Early in the fall semester, I visited Catalina island for my birthday in late September. Having been to Anacapa, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz with respective school trips, I wasn’t sure what to expect from an island with so much tourism and public recognition. I only knew of the protected beaches, isolation, and wildlife of my research experiences. I must say, what I encountered was nothing could have prepared for.

I found myself thinking about the history of Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz, the one I’ve spent so much time researching in anthropology and ESRM. I thought about the markets and the daily lives of individuals who resided on the islands, building an economy in their lifestyles out there across the water. This is the modern example of such lifestyles. High end boutiques, hotels and restaurants blanket the space only walking distance from the beachfront, which is narrow, crowded, and overpopulated. Conversations of $1000 hotel rooms are overheard at every table, and I can’t help but wonder if the baristas in the coffee shops sleep in tents, small apartments, island homes, or homes on the mainland. It’s all a very interesting phenomenon and it all happens day after day.

I was only there a few hours, having taken the trip out from several hours south of here at Newport Beach. I had about enough time to gawk at the tourists, have a meal, and walk past the overpopulated beach to a rocky cliff just past a road where buses, trucks and golf courts zoom to and fro. I tried to snorkel without swim shoes, and couldn’t muster up the strength to get past the pain of the rocks under my feet.

I was ill prepared for Catalina, and found myself missing the beaches of Santa Rosa, wishing I’d learn to snorkel before my earlier visits, when I had a bit of free time to enjoy the crystal blue water. Maybe I’ll get rich one day and return to this island for a longer trip, try to find some more reclusive spots to enjoy… but for poor little 20-something Lauren, the glamour was sort of lost on me. Still, I enjoyed the blue water and blue skies, and I’m always happy on a long boat ride.