In 2014, I began my first seasonal job on Mackinac Island as a recreation intern. Little did I know that the summer spent on a small secluded island would change my priorities in life.
I met many people from all over the world who had one desire- experience more. Other than living, money wasn’t a priority and was second to a good time. I had only lived in a world that expected us to graduate college, find a financially stable job with benefits, get married, have kids, watch them get old, forget that you got old, retire and try and fit in experiences before you died. It’s the same cliche you hear about from your typical travel blogger or Instagram traveler.
I have to admit, that life sounds pretty cushy and I know a few people who do enjoy that lifestyle because it works for them. It doesn’t for others and that’s fine too, but I’ve come to realize you can’t get trapped going too far one way or the other.
When “travel bloggers” preach about their lifestyle- they’re preaching to an audience and would like to be portrayed on a pedestal so they aren’t fully experiencing what is around them. The pressure to make sure that you look good in a photo that proves you travel can take away from the actual enjoyment of it. I find that many of the people I’ve met in my travels never post about it because they are there for the rawness of it. Whereas, on the opposite spectrum you can have people in a systematic routine experiencing the same thing every day and aren’t growing from it (hey, if you are growing though- more power to you!). Both are good, and both can be destructive. Be positive and support people no matter which lifestyle they chose because something that is important to one person may not translate to another. As long as you’re growing or teaching- what does it matter?
When I first landed on Mackinac, I was fairly certain that I was going to have a fun summer and walk away from it, continue my degree, and get a stable job afterward. I was actually back in my fall semester when I decided to visit some friends I had made there- still holding the same ideas.
In that same weekend, I saw a meteor crash into Lake Huron while sitting upon “skier’s hill” or “smoker’s bluff” (which I was informed has an actual name that I can’t remember right now: look for an edit in the future?) and the next day it was followed by a good-hearted slap that I needed. During this time, I was heavily considering giving up on an opportunity to move to Colorado. I had never moved out of state and it seemed like it could be a backward move for me to achieving my future financially stable job that I felt personal pressure to find.
Back to the Path
I was on Firebreak trail with my pal, Phil. He has a calm, kind and genuine demeanor and I had never seen him break this serene character as truthfully as he did this particular hike. We were on our way to a well-known icon of the island (which- its identity will be kept secret unless you dare to trek Firebreak and maybe you will find a treasure!) and we kept hearing these screeching noises following us there. That summer the bats had a wide-spread disease (white nose) that caused them to stay up during the day and since we were approaching dusk I had figured they were more frantic and confused than usual. I was particularly wary of the bats since my first bike ride on the island when one of these poor creatures decided my face looked like a comfortable landing pad.
Chitter. Chitter. Screetch. Screetch. Chitter. Screetch. -Well, that doesn’t really sound like bats..
Louder and louder it grew, following us even as we hiked away from the legendary icon.
Screetch. Screetch. Screetch. ZOOM!
Something flew past our heads. This was no joke- something was not happy about us being on the trail. The island is known for its haunted gimmicks, but this was no ghost.
Something else had flown by us and rested on a nearby branch about 20 ft. away. There were two large owls watching us- hoo-ing away.
“They’re not happy we’re here. We should probably go,” Phil said after we watched for a long time. I thought hoo-ing back at them was a funny idea, apparently, the owls did not. I turned to head back down the trail behind Phil while responding,
“Yeah, sounds good. I’m just about do-” and paused. Phil’s face went from sheer glee to utter horror in a matter of seconds. My right cheek felt a feathery brush and my face turned with it only to reveal the trail behind us was overtaken by a very large owl.
“Oh my God,” Phil started laughing hysterically and I followed as we hustled out of the area.
“I seriously thought he was about to get you with his talons!”
“Did I really just get bitch slapped by an owl?”
It may have been getting slapped that made me reconsider, or the mere adventure of it all. After that point, I decided that I needed to have more experiences that dumbfounded me as such and I wasn’t going to get that by doing what made me comfortable. It was time to discover a place that ironically grounded me in altitude.