Category Archives: Water Sports

Hogback Ridge Trail Before Work

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Things may change in the future, but living a balanced lifestyle in 2019 requires planning and creativity. We have a culture that is out of balance. Most jobs now involve sitting in front of a computer, sometimes for more than the standard 40 hours a week. Some of them involve spending nearly all of that time alone. Technology has increased the amount of time we spend alone outside of work, and our mainstream culture still places a relatively low value on social life and connecting with one another. This has taken its toll on our physical and mental health.

Many are starting to re-think our values and priorities, particularly those younger than me. However, our culture is not going to change overnight. To cope with our culture in its current state, I believe we must take every opportunity we can to participate in activities where we are not alone, indoors and seated. This includes rearranging schedules, additional thought and planning, and even doing things that make us uncomfortable and activities that don’t make logical sense. It is worth it.

Luckily for those that live in Colorado, it is easy to squeeze in a quick hike before or after work. During the hottest part of the year, a pre-work hike is very much preferable.

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High Temperatures Thursday July 18th

On Wednesday, July 17th, the official morning low temperature at Denver International Airport was 72ºF (22ºC). Later that day, the high would reach 97ºF (36ºC).

Finding a hike that would take roughly 90 minutes close to Boulder is not too much of a challenge. The Hogback Ridge Trail can be accessed from the Foothills Trailhead right off of highway 36 at the far north end of town.

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The 2.8 mile loop begins with a tunnel under the highway. The difficulty level of the hike is quite moderate most of the way.

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The first thing I noticed was an interesting perspective of the Flatirons to the South with the morning sun shining directly on them in the distance.

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The trail winds around a bit, offering several great places to overlook town.

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I have alway loved overlooking towns from above in places like this. Whenever I encounter a view like this one, I feel like I am backing up, getting out of the nitty gritty of day-to-day life and looking at humanity from a broader perspective. It feels clarifying to overlook the rhythm of life, especially at a time like this when many are on their morning commutes.

Getting to the top of the trail is somewhat of a mini-scramble, which is always fun.

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This trail is supposed to offer interesting views of the mountains to the West, but for some reason I was fixated on looking back into town, and to other nearby features.

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It’s almost like the focus of this hike was less about exploration and more about getting better balance and perspective on my day-to-day life, which involves looking East into town rather than West into the rugged mountains.

We would all benefit from spending a bit of time outdoors, moving and socializing in the middle of the week, regardless of our situations.

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Going for a hike in the morning in Boulder is relatively easy. The only way it could make anyone uncomfortable would be if either of us were worried about being a few minutes late into the office.

Two days later, I would take part in an activity that actually did cause discomfort and made no logical sense: Tube to Work Day.

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On this day, something like 1000 people all grabbed tubes and rode them on a 3/4 mile stretch of Boulder Creek. Many, like myself, neither live nor work along the creek. There were even people there who did not technically have a job taking part in the event. Riding in this tube required going quite a distance out of my way, getting rides to and from the creek and having a change of clothing with me. Seriously, there was nothing logical or convenient about any of this. It was pure absurdity!

My tube slid out from underneath me, causing me some physical pain. I hit a rock hard with my knee, which lead to a major bruise that disrupted my weekend. Six years from now, I will remember having taken part in Tube to Work Day. Those that didn’t will probably not remember the fact that they got to work on time for the 12th day in a row or didn’t unnecessarily lose sleep in the morning.

I feel it is inevitable that our culture will shift in a manner that places greater emphasis on sharing experiences with others and having time to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Until then, I plan to continue to find ways to rearrange my schedule, factoring weather patterns as well as other people’s schedules, to get as balanced of a life as I can.

WE Fest and the Culture of Northern Minnesota

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What is American Culture? This is a much tougher question to answer than most people would want to admit. Sure, there are those things about America that foreigners notice right away. For instance, the portion sizes.

