, but marine mammal researcher would be a better fit. I looked for universities with Marine Biology as a major. I chose to attend the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) because I loved the atmosphere on the campus. For my high school graduation present, I traveled alone to Abaco Island in the Bahamas to volunteer with an Earthwatch Expedition. I got to work with actual marine mammal researchers to survey dolphins and whales using photo-ID from a small boat. I had a lot of fun on the trip but left wondering if that is what I want to do for the rest of my life - how would surveying dolphin populations benefit anybody?
The Fall of 2004 I started my first semester at UNCW and couldn't have been happier with my choice of schools. I spent an amazing four years studying marine biology and environmental science with a bonus 4 month study abroad trip to South Africa. I was even lucky enough to get marine biology jobs during my summers and after I graduated with my bachelor's degree. Sometimes I felt I had the best job ever – I got to hang out at boat ramps and talk to recreational fishermen as they came in to measure and record their catch. However, after working for a few months I started to get bored. I felt like I was not using my full potential, the job didn’t require much brain power.
When I originally graduated college, I had planned to work for two years and then go to grad school. I started looking into grad schools during my year working and applied in the winter of 2009. I still didn’t know what I wanted to study so I found universities that didn’t require students to come in with a thesis topic. I chose a broader program and found myself back at UNCW studying environmental management in the fall of 2009. I was much happier with my life being back in school. I made friends much easier than I had while I was working, and enjoyed challenging myself.
Now that I’m nearing the end of my master’s coursework more than a year later, I still don’t know what I want to do in the environmental field. I started questioning why I’m studying this field, when I feel like my real passion is traveling. Traveling has become the most important thing in my life and I don’t mind if I’m not in the environmental field at the moment. I’m thinking that I might be able to create a career in ecotourism, that way I can bridge the two fields. I am my harshest critic and I don’t want my years of schooling to be a waste of time. I need to accept that my career choices have evolved over time and they may not be the same as I had envisioned when I was younger. I need to accept that so that I can move on and follow my new passions without feeling guilty about them.
Have you experienced this?
My best friend Marian pointed out the song “King of Anything” by Sara Bareilles. I had heard it on the radio but never really paid attention to the lyrics. When I listened to the song again while reading the lyrics, I loved it! I especially loved the chorus line “Who cares if you disagree, you are not me…” I think everybody needs to remember that from time to time. I definitely need to remind myself of that fact a lot. I worry about what my friends, parents, and even professors will think of my new choices. I dread the question “So, what are you going to do after graduation?” I usually reply with “Well, I’ve got a fun summer job and then I’m looking for other things after that.” The truth is, I have my DREAM summer job that I’m totally excited about! It just doesn’t happen to be exactly in my field of study.
I have worked really hard all my life to excel in school, find a job, and go back to graduate school, without ever taking a break. At this point in my life I see some of my friends settling down, getting married, finding fulltime jobs, buying houses… all that is great. But it’s not what I want for myself right now, if ever. I don’t feel like I’ve fully enjoyed some of my experiences in college and before that. I’ve never been a wild partier. That’s still not who I am, but I do want to cut loose a little bit, relax, slow down, and enjoy my life. I need to live in the present and stop worrying so much about the future. There’s another song I really like right now, too. “What the Hell” by Avril Lavigne. The chorus goes “But honestly, I just need to be a little crazy. All my life I’ve been good, but now I’m thinking what the hell.” So what the hell, I’m going to do what I want to do because it’s my life!
I have been looking at flights to San Francisco for about a month. I knew when I needed to be there for staff training, but wouldn’t pick a date to leave. Now that I know more details about my trip assignment, I figured it was time to book that flight. I was extremely nervous when I found a flight that fit the dates and price range I wanted. I’ve flown lots of times, why was I so nervous to book this flight? I decided to get to San Francisco a few days before I need to be there for training. For one reason to make sure that all of my belongings arrived on time, and also so I can explore the city. I visited for a few days with my family when I was 12 as part of our big road trip. All I remember are trolley cars and Alcatraz. However, this time will be my first real “solo” trip, even if it is only for a few days before staff training. There will be no family members, friends, or even a volunteer group to greet me at the airport when I arrive.
In previous trips I have flown alone, which I have no problem with. This time I have to plan the itinerary of what I want to do, where I want to stay, and how to get around. I realize this is still the United States, so I’ve got the home field advantage. In some ways that makes me more nervous because then people may expect me to know everything already. I am excited and nervous and look forward to pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I finally went for it and bought the ticket – One way to San Francisco at the end of May!
If you have any suggestions of things to see or do in San Francisco, please let me know!
I have officially been assigned as a trip leader for a group of teenagers to Costa Rica and Belize! The trip involves surfing, scuba diving, rafting, zip lining and sailing! I love all of those activities, but am the worst at surfing, so it looks like I'll be getting some lessons and practice in! I have known that I would be working as a trip leader since December, so I've had to be patient to find out my actual trip assignment. I am thrilled with it, and I will be heading out to San Francisco at the end of May for Wilderness First Responder training and staff training. The hardest thing is going to be packing for camping and cooler weather in San Francisco as well as equipment for Costa Rica and Belize. I am a last minute packer so I doubt I'll be too worried about that until the end of May. For now I need to focus on my schoolwork so I can graduate in May!