I have a really cool job. This may sound like I am bragging, but it's true. Just like you, my job has its challenging moments, but a few weeks ago I was reminded just how fortunate I really am. I was lucky enough to spend a night sleeping on the ground, eating freeze-dried meals and then work in the hot sun while fighting off a swarm of bees just to get water. Does it really get any better than that? I don’t think so! Harmless bees aside, I spent two days at one of California’s most beautiful destinations with awesome colleagues— all while helping to preserve a national park.
As the Events Manager for Tourism Cares I have had the pleasure to help our members plan private volunteer events. For the seventh year in a row, I worked with The Travel Corporation and the TreadRight Foundation to give back better—together; this year we focused on Channel Islands National Park. After months of planning, the day arrived. I boarded a boat in Ventura with 12 Travel Corporation volunteers and together we trekked to the island for a night of camping and two days of volunteering and exploring.
After a boat ride filled with dolphin sightings, it was already clear upon docking at Santa Cruz Island that this was going to be an incredible experience. The island is covered in rolling hills and surrounded by deep blue water that looks like something out of a magazine. After a short hike (which feels longer when you are carrying two days of supplies) we set up our campsite. Most of us had not camped in several years, so setting up our tents required some finessing, but to outsiders, we looked like pros.
That afternoon we met our NPS volunteer leads Dennis and Randy. Dennis and Randy are people who give you hope for humanity. They are volunteers for NPS who come out to the island during their free time and help lead groups like ours on restoration efforts. Their knowledge and passion for the park are infectious. I am grateful to meet locals like them at almost every destination we bring volunteers to; they are a big part of what makes my job worthwhile.
We spent the afternoon removing oyster root and artichoke plant from a trail near our campsite. Randy and Dennis explained that by removing the invasive plants and collecting their seeds and blossoming flowers, we are preventing them from spreading throughout the island. Without these efforts, they would multiply and pretty much ruin the island for everything and everyone—there's a reason why they are called invasive! It never ceases to amaze me what a group of volunteers can accomplish in a matter of hours. Those plants did not stand a chance.
That night I pretended to be a gourmet chef and made dinner for the group by boiling water for freeze-dried meals (full discloser: they were way better than my usual specialty of microwaved dinners). During our meal, the volunteers had fun getting to know one another. Even though the group all work for the same company, many had not met in person because their office is so large. I love that these events bond colleagues together. It was a blast to hear everyone talking about their jobs, the industry, and life in general. This is another part of my job that is fulfilling: the opportunity to not only meet the people that make up Tourism Cares’ membership but also get to know them on a human level—not just through emails and conference calls.
The next day we started tackling the invasive plants early to avoid the heat and to give us a more time to join Randy and Dennis on a hike to Potato Bay that afternoon. Along the way to the bay we enjoyed stunning views of the ocean and the other islands that make up the park. Many of the California natives with me could not believe we were in their home state and essentially their backyard. As a life-long east coaster, I could not have been more grateful to experience the island.
Our national parks are truly breathtaking and this trip was an ideal way to enjoy the Channel Islands. After a night on the island, with two days of volunteering and exploring, it is safe to say that we fell in love with Santa Cruz Island. Everyone in our group walked away with a sense of ownership and a deeper understanding of the great importance preservation plays in keeping natural gems like Santa Cruz around for people to enjoy today—and countless years into the future.
I have a really cool job: I have the opportunity to meet passionate people who donate their time and energy to help make the world around them a better place; I get to meet—and really get to know—the people that make up the Tourism Cares community; and I get to see and experience fascinating places. It really does not get much better than that.
For more photos of our Channel Islands adventure, visit our Facebook page.