Lessons From a Cruise Ship

travel Jan 21, 2020

I just got back from my first cruise a few weeks ago. Let me tell you: I never had the desire to go on a cruise ship. I know this may be some peoples' ideal form of travel or even their lifelong dream, but as trying new food, diving deep into the culture and experiencing all the natural wonders of the land are my top three priorities while venturing into the world, being stranded on an all-you-can-eat cruise ship sounded like the worst possible idea to me.

Cue my invite to join a 9 day cruise through the Caribbean with my boyfriend's family. Of course, I accepted with gratitude because 1. it was extremely generous 2. I'll try almost anything once.

I was surprised that within 30 minutes of the cruise, we had already lost all cell service and the WiFi package costed the entirety of an arm and a leg, making it mostly unattainable. I couldn't believe all these thousands of people could commit to being off the grid and out of the loop for this long.

I thought we had an addiction?

The first two days we were at sea with no connection to the outside world and the same four TV channels with plenty of live entertainment to keep us distracted from our isolation. Though strange, it did feel good to be living in the moment with a bunch of others doing the same. There was a unique sense of community floating around with all these strangers.

Our first stop was Puerto Rico. My boyfriend, Nick and I showed our friends and family around this island as we know it fairly well (fun fact: we almost moved here). Lucky for us, we'd been before so we weren't too antsy to see all the stops. As for all the other cruise ship attendees, I couldn't understand how they'd be able to see or do anything in just a day's' stop. How could one get a sense of the culture? The people? The food? The sounds? The eco-diversity? How could you walk in anyone's shoes in just a few short hours?

After each of the three Caribbean island stops, I watched the tourists funnel back onto the cruise ship in their B.V.I. and Saint Martin T-shirts and couldn't help but wonder if that was the only thing they gained. Some didn't even disembark. What? I felt so perplexed.

Gazing out the ship window at night was one of my favorite moments. The stars twinkling, the waves crashing around the hull. With the window open, the ocean air had me imagining the adventures of the Hawaiian wayfinders sailing the Pacific and the Pirates conquering the Caribbean. As the night sky full of stars always does, it also reminded me of my dad.

It wasn't until the day after I got home that I realized the biggest, most unexpected shift I gained from this experience. As I sat down for lunch on my first workday back from the holiday excursion, I picked up my phone to indulge in a guilty solo-mealtime habit: Instagram. After about four scrolls, I had the strangest feeling - I literally felt nauseous. I'm not talking sea legs, I'm talking true sensory overload. Between the tastes and smells of the flavorful bowl I was eating, to the sounds of music I was playing in the background, to the warmth of the sunlight on my skin and the flickering LED penetration and of the nearly useless stream of endless images on my phone, I felt completely dizzyingly overwhelmed. I set my phone down and slid it across the table.

To my surprise, I felt completely comfortable, satisfied and satiated.

I have set the intention to continue living without technological ties. No more mealtime scrolls, no more pre-bed time wastelands, no more morning media. I have begun sleeping with my phone outside of my bedroom as well. These micro-shifts add up to more life than I could have ever imagined and this is certainly the last thing I ever expected to learn from a cruise ship. How did the most gluttonous experience become wholesome?

Would I do another one? Not rushing to do so. But is there something to gain? Yes. Community, presence and in the funniest way, connection.

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