I’ve had an unsettling feeling for a while. It was on the back of my mind for most of 2011 but I haven’t been able to articulate it until recently: I think I need to have roots again.
Working on cruise ships is fun. You get to travel to lots of places. Most of those places are pretty good. Even the shitty ones are pretty good. And there are lots of other perks too. It’s socially acceptable to drink and smoke every day. It’s a wonderful environment for carbohydrate and sodium-addicts. Libertine behavior is laughed off as a systemic by-product of “ship life”. It’s also great if you’re a minimalist because you don’t need much stuff on-board. And of course, my personal favorite reason for working on cruise ships – long vacations.
However, there are some negatives as well. For one thing, it doesn’t feel like real life. It feels more like United Colors of Benetton wrote a soap opera about people who get drunk a lot, and then cast slightly less good-looking people and a disproportionate number guys. And we repeat the same episodes every 10 or so days. Even with new ports, after 2 years of this it’s getting a bit old.
Well okay, I’m being overly dramatic.
The thing is, when I started my travel-minded lifestyle in 2004, it was all about seeing as many places as possible. I would get excited every time I “ticked” another country off the list, fantasizing that I would visit every country in the world one day. But very quickly, I realized that places were just scenery – and that I preferred slow travel, as it allowed me to connect with awesome people. (Which is also why, the Couchsurfing community resonates so well with me.)
You would think that if you saw the same people everyday while traveling for 6 months, you’d get pretty close to them wouldn’t you? Strangely enough, on cruise ships that answer is often no. It’s very hard to break the “colleague” shell and even when you do, it’s usually requires copious and sustained amounts of alcohol. But maybe it’s better that way. Why invest so much energy into a relationship with a contractual expiry date, when it’s so much easier to have a cordial, albeit superficial one. A facsimile of friendship is a safer way to go through life without missing anyone. But is that a quality life?
I guess that requires spending quality time with people, which ultimately goes back to having roots in once place for a while in order to develop genuine relationships. To be fair, my approach with working on cruise ships has been a little unorthodox. I haven’t had a real mailing address in 2 years. In between ship contracts, I’m effectively homeless. I roam from country to country, like a modern-day gypsy, until it’s time to return to the ship. And why not? Why wouldn’t I maximize my long vacations to gallivant around the world, visiting old friends, making new ones and seeking adventure?
That’s not the issue, however. Spending 6 months at a time, with your life on hold seems like too big a sacrifice to do long term. Who knows, I may change my mind. But at the moment, I’m convinced that this will be my last year at sea. I have some ideas of what I’ll do next but I’m keeping it under wraps for now. Partly because it’s better if it’s a surprise but mostly because I tend to change my mind at the spur of the moment!