Friendship & Sea Lions in the Galapagos

(photo by Melissa Hope)

By far one of the BEST parts of having this blog is meeting new friends. It’s so, so lovely when that happens-when our lives cross and connect with someone new. (Gosh, just thinking about this makes my heart feel so huge. Sending love to all of you that we’ve been privileged to meet! Thank you for being in our lives! xoxo)

Just after Hurricane Sandy, we got to begin a friendship with a wonderful woman, Melissa Hope. She came with us weekend after weekend to do relief clean-up in homes.

And now we are together in the Galapagos, sitting on a deck with sea lions lounging nearby!

This feels too good to be true.

To sit here and chat and laugh and converse with complete ease is such a joy. Friends really are some of the best things on earth. Oh, to feel love and approval and kindness. It truly is the best.

Earlier, while walking on a deliciously fragrant path through some lush terrain (with lots of finches!), we made our way to Tortuga Bay, which to our complete surprise turned out to be one of the most stunning beaches any of us had ever seen! As we walked and chatted, Melissa was asking me about friendships growing up. I had amazing friends (best friends!) in elementary school and junior high. I still think about them so fondly. Though when I went to high school, sadly I didn’t have such a tight group of friends. I did work a lot after school and on weekends, though I’m not sure if that was fully the issue. Mostly, I remember feeling a little different compared to many of my peers – my head was wrapped up in making plans and saving money to move to the east coast for school. And, I feel lucky to say that my best friend was my sister.

In college, I had boyfriend, I was working full time, and I was going to school full time during nights and weekends. So yes, I was as busy as can be. And sadly, my life still did not include a lot of experiences with friends.

But when I moved to NYC at age 23, my world changed. I was completely in my element there and felt SURROUNDED by people with whom I could chat with for hours about all kinds of subjects. I’m always asked what it is I like the most about NYC – and it is 1000% the people. I can’t even describe how enriching and meaningful those friendships have been – and continue to be.

(photo by Melissa Hope)

(photo by Melissa Hope)

I’m glad we could celebrate friendship here in the Galapagos this week. And, I must say, we have been spoiled rotten here! Danny and I had been wanting to check out Red Mangrove, a property on the island that we had heard about. And since many people do ask us where to stay here in Ecuador, Red Mangrove so kindly offered to provide a stay for all of us for a couple of nights so we could experience the property! SO, SO nice. A Note to Travelers: Red Mangrove likely has some of the most charming rooms and views in the islands. And they specialize in all-inclusive land and boat tours, which we have heard are quite good (they are our travel agent’s top pick for tours). And, they have some of the best animal watching from their deck! You absolutely must order ceviche for lunch and sit and enjoy the sea lions, crabs, iguanas, and birds.

(photo by Melissa Hope)

(photo by Melissa Hope)

Our lovely room:

(photo by Melissa Hope)

(photo by Melissa Hope)
 (photo by Melissa Hope)
 (photo by Melissa Hope)
 (photo by Melissa Hope)
 (photo by Melissa Hope)
 (photo by Melissa Hope)
 (photo by Melissa Hope)
(photo by Melissa Hope)
 (photo by Melissa Hope)
(photo by Melissa Hope)

How about you guys – did you have closer friendships in your youth or as an adult? Was there an experience like becoming a new mother, or being in a relationship or marriage, or moving, or going to college, etc. that led to deeper friendships? 

P.S. A fun note: to this day, Danny is still best friends with his friends from high school!

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  1. Ruth May 6, 2015 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    The closest friendship I have had in years is with my husband. We have a closeness that I have never experienced before. It scares me sometimes, because of trusting all is really as it seems. He is such a good man and I am lucky to have him. I have never been very social. I have always gotten along better with ladies much older than me. Now being divorced, it seems to a turn off for a lot of ladies to be my friend. I do have one friend that came to me via visiting teaching several years ago. I have not seen her in a few years, but we have contact every week. I can share with her anything and know she does not judge. I am grateful for all that I have. Thank you again for sharing your journey with me. I find myself relating to you more and more. I am certain you are kindred spirit.