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But, large portions of food, large amounts of soda, big cars, loudness and exhibitionism are not the only things that define American Culture. In fact, they do not even unite the entire nation, as there are places in the United States where these are not the customs.

American Culture cannot be described in one sentence, one paragraph, or even one page because of how far from homogenous it is. Traveling within the country, one would find many different sub-cultures. It is even possible to argue that every state, every city, and sometimes every neighborhood, has its own unique traditions and customs.

Of course, to claim there are thousands of sub-cultures in the country would be, in a way, getting too hung up on minor details. However, there is definitely grounds on which to claim there are several dozen cultures with significant distinctions from one another.

The culture of Minnesota can generally be thought of as in the same category as Wisconsin and Michigan. The entire region has an abundance of lakes. Minnesota is “The Land of 10,000 Lakes”. This culture seems to revolve around going to the lake, being on a boat, fishing, and drinking beer. People from the metropolitan areas often own second homes or cabins along a lake and travel there on the weekends. This seven week old infant living in Saint Paul is already preparing for his third trip “up to the lake”.

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Northern Minnesota specifically is fairly sparsely populated, putting it one one side of the most obvious cultural divide in the U.S.; urban vs. rural. Generally speaking, on either side of this divide between large metropolitan areas and places more sparsely populated. The expectations are different, the attitudes are different, and, the music is different. There is perhaps no better way to get immersed in the culture of rural America than to go to a country music festival.

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WE Fest is a major country music festival in Detroit Lakes, MN. The attendance, in 2018, was said to have topped 65,000. Here, the different customs and attitudes were on full display.

The U.S.A flag was everywhere! So were messages, from performers and attendees alike (often on their shirts) showing support for the American way of like, the military, and other mainstays of American culture.

This is not to say people in the cities do not love their country. But, there does seem to be significantly less exhibitionism about it. There is also, in some sub-cultures, particularly the ones centered around major academic institutions, a greater willingness to criticize actions taken by the United States of America. In some cases, this comes across as downright cynicism.

To be honest, there is something about the flag waving, proud, traditional rural culture that feels warmer …  happier. It feels far better to believe in something and take pride in it than to succumb to cynicism and long for something else. Cynicism can feel quite cold at times, and self-loathing creates sadness.

Yet, the more traditional culture can also feel unnecessarily restrictive.

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Seriously, let the dogs and cats have fun too!

While exhibitionism can be annoying to some people, taking excessive pride in one’s country truly only becomes harmful when it leads to one of two outcomes.

First is the hostile treatment of outsiders. In the case of National pride, this would be treating non-Americans as lesser human beings. This is not to say that most, or even one-in-ten flag waving rural Americans have ever advocated treating outsiders poorly. It is to say that, excessive pride in a group of people, whether it be a nationality, a gang, or even something like a personality type, can lead to some form of non-beneficial disconnect from those with different traits.

Second, is when pride leads to an attitude where no criticism, even if constructive, is tolerated. Not all decisions are good decisions.

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Loving another human being can sometimes mean needing to tell that person when they are choosing the wrong course of action. Loving oneself means seeking ways in which to improve. The same can be said for a nation. Like an individual, a nation needs to try to avoid poor decisions and seek ways in which to improve. Pride can lead to avoiding all criticism and seeing no need to take suggestions or improve, which is detrimental.

Maybe this nation, like every nation, needs people to remind them that the nation is great, with a great culture and heritage. But, also needs people to point out some shortcomings, help it avoid repeating past mistakes, and point out areas where improvements can be made. These are the traits of a balanced individual, and hopefully, going forward, can be the traits of a balanced nation.

Why I Love Whitewater Rafting

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The raft meanders down the river, passing through sections that are both relatively calm, and sections that are quite rough.

In the calmer sections, the smell of the trees adjacent to the river bed activates memories in the brain, of other outdoor adventures. In these sections, the people in the boat laugh at ridiculous anecdotes, point out the unique natural features around them, and congratulate one another on navigating the raft through the most recent set of obstacles. The group camaraderie is alive, as we enjoy each other’s company.

