Over spring break, I realized that I should force myself to sign up for more things I don’t want to do. I had finished several midterms for my classes and was just completely exhausted by the time Friday before spring break rolled around. I had signed up for an Alternative Spring Break trip to Orcas Island in Washington state with the USC Volunteer Center. The last thing I wanted to do was prepare a suitcase and troop off to a cold, rainy island in the middle of the Pacific when sleeping all week in my comfy bed was a viable option.
But thankfully, that Friday I made it out to the rendezvous point. The week began with a group of semi-strangers waiting for a shuttle together. After a shuttle ride, a plane flight, a drive in rental cars, a ferry ride, and more rental car driving, we made it to the cabins in Moran State Park that we would call home for the next week.
I was really excited to learn more about the eclectic group of 24 people who were also on the Orcas Island trip! The lack of internet and cell signal made it easier for us to lift our gaze from our screens to each other instead. My hopes were high, but the reality of the talent, intellect, and passion of my awesome group members was even higher.
Every day, we’d wake up in the midst of a forested paradise, surrounded by crisp Pacific Northwestern air, and head off to the trails in the state park to help clear out dead logs and dig ditches to drain off storm water. The environmental service we were doing was essentially to ensure the park retained its sanctity as a place for all people to come and appreciate nature from within rather than from a distance. My absolute favorite part of the trip was when we hiked to the summit of the highest peak on Orcas Island and could see the neighboring islands, the vast Pacific Ocean, and even Canada, from above.
We got a taste of the islander life while talking to some local middle and high school students about their lifestyle, and we answered their questions about college and life in Los Angeles. What really resonated with me was how much the island kids loved nature and held it near and dear, spending their free time after school hanging out on the beach or hiking scenic trails. I thought, “Wow, this is the life. Everyone should be doing this.” And for that blissful week, we could.
On the way back home from our island paradise, we stopped in Seattle and got to help some University of Washington students pick bok choy and arugula from their school’s sustainable farm. And of course, drank many great cups of coffee while in town.
As our plane took off from Seattle-Tacoma, my gaze looked onward to another half of a semester back at school in LA, while my heart gave one last good look back Orcas-wards. Alternative Spring Break was undoubtedly the best decision I’ve made all semester.