    • mara May 6, 2015 at 7:48 pm - Reply

      Ruth – such a wonderful comment. Thank you for sharing and for your sisterhood here. I'm so sorry that divorce seems to have been a turn off to others. Hold your head high!! Know that your divorce as well as their behavior doesn't have to define who you are – you are so much more. Also, yay for 'visiting teaching'! (If someone is reading and wonders what this is- it's a companionship arrangement that they have in the women's organization of the Mormon church – so that every woman has a network and friendships.) I have had so many good experiences over the years with it – and have made some wonderful friends because of it! It's such a good experience to go out of your way to make a friend and to reach out to someone – and then to have someone do the same for you.

  2. christina May 6, 2015 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    Oh, how I crave increased friendship in my life! Since college, I have not lived in the same town for more than 2 years at a time. It's hard to make friends when you're always moving, and for me it's been difficult to even want to invest *energy* into making and maintaining friendships knowing that I'll likely be gone in a year. My husband and I have 2 friends total in the town we live in now, and they have a baby, so we rarely see them. Right now I honestly don't even know what kinds of people I'd like to develop friendships with because next year we could either have a baby, several older kiddos (by virtue of foster care adoption), or no kids at all. Perhaps this makes me a one-dimensional person, but I *do* want any new friendships to sync with our currently-unknown future re: kids. I don't want to "ditch" new child-free friends if we end up having kids, and conversely, I don't want to be "ditched" by child-free folks who end up having kids after all. "Ditching" is probably too harsh a word to describe what typically happens when kids enter the picture (at least from the parent perspective), but it still very much scares me. So, to answer your question, in my experience, life changes (moving, kids entering the picture, etc). have actually hampered friendships, not bolstered them 🙁 I must be doing it wrong!

    • mara May 6, 2015 at 8:11 pm - Reply

      Hi Christina! Thanks for sharing your struggle. I am sure others can relate. On our end, we have friends with children and we have friends without children. Some married – some not. Some younger than us, some older than us. It is nice to have a couple friends that are in the same stage of life, but we have found it to be just as interesting and rewarding to have a mix of types of friends. It seems our friends are made less because of circumstances and more because of shared ideals, shared goals, shared passions, shared topics of conversation. Having said that, I know it's not always easy to find people that you can connect with on those levels. But we have found that the more openly we talk about things we care about, the more we find others who care about the same things (regardless of whether they have kids or not.) It's kind of crazy, really, to see connections just come out of the woodwork-sometimes when you least expect it. It's so cool when it happens – I guess you could say it's vulnerability and fearlessness at it's finest. 🙂
      Good luck as you navigate developing some friendships!

    • Georgia May 9, 2015 at 11:16 pm - Reply

      Late to the game Christina, but I can definitely relate to this sentiment. In college my main goal was working hard to get into medical school, and most of my friends back home lead a life quite different from my own (which is totally fine, but we don't really have much in common :-/) Luckily the experience has helped to highlight the few truly wonderful people in my life, and while I still struggle to fit in with most people, I am so grateful for the girls (and man-thanks husband!) in my life who taught me what it means to be a good friend. Since we don't like near to each other, I still miss those girls terribly!

  3. Tiffany May 6, 2015 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    Great blog post! LOVE all the photos, especially the photo of the sea lion lounging on the sun lounger – so cute!

    • mara May 6, 2015 at 8:13 pm - Reply

      Oh, thank you, Tiffany! And seriously -those sea lions had us dying. Their mannerisms are EXACTLY like dogs – the way they stretch out, or scratch, or move, or curiously look at you. It was so darn cute. No wonder they are nicknamed the dogs of the sea.

  4. Michelle Bunt May 7, 2015 at 12:04 am - Reply

    Love the sea lions pics. We have sea lions here in Dunedin, NZ where I live. We also have albatrosses and penguins. Worth a visit if you ever get a chance to come here. And you know I would be honoured to be your official tour guide 🙂

    • mara May 7, 2015 at 3:04 am - Reply

      Michelle! You feel like a friend, I hope you know.
      How lovely that you have sea lions where you live. We are so smitten with them. It must be fun to see them often. And, NZ is totally on our dreamy travel list. It would be so cool to pull it off. It's hard to say what the next few years will bring. If we were able to continue doing events in the future, I'd love to come do some in NZ and AU.