In the rougher sections, the raft jolts, left and right, up and down, and spins around. It even occasionally spins in a full 360-degree circle due to water currents, eddies and rocks. Around every turn is a genuine feeling of adventure, the element of surprise, and even some level of danger. The water, the people, and the raft, are all in motion.

I love whitewater rafting because…

It is outdoors.

It is social.

It requires teamwork.

There is physical activity involved.

The canyons and valleys the rivers wind through are often breathtaking!

It is a fast-paced event. It is impossible to feel stagnant inside the raft.

It is one of the few activities left in this world that requires we separate from our phones and other portable devices.

It is wild, raw, and unpredictable. Yet, there is some degree of control, as we paddle, steer the boat, brace for impact of all kinds, and look out for one another in the roughest sections.

It feels like life when it is being operated correctly. Not over idealized, yet full of “life”. Surprises are expected, and responded to in a healthy manner with a smile. And, people are constantly improving in both skill and character.

Flooding on the Arkansas River

RoyalGorgeRaftingRowdyCelebrating my half birthday with Whitewater Rafting has become somewhat of a tradition for me, even though this is only the second year that I have organized such a trip.  And, this year’s trip was a doozy!

Mid June is typically prime-time for rafting in Colorado, as a combination of snowmelt from the mountains and periodic spring thunderstorms create the faster moving waters that adventurers seek.  This year, however, an unusually rainy May across Central Colorado created rapids on the Arkansas not seen in a generation.  According to our raft guide, this is the highest the water had ever been on June 20th, and the highest the water had been since 1995!  And, of course, the river reached what is referred to as “flood stage” the day before the trip.

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Even the calmer parts of the trip were quite rapid.  The trip we signed up for was Performance Tours’ Royal Gorge half day trip.  With the speed that we were moving downstream, we covered the 10 mile distance in a little over an hour.  As is the case with nearly every commercial rafting outfitter, we began our trip on somewhat calmer waters so we could figure out our paddling rhythm and review some commands prior to tackling the bigger rapids.  Last weekend on the Arkansas, this was about as calm as it got.

It was not long before we were fully in rapids, ones that would be considered class 3 and 4.  The raft frequently bounced up and down during this entire middle section of the journey.  The roughest stretch came about 2/3 of the way into the trip.  It was a section of rapids that the instructor said some consider class 5, which is the highest rating navigable.  Unfortunately, we were not quite so lucky here.  In this section of rapids, our raft was quickly flung to the right bank of the river by a powerful burst of water.  The raft tipped sideways, dumping all six occupants (including the raft guide) into the rapidly moving river.

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I did not even believe it was happening at the time.  On these rafting trips, many people look out the bus window, at the rapids they are about to take on, with a feeling of terror.  I had always believed I could conquer anything, as, well, for some reason rafting just never really scared me.  I just handle the bumps, lean in when necessary, and enjoy the ride!  But this time, we were all really going down.  Before I knew it, I was directly underneath the raft for what felt like an extended period of time (but in reality was only about 3 seconds).  Getting out from under the raft, and being able to pick my head up out of the water and breath was quite the relief.  It was an even bigger relief when I was able reach out and grab the paddle that our rafting guide extended towards us to pull us to shore.  And, although only three of us were able to grab onto that paddle, all five of us got out of the river with little to no injury.  After recovering my breath after all the water I swallowed while taking the unplanned dip into the river, all five of us got back on the raft and finished the trip.  It was quite the experience, one that the rafting guides told me, makes you “a pro”.

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Perhaps the craziest aspect of the rafting experience was having the trip all to ourselves.  Almost every whitewater rafting trip one will take on, particularly on a popular river during a popular time of the year, is shared with strangers, basically, whoever also booked this particular trip at this particular time.  However, on this particular tour, perhaps due to sheer luck, or perhaps due to people canceling their trips due to the enhanced danger, my group of 16 ended up having the trip all to ourselves, which made the back and forth banter between the three boats on the trip interesting.

