When I was young, my dad had one of his best friends visit us from Alaska. Upon meeting him I made the mistake of asking, “Do you see lots of penguins in Alaska?” I received a look that embodied shock, disgust, confusion, and perhaps even fright. I had never been able to live that question down. So when my dad mentioned that we were to take a Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska, I wasn’t jumping for joy. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling (especially in luxury) but my dad also mentioned that we were staying with that one friend who believed I thought penguins resided in Alaska.
I then made a pact with myself to impress this one best friend (whose name’s Harris, by the way) with a plethora of miscellaneous facts about Alaska (and how penguins do not reside there). Never mind Sarah Palin and other commonly known facts, my mission was to inform! I proceeded to pull out every magazine I possessed that contained facts about Alaska and attempted to scan every article. But with other schoolwork a higher priority, I decided to put off this research till school ended. And when the end of school came along, I realized I only had a few days to complete all this research. Let’s just say that I came down with a case of procrastination-itis and couldn’t get through all the various magazines.
But once I boarded that ship it didn’t matter anymore. I saw a whale fluke and a seal from my window, a whole pod of orcas from the deck, and mountain landscapes that looked like they came straight out of animated films. On the land excursions I saw everything from glaciers to totem poles to bald eagles. I felt like I was in a fairytale. Who wanted to read magazines when there was so much to see and do?
Only a second did I regret that last question. It was when we arrived in Anchorage that I finally came face to face with Harris. The man my father regarded as an adventurer and a true Indiana Jones…who thought I believed penguins resided in Alaska. But knowing that I didn’t really gain vast knowledge in the five days I was on the cruise, I would have to prove in another way that I was more than just a misinformed penguin-lover.
And I tried. Harris had planned out museums to go to, hiking, biking, and being in nature just as much as possible (he was determined we see a moose or bear). I was determined to be the best guest Harris would ever have. I was optimistic, participative, and enthusiastic. I even climbed Mt. Flattop with a swollen ankle due to bug-bite from a massive mosquito.
At the end of the week I realized I didn’t really care about Harris’s impression of me. Today I’m not even sure if I’m still misinformed-penguin-girl to him. What mattered in the end was that I didn’t regret my optimism and participation I had on that trip. I had a real adventure because of my newfound attitude I gained. I was charged by a moose and lived to talk about it, I climbed to the very top of a mountain, and I got to meet true characters (who had great bear and African safari stories). I’ve traveled as far as Germany, but I chose to use Alaska as my topic because it’s the only place I’ve been that’s truly epitomized the phrase ‘make the most of it.’ I can only hope to apply what I’ve gained to places beyond ‘the last frontier’.
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