    • Michelle Bunt May 8, 2015 at 10:06 am - Reply

      You guys feel like friends to me too! But thank you that is lovely to hear 🙂 I have a feeling the next few years will be full of lots of great things for the both of us. Wouldn't AU/NZ events be amazing?!

  5. Sandra May 7, 2015 at 2:12 am - Reply

    Love the photos! One of my dreams is to visit the Galapagos for a few weeks and just explore.

    Great topic! Like you, high school is when I began not to click well with my peers, mainly because I was interested in my GPA and going on to university in some big city. Plus I worked after school and through university. I see now that the friendships I had then were more about circumstance than anything deeper. It's interesting to wonder if that's because I didn't really know myself well enough to recognise kindred spirits.

    I find meeting people who aren't afraid to connect, who value friendship, who are generous with their interest in meeting people who don't mirror their life stage profile, if that makes sense, is challenging. Maybe because I didn't develop the clique/pack mentality of friendship that defined high school, I enjoy friendship with all ages and all backgrounds, and I find that not narrowing my idea of friendship to a demographic really enriches my life! But this is not the norm. So many women I meet are looking for someone like them, be it an expecting mom looking for someone like her in her age group, or a career woman looking for someone sharing in those frustrations, or a busy mom deferring her friendships to those she makes through her kids.

    I'm lucky to have the few close friends I do, even if they are scattered across time zones and countries 🙂 Long chatty emails fill that desire for intimacy. Plus I'm lucky my husband is such a wonderful, caring guy who sometimes feels like a best friend. Mostly, I think, you never know when you'll meet that person who becomes like extended family. But it's tough. Especially when you begin to have a solid sense of self-understanding and develop a calm confidence about who you are, flaws and all. This is intimidating, even though I wish it weren't.

    You two are rocking the cap & shade look, by the way 😉

    • mara May 7, 2015 at 3:25 am - Reply

      I so loved hearing your insights and thoughts! I think you're on to something there with high school. I absolutely didn't know myself back then either and I'm sure that played a huge part in not connecting as often with other kindred spirits. I find it difficult, actually, to pinpoint exactly why things unfolded as they did – and this piece does help.

      I, too, feel so darn lucky that my husband is my best friend. Living abroad can be a somewhat lonely experience. It's just incredible to have each other and to truly be best friends.

      And thx for your cute compliment. haha. The baseball cap is new for me! The sun down here is so very strong that I now don't leave the house w/o a hat. I've realized that most hats blow right off my head in the breeze. so I'm now quite a baseball cap girl.

    • Aleksandra Duric May 8, 2015 at 5:14 pm - Reply

      Yes!! I'm living abroad and now sporting baseball caps for the same reasons. I pretend I'm embracing the incognito dressdown celebrity vibe (except I'm pretty sure I look like a dork ;)). The San Diego sun is relentless and so harsh. We relocated for my husband's work, and you're right, being away from family and friends and all that is so familiar can be challenging. But we are as close to South America as we have ever been and plan to make the most of being here. Ecuador, thanks to your blog, is high on my exploration list. Mexico, too, but everyone keeps telling us it's too dangerous. Hard to parse out what is from what people perceive it is.

  6. Anonymous May 7, 2015 at 3:29 am - Reply

    Love this! Reminds me of a sad situation here in CA–sea lion pups are wandering into San Francisco streets, extremely malnourished and searching for food (global warming). Thankfully, there's a seal rescue center close by in Sausalito!

    I was not a fan of high school; I had a falling out with my best friend my junior year, and after that, the rest of my high school experience was not enjoyable socially….add to the mix, my mostly introverted personality and high school insecurities. College was a dramatic difference, and it was the first time when I felt truly happy and comfortable with my peers…I had found "my people," so to speak. 🙂

    Though, I have found that it takes longer/is harder to make friends outside of an inherently social environment (like school, for example).

    Thanks for the post!