The one real drawback to having the water levels as high as they were was that it prevented us from physically rafting through Royal Gorge, which could not be entered (by raft) safely under these conditions.

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It would have been amazing to actually traverse right through this gorge on a raft.  And, on a calmer year, or in a calmer part of this year (say, August), it will be possible.  But, since I really wanted to see Royal Gorge, after the rafting trip, we picked up and drove the four miles to Royal Gorge Bridge & Park.

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This park offers a variety of crazy ways to get across this gorge, from the red gondola, to zip lining across, to simply walking across the bridge.  Unfortunately, walking across the bridge costs $23.  Any of the other activities would surely add to that price.  None of us really thought it was worth it to pay $23 just to walk across the bridge, but looking around, we saw plenty of people on that bridge.  I would probably rather experience this gorge by paying only slightly more money for the scenic railway, or by rafting through it on a calmer weekend.

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For free, we were still able to get on a short trail in the parking lot, to a nice over look.  It is really quite an amazing place, almost reminiscent of the large canyons one will find farther west, at places like Glenwood, Moab, and, of course, the Grand Canyon.

The craziest thing about the remainder of my Saturday was how little I had been “shaken up” by the entire experience.  Rather than being scared, and not wanting to continue (or ever go rafting again), my first instinct was to want to re-do the trip, and get it right this time (i.e. handle the rapids correctly).  If there is one thing I can take from this entire experience, it is the importance of being resilient, and taking experiences like this in stride.  If anything, I was far more upset about how much it costs to walk over the bridge ($23) than about falling out of the raft.  Hopefully this means I am still young and resilient, and not that I am actually crazy.

A Bizarre Memorial Day Weekend in Wyoming

IMG_3445It is hard for me to really describe a place like Glendo Reservoir in East Central Wyoming.  It feels like this place is a complete contradiction of itself.    It is in Wyoming, a mountainous State with the second highest mean elevation in the country, at 6700 feet.  Yet, this reservoir sits at a paltry 4635 feet, lower than many of the larger cities of the Rocky Mountain region.  Unlike many of the other popular destinations in Wyoming, no mountains can be seen from here.

In fact, like many lakes here in the West, this particular lake is a Reservoir, meaning it is manmade and does not naturally exist.  Glendo’s average annual precipitation is roughly 14 inches per year, which is about what one can expect anywhere on the high plains just East of the Rocky Mountains.  Lakes like this one, and the even higher profile Lake McConaughy in Western Nebraska, exist only because of hydrological dams created in the 20th Century.  To anyone not thinking about the creation of these dams and the reason for them, lakes like these appear completely out of place for a section of the country that is quite dry.  The pioneers who followed the famed Oregon Trail during the westward expansion period of the 19th Century followed this very river westward through what is now Nebraska and Eastern Wyoming.  They would have seen none of these manmade lakes that now serve as popular weekend destinations for boating and fishing enthusiasts with few other places in the region to go.

In a way, this place does not even feel like it is in Wyoming at all.  When most of us think of Wyoming, or any other Rocky Mountain State, we think of destinations that are either in the mountains, or within view of the mountains.  Most Americans understand that there is much flatter terrain in the Eastern portions of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming.  However, these places are dry grasslands with abundant cattle ranches and oil fields, not the kind of place one would think to bring a boat, jet skis, kayaks, and fishing poles.

IMG_3425 IMG_3427Camping at Glendo Reservoir is already a bizarre experience.  Making the experience even more bizarre was the bizarre weather.  May had already been quite wet, with rainfall totals prior to Memorial Day Weekend more than double the monthly average for nearly all of Colorado, as well as the Southern half of Wyoming.  As a result, Glendo Reservoir was roughly 94% full prior to the weekend.  All over the lake, images like these were common, with trees that typically stand on dry land temporarily underwater.  The air was far more humid, and the skies were far more cloudy than is typically the case in Eastern Wyoming.

