This summer, writer Aimee Brown and photographer Justin Bailie traveled to the Gulf Coast to document how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was impacting the lives of its residents. Now that the well has been capped, the long-term effects of the spill on the environment are still unknown, and the same uncertainty faces the people they met. In this, the last post from the series, Aimee reflects on her decision to visit the coast in the midst of the crisis.
In the dark from my own bed while the rain makes tapping sounds against the metal roof of my coast range cabin, I think of Louisiana.
I think of the fishermen who invited me onto the back of their boat where I learned to clean, behead and eat shrimp caught less than 12 hours earlier. I think of heavy equipment moving across white beaches leaving modern-day dinosaur tracks behind in the sand. Of women who cooked for us and took us home, and of men who offered phone numbers and advice.
As the fire crackles in my home back in Oregon, I think of why we travel and of the causes we take on when we pack our bags and walk out the door. I wonder what would happen if more of us could stop our lives when disaster hit far from home.
When photographer Justin Bailie and I left the Pacific Northwest for the Gulf Coast we didn’t know what we were getting into. Oil had been gushing from the broken well for more than seven weeks. Daily news reports provided a litany of heartbreaking stories and images ranging from brown pelicans dripping in crude to oil executives standing in front of crowds and forgetting that they too were human.
We rolled the dice when we got on the road, and then again when we got to Louisiana and started asking strangers about everything from where we should camp and eat, to who we should talk on the bayous. In the thirty days we traveled along the Gulf Coast not once were we led astray.
Despite the length of time we spent there, I don’t have any great tourist stories or pretty anecdotes about quaint shops and cute neighborhoods of southern Louisiana. I can’t tell you about the amazing hotels, parks, hikes, museums or art galleries that I know exist in the region.
What I can tell you about are the people, and the kindness that we encountered, the openness in which we were received. I can tell you that I was overwhelmed by the generosity and courage of individuals with seemingly nothing more to lose. I can tell you that my heart broke then broke again, only to be built back up by love.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Sometimes traveling is about more than guidebooks and souvenirs. Sometimes it’s about having our eyes opened to a world that’s larger, messier and more beautiful than we could imagine from home.
Read through all of the blog posts in the series, and read Aimee and Justin’s photo slideshow of 10 Lessons from the Gulf Coast.
Photos: Justin Bailie