    • mara May 8, 2015 at 6:36 pm - Reply

      Nisha -loved this note. I can totally relate to being introverted. In high school that was me to a T. I seriously couldn't wait to get out of high school! (Which is sad to me now.)
      On my end, I didn't like being introverted. For me it was riddled with anxiety, shyness, distress, and low self worth. Over the years I decided to make deliberate efforts to try and overcome all those things and luckily – things are completely different now. 🙂

      And yes, I think it can be hard to make friends outside of a community of some kind. For us, our church community in Brooklyn led to loads of friendships. That seriously was a gift. Many of my friends have also found new friendships through school families, once their children started school. Though, I'm realizing that even church friendships can vary depending on where you are – culture and ideals can be so different in different countries or even in different parts of the U.S. that it can still be difficult to find your niche.

    • Anonymous May 18, 2015 at 12:57 am - Reply

      Hey, Mara! Yes, I can completely relate to being embarrassed about my introversion…I thought something was WRONG with me in high school, which made me even more quiet. I've gotten over a lot of the shyness that plagued me in high school, but I still consider myself an introvert (I learned through this awesome book, "Quiet," that introversion and shyness are not the same.) I'd highly recommend Quiet:, and the Ted Talk that the author, Susan Cain, did: I think everyone should at least watch the Ted Talk…it's very enlightening!


  7. Anonymous May 8, 2015 at 9:13 am - Reply

    LOVED this pics! The lounging sea lions do steal the show.

    I had just okay friendships in high school. I also didn't quite fit in. I wasn't an outsider or anything, but I was doing different things like you describe. My college was interrupted by a catastrophic accident that took 6+ years to recover from. When I went back, I was older and a bit out of step b/c of that, but appreciated the experience more and still have 2 good friends from that time.

    Grad school and my first major post-grad job was where I met some amazing folks with whom I'm still in touch, though we are spread around the globe at this point.

    My current situation is a bit like Christine's above. I am an expat very far from home. It is hard to meet local friends b/c of my abysmal language skills, though I am happy to say I now have a few! The expat community is a great way to meet new people all the time, but it has the very big downside of meaning you lose them all the time, too. Not necessarily "lose", but they are no longer your everyday, local friends. It gets so that I sometimes hesitate to connect with folks who are short-term transfers b/c I am a long-termer. Silly, really. Any length of friendship should be worth it. But it can be heart breaking especially when more than one really bosom buddy leaves in the same year and you are left behind.

    I also say that finding friends can be harder than dating! So, you finally find someone you click with and who likes you back. Are your kids the same ages (b/c if not, you really get pulled in different directions)? Do you like their kids? Do your kids like their kids? Do the kids get on with each other? And, finally, the big one: do you like the spouse? So many places where things can break down!

    But, I keep plugging away, looking for new ways to meet longer-term residents and studying my butt off in language school in hopes of one day being good enough to strike up a conversation with anyone!

  8. kami May 11, 2015 at 3:34 am - Reply

    I have always struggled with deep, close friendships. I've always longed for them! Since getting married and having children, I feel like I've needed that friendship more than ever but I only seem to find superficial friendships or friendships that are imbalanced (I am willing to put in more to the relationship and it isn't reciprocated). It has always been a source of pain and sadness for me. I am working to figure out how to break that cycle but deep friendship will always be something I crave…I hope someday I find it.

    • mara May 11, 2015 at 3:47 am - Reply

      Oh, Kami, thanks for sharing this. I think it's so easy to feel shame for not having close friends – and I'm glad that shame didn't keep you back from sharing here. I am sure you are not alone and I'm sure your comment will touch others who see it. I do hope so much that you can find a friend to connect with – even one or two would be so wonderful. I'm trying to think of any tips I have… and here's one. Find a walking partner! There is something about walking that seems to bring out deeper, more confident, more vulnerable conversations. I think it's because the blood is flowing and the mind is free – I don't know – it's like you become closer to your best self.

      Hopefully some other readers will see this and might have some ideas, too. I think it's worth it for all of us to think about how it is that we can make friends – as life is always changing. Friends move. We move. Things change. It's always a good thing I think to have our friend making skills ready to go.

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