IMG_3428 IMG_3438The cool, damp overcast weather reminded me of the Midwest as a whole, as the entire region is prone to be damp and cloudy at times.  The size of the lake, however, reminded me specifically of Wisconsin, where I would frequently spend weekends on lakes roughly this size.  Bringing boats up to the lake on summer weekends is a major part of the culture there.  And, the sand dunes and trails that surrounded the lake reminded me of some of the dunes I would typically encounter on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Indiana and Michigan.  At times, it felt impossible to even remember that I was actually in Wyoming, and not in the Midwest.

After a fairly cold night of camping, we were able to have some fun on Saturday.  After a damp, foggy start, the skies gradually cleared throughout the morning hours, and temperatures reached comfortable levels.  During this time period, we were able to do some hiking on the sandy trails around the lake, hang out at the beach (another concept that seems foreign to the state of Wyoming), and even do some kayaking.  The water was quite cold, as the Lake is fed from the North Platte River whose origins are pretty high in elevation.

The rain did not start up again until 4 P.M., which was later than some forecasts had indicated.  Unfortunately, however, once the rain started, it came down quite heavy.  In fact, it actually ended up cutting the trip short, as, well, camping in the rain can be a less than enjoyable experience at times.  However, it was not the rainfall that pounded us in the afternoon and early evening hours that made me decide to leave Glendo behind on Saturday.  It was the expectation that the rain would continue throughout most of the day on Sunday that pushed me to leave, as enduring the evening of cold, wet weather huddled inside a tent would not produce a reward.  Those who decided to press on with the trip and stay at the campground confirmed that the rain was still falling Sunday morning.

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I could be disappointed in only getting one day at the lake this weekend.  But, unfortunately, that is part of the reality of taking part in outdoor activities as a whole.  People can make all the plans they want, but, in the end, Mother Nature really does not give a shit about whatever plans have been made.  The Earth, the sun, the air, and wildlife move about in a manner that we cannot truly control.  The best thing we can do is be prepared for it, both in the sense of remaining safe in adverse conditions, and in a way that allows us to use our most precious resource of all, our time, in a more optimal manner.

Thus, I decided to head back to Denver (home), where prospects for Monday, the final day of Memorial Day weekend, appeared better.  The decision proved to be the right one, as Monday morning was pleasant, and it did not rain until after 4 P.M.  I was able to get a solid bike ride in well before the onset of rain.

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Life is full of unexpected experiences.  Nobody expects it to rain nearly every day in this part of the country, creating lakes where they typically don’t exist.  I did not expect to encounter a lake in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Wyoming or Western Nebraska.  And, people are often surprised that some of the people they meet like certain food, or genres of music that do not match their upbringing.  But, these anomalous experiences do happen, and happen quite frequently.  When we make expectations in life, we need to account for, and prepare for, uncertainty.

Saint John; Virgin Islands

Saint John Island is one of the most remote places within the United States.  A part of the United States Virgin Islands territory, it’s year-round population is a meager 4200 people.  It can only be accessed via ferry or boat.  For mainlanders, Saint John can be accessed by a 20 minute ferry ride, after a half hour cab ride from the airport on nearby Saint Thomas.  The flying time to Saint Thomas is listed as roughly three hours from the nearest major airport in the mainland; Miami, Florida.  Therefore, the minimum travel time for any mainlander is four hours.  For most, the journey is much longer.

I spent my time on Saint John primarily in two places; Cruz Bay, which is the main population center on the island, and Caneel Bay, a resort about ten minutes farther up the coast of the island.

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Cruz Bay is where the ferry from Saint Thomas first arrives.  It is the first place any visitor to this island sees.  It is Saint John’s front door, it’s first impression.  And it doesn’t disappoint.  The ocean here is as stunning and picturesque as anywhere I could possibly imagine.  In fact, even at some of the best kept lakes in the United States, I have never seen water this magically blue.

