From my window I can see the city skyline. The Empire State Building, the Twin Towers, the smoke stacks. This is home, my home, but beyond what seems to be that ever continuous skyline lies a world I never imagined; world Monet could fully express, world dreams could only possess. Being selected for the trip to Alaska is on my list of the greatest top three accomplishments. In the beginning, I never believed it would be as great as everyone anticipated, but it turned out to be the hardest place I ever had to leave.
Alaska is definitely one of those places you have to see to believe, and even when you are watching orcas swim with humpbacks, or devil’s club infiltrate the forest while eagles loom overhead, there is still some sort of unrealistic quality the landscape beholds. It is a place of natural abundance lying at your feet waiting to be explored, and I could not wait to get started.
Our boat was just the right size, as was our group of 70 with a crew of 30. It was like a family on a trip, and instead of meeting in the ballroom at eight we met in the Zodiacs to hike up mountains hoping to steer clear of bears. The passengers and crew were the friendliest bunch of people I have ever met. Everyone came from all across the globe, each with a different story to tell and each with a different story to leave with.
We sailed for six days, and I do not think I have ever been through so many climates. One day we were watching glaciers calve while seals lounged on floating icebergs, and the next we were in a temperate rainforest neck high in devil’s club while stepping over nursing logs.
My bunkmate Isabel made the trip a lot more fun, too. Together we watched our small-minded mentality of the world blossom into a world of unexpected directions. Alaska has had a positive impact on my future career. I have since I can remember wanted to work in the film industry. Alaska has made me able to expand my intelligence of the world, and I also know after college I can work on the ship for six months while I get my life in order. At night when I look out the window I no longer see just the skyline. I see the sky, the clouds and the land of opportunity that lies beyond it. The world is more than the 7 train or Times Square. It is glaciers and forests and snow-capped mountains. Whenever a gust of wind blows past my cheeks sometimes I think I can smell that smell of Alaska, that indescribable smell that freezes your insides and makes you feel alive.
Leaving Alaska was like leaving part of me behind. It was hard to leave the people, it was hard to leave the freedom, but it was harder to leave the land that opened my eyes to the world before me. I will find Alaska again, and I will pick my heart up right where I left it.
Jaclyn Smith wrote the preceding article in response to her experience of the Kids-At-Sea program during her sophomore year of high school in 2002. Lindblad Expeditions, 2001 winner of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global 500 Award, is the ecologically minded company that provides Kids-at-Sea to students from the inner-city New York High School for Environmental Studies. The program selects sophomores two at a time to participate in expeditions to Southeast Alaska and Baja under the guidance of naturalist mentors. The idea for Kids-At-Sea, started in 1994, came from a personal mentor’s influence on young Sven Lindblad, the company’s founder. Student selection focuses uniquely on the potential of candidates rather than past achievement. Those selected participate in all activities of the expedition with regular guests, keep a daily journal, research a report topic, and speak in front of the group of guests as well as classmates upon return. Jaclyn’s article attests to the horizon-expanding benefits of Kids-At-Sea for NYHS for Environmental Studies students. For more information about Lindblad Expeditions, call 800/EXPEDITION or visit www.expeditions.com.
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