March 16, 2015, Sitka, Alaska
How could this be my 75th post for a 68 day cruise? OK, one post was anticipation and this one is a coda, written after we got home but still… I averaged more than one post a day. I’ve also posted more than 1700 pictures. It’s reasonable to ask; did he do anything but blog? Did he actually enjoy the cruise? Fortunately I write quickly and I didn’t agonize over this picture or that picture. I posted both of them, and both of them and both of them, 500 times over. Paraphrasing a quote attributed to almost every writer in every discipline including Pliny the Elder, Cicero, Pascal, Thoreau, Mark Twain, Shaw, Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill; if I had more time I would have written a shorter letter, or made fewer posts, or posted fewer photos. I wrote, did very little editing (as you can tell) posted and moved on.
The reason for all of this posting was to help me process what I’d seen before the next thing happened. These 68 days had more “peak life” experiences than a person could digest in several years of living, the Panama Canal, The Nazca Lines, Antarctica, Carnival in Rio and the Amazon. Between them we had Lima, Buenos Aires, The Falklands, Salvador and more. If I didn’t write about them (and sort pictures) as I went along I would lose a lot. So I did it for me and inflicted it on you.
Before starting this adventure I had my doubts about the enterprise. I felt some guilt about the self-indulgence of a long cruise. At the cruise’s end I have no doubts. I gained a good deal of understanding about the world. It was an education as much as a vacation. The insights I gained will help me live the life I’ve chosen in the International Community and in my local community. The greatest insight, I think, is the need to be thankful. Not a lot of people get the chance to have this type of experience, and I’m not having it because I’m smarter, or better, than a lot of people. I am having it because I‘m lucky, lucky to be born where I was, who I was and when I was. This experience was a gift of grace. Part of being thankful means letting little things go. I’m still working on that. It’s an old ship, some things don’t work, sometimes we are inconvenienced, and sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate. Everything wasn’t perfect. That bothers some people and if I am not mindful it can bother me. The takeaway is thankfulness not pettiness.
A long cruise like this can be whatever you make it. It can be a relaxing trip with card games, trivia, deck chairs, gourmet food and entertainment. Or it could be an intense experience with lectures from noted professors, writers, musicians and adventurers and visits to interesting places. And while we didn’t have “homework” we both read books on the region as we went along to complement the lectures and I guess my blog was kind of an open book take home exam. We lived and traveled together with a group of people going through the same experiences. The thing I can liken it to most is college with none of the pressure but all the intensity; and that requires discipline. Suzi did tai chi every morning, that was my reading time. I swam laps every afternoon. Amazingly I lost weight on this trip, not much but hey. I came back in better shape physically, mentally and perhaps even spiritually.
One of joys of the trip was cutting back on things that interfered with the experience. We had BBC available and Holland America did not count time on the New York Times website against our paid internet package. I didn’t check BBC news and the only on-line NYT story I read was the Leonard Nimoy obit. We got a printed NYT digest of a couple of 8 ½ x 11 pages every morning and that was quite enough. I mostly ignored Facebook except for cross posting the blog and checking in on the kids. I didn’t follow Facebook links to earnest articles in Huffington Post that would fill me with righteous indignation, or all of those links that “Will blow you away.” As I get back and reengage with the news cycle I realize that in two and a half months I didn’t miss much of real value. This trip uncluttered my brain while filling it. I hope I have the discipline to keep it uncluttered and full.
Holland America did a good job of aiding us in our journey. The “Location Team” and “Expedition Leaders” gave excellent lectures and demonstrations. They gave us a broad perspective on the region so we could focus on one or two things in each port of call. The line even provided a discography of music from most ports. They’ve provided us with readymade radio shows should we choose to do them. Each night we got a saying about travel on a card on our pillows. They often drew the distinction between a traveler and a tourist. They were good reminders for us to open our eyes and hearts.
Journeys are the midwives of thought. –Alain de Botton
The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see. –G.K. Chesterton
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. –Albert Einstein
This trip was full of miracles and wonder. In early posts I said that this was the trip of a lifetime for us and wondered at people who took a long cruise every winter. Did they keep their sense of wonder? What about people for whom this was their 80th cruise or people who take this same cruise every year? I’ve come to realize that they’re doing this rather than having a condo in Florida or a summer cabin. Many of them have inside staterooms, don’t buy wine or coffee drinks and so find this an economical way to live part of their retirement with free nightly entertainment and a well-equipped clinic. In an early post I may have sounded critical of the attitude “this is not a vacation but a lifestyle.” But having done it I find it a lifestyle that’s pretty good. And I think I could take this cruise again without losing my sense of wonder because a trip like this only lets you do one or two meaningful things in each port and there are many interesting things to discover in each port. That’s not saying I would do this cruise again, although there are several places it introduced me to that I want to explore in greater depth. And we’re considering other cruises to new locations that will play to our sense of wonder.