Upon arrival to Cruz Bay on the ferry, one immediately sees a plethora of tourist accommodations.  To the left is the Virgin Islands National Park Visitor Center.  In front are the beaches, boats and restaurants.

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A tourist that walks up the road straight in front of them (road names are not obvious here) will encounter a road lined with bars and restaurants that obviously cater to those not from the Islands.  Walking along this street in the evening, rather than traditional Caribbean music, one will hear the likes of Jimmy Buffet, modern American pop, and a surprising amount of Country-Western music.  And, a vast majority of the proprietors and patrons of any of these restaurants are obviously tourists or those who moved here from the mainland to work tourism related jobs.

Most of the residents of this island are black (or Afro-Caribbean).  Although this did not really surprise me, I still wonder how this came to be, as I had never really been taught about the history of the Caribbean Islands beyond the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 and the subsequent voyages to the “New World” that the news of this voyage inspired.

However, when I look around me, and take a couple of trips to less touristy parts of the Island, where one can see a better representation of how those native to Saint John live, I can’t help but have the present rather than the past on my mind.

How do the lives of those that live here year round differ from our own?

How do they feel about being a part of the United States?  And, more specifically, how do they feel about their status as a U.S. territory (and not a state)?  We commonly hear about issues regarding Puerto Rico’s similar status, and the razor thin margin between those who support and those who oppose statehood.  But, we never really hear much about the U.S. Virgin Islands’ status and how it impacts the people here.

Most importantly, how do they feel about us, and our presence here?  Do they debate the economic impact of tourism vs. the cultural disruption that it causes?  Do they ponder the fact that within the mainland part of the U.S., we have places like Catalina, Key West and South Padre, places where many of us could theoretically get a similar experience without invading their island?

Ultimately, are they fighting for their identities, their culture, or are they enjoying the economic benefit of our presence, as well as their association with the United States of America?   When we think of the Caribbean, we often think of pop icons, including Bob Marley, but also more recent pop icons from the region, such as Daddy Yankee and Sean Kingston.  The music produced by these artists take us to the pristine tropical oceans of the Caribbean, if nowhere else but in our minds.

However, it is these pop icons that appear to represent the dichotomy of the possible responses that seem plausible given the current situation of those that live in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Marley, from his lyrics, considered himself part of a struggle for the culture and identity of himself and his people.  But modern pop stars like Kingston appear to be simply enjoying the economic benefit of their stardom, much of which comes from the U.S. and the western world that Marley rallies against.

Although there is a lot more to any one person’s life that what we witness through the media, Kingston and Co. do appear to be thoroughly enjoying their lives.

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After multiple nights of partying, I lay exhausted on Scott Beach, the finest beach on Caneel Bay resort.  I watch the boaters and snorkelers go by.  Some even tell me that it was here, in the clear waters of the Caribbean, that they had one of the best snorkeling experiences of their lives.  They did so by being willing to visit a place a little bit out of the way, a place where the people, the culture, and the way of life are different than their own.

That is when it occurred to me that the world is full of people who are different from me.  The world is full of people who look different, act different, have different customs, beliefs, values, and different ways of understanding the world.  We can either learn to live with different types of people, and try to relate to them as best as we can, or we can accept the limitations that go along with confining ourselves to people with sufficient similarities to ourselves.

In practice, we all implore somewhat of a combination of the two strategies; accepting some differences but trying to stay away from others.  However, there are some that believe that in an increasingly connected world, the future belongs to those that can bridge the gap between different cultures.  I am not sure if I inherently believe that the ability to bridge cultural gaps is a prerequisite for success in the 21st Century, as many people have built fortunes designing products that largely cater to one segment of society.  However, when I watch people enjoy Saint John Island, and watch videos by Kingston and other similar artists, I see firsthand the benefits of being able to relate to those with different backgrounds and ways than my own.

Sort of Leaving the Country

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I never had any specific plans to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands.  I had always been aware of their existence, and their Puerto Rico like murky status as part of the United States.  And, every time I saw images like this one, showing the magnificently clear water of the Caribbean, the plethora of activities that are available, and the obviously phenomenal weather, it had always seemed like a magnificent place to go.  However, for some reason, I just never made any specific plans to make a trip here.  Maybe it was the knowledge that it would be a fairly expensive trip that kept me away.  But, more likely, it was the plethora of other pursuits, other destinations, and other activities that are constantly circulating around my head.

This is why, when it comes to travel as well as general life activities, it is sometimes best to follow the lead of others.  If I were to only take part in the activities that I had personally selected to be a part of, and only gone to the places I had decided on my own I wished to go, I would have missed out on hundreds of great experiences over the past couple of decades.  I would never have learned activities like water skiing, or camping.  I would have never discovered some of my favorite foods, like chicken wings, or Thai food.  And, I would have never attended some interesting events, like rodeos, plays, and some interesting comedy shows.  I would essentially be a completely different person than who I am today.

Following the lead of others, I was brought to the Virgin Islands to attend a destination wedding.  After nearly an entire day of travel, I arrived at a destination that is not quite American, yet not quite foreign.

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The U.S. Virgin Islands is considered a part of the United States.  All of the signs read in English.  There is no talk of any foreign currency.  And, more than half of St. John Island is a part of a U.S. National Park.  Yet, there are some major differences between how things work and operate in the U.S. Virgin Islands vs. the mainland.  The first, most glaring difference that greets any tourist when they arrive on either of the Islands is the fact that cars drive on the left side of the road.  For some reason, I figured this would be the case in the British Virgin Islands, but not the U.S. islands, as we drive on the right in our country.

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Other major differences that become obvious right away include the taxis, which are sized and shaped quite differently than anywhere in the U.S., even tropical places like California or Florida.  As opposed to basically being cars for hire, taxis here are high profile vans with several rows of seating, built to accommodate roughly a dozen people if need be.  Their fare structure is also different.  Most rides are a flat, destination dependent, per person fee, regardless of the size of the party.  In the mainland, fees are mostly destination dependent, with the cost difference between transporting a single passenger, and several passengers differing by only a couple of dollars.

Also, a large majority of the streets here lack sidewalks, or any other type of pedestrian accommodation.  Walking around Saint John Island, I mainly had to figure out a way to maneuver around structures, both natural and man-made, and live with the traffic being so close to me.

Walking in close proximity to vehicles driving on the opposite side of the road that one is accustomed to, along with significantly different mannerisms, and the extremely thick accents of the natives, would be enough to make an extremely sheltered person freaked out.  For me, I felt only partially outside of my comfort zone.  It was really unclassifiable.  It was as if I was walking some kind of fine line, or living on the “edge”, as people used to say.  I was neither completely out of my element, nor reverting to the familiar.  I was neither “outside the box”, nor “inside the box”.  Maybe I was on the top of the box?

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Fittingly, my new activity for the weekend was snorkeling in the Caribbean.  Like my experience in the U.S. Virgin Islands as a whole, this activity took me part of the way out of my comfort zone, but not completely.  I have swam, water skied, and jet skied before.  I have plenty of experience with water activities.  The main challenge snorkeling presented to me, as a first timer, was mastering the breathing.  I’d say it was also mastering the use of the flippers, but I most certainly did not master those.  I still moved around quite inefficiently.  However, once I was able to overcome my high elevation instincts to try to breath through my nose, and open my mouth wider to take in more oxygen while engaging in physical activity, I was able to breathe properly, and truly enjoy the activity.

It is said that the Caribbean is one of the best places to snorkel due to it’s clarity.  I was able to see some coral reefs, and moving fish.  Those the dove deeper down, either by scuba diving, or holding their breath, were able to see some turtles, a lobster, and view the coral much more closely.  Although I chose not to go too far down, I still saw underneath the Ocean for the first time ever, and was glad that I went part of the way outside my comfort zone, in both visiting the Virgin Islands, and snorkeling in the Caribbean.