Not long ago I returned home from a week-long cruise trip to Bermuda.
I’m here to tell you it was the experience of a lifetime.
A little backstory. I had been on a cruise only once before – several years ago – from Seattle to Alaska, and with family. That had been a truly eye-opening experience, for I discovered my love of travel on that trip. Since then, I’ve been to a variety of places, though not nearly enough. This recent foray into the Atlantic was spurred by a variety of fuels; there’s post break-up energy, there’s call to adventure energy, there’s the “well heck I found a deal that would be cheaper than a writer’s retreat” energy. Bermuda would be my first journey of any considerable distance, on my own.
I set out with the intention of relaxing, of spending many hours in my state room alone, scribbling away in my notebook, undistracted but for the sway of the ship and the occasional pang of hunger that would draw me to the buffet. What I got instead of a quiet, relaxed vacation was the makings of a full story arc packed into a week.
I experienced adventure, exotic locales, thrills, personal growth, self-discovery and yes, even romance. Throw in a little moodiness and yearning at the beginning, mix in a little debilitating sickness after the first half, followed by a steady recovery – and we’ve got a bloody Hero’s Journey. There was a lot of experience to work with here. The writer’s mantra “I can use this,” rang true.
The trip began with an air of depression – the way any rom-com might start – for like I said, I was traveling solo. I am the kind of bloke who finds himself most comfortable when sharing his experiences with a significant other. So on Day 2, our first day out on the open ocean, I swallowed whatever social anxieties I might have had and took part in events aboard the Norwegian Breakaway, meeting people who would completely change my entire trip. One or two of whom might have had a bigger impact on my life than they might realize.
I learned that being yourself really pays off, even when surrounded by people significantly more well-off than one’s self. I usually go about charming my way through life, inspired as I am by the likes of Odysseus, Locke Lamora, and other such silver-tongued individuals. Remaining uninhibited around strangers, whether they’re akin to me or not, attracts the best out of them.
I learned that my preferred means of dress – which includes a fedora and suspenders – can, in fact, attract people I am stammeringly attracted to.
I learned that going high speeds on a jet ski is how you’re supposed to do it – by cutting over the top of the waves.
I learned that I’m capable of jumping off said jet ski (while we weren’t moving), overcoming my distaste (fear?) of jellyfish (my mortal enemy) around me in deep water (my other mortal enemy) to “rescue” someone. [It was a safe situation, but I didn’t have to do what I did, and I surprised myself and the other person.]
I rediscovered my love of Trance music.
I learned that I love to dance, and don’t need alcohol to get on the dance floor anymore.
I learned that three consecutive (and relatively sleepless) nights of drinking and dancing is about the time when my body begins to rebel against me.
I learned all about Canada’s healthcare system (from a random couple on the road).
I learned that people can and do pay as much as $4000 for a 32 oz bottle of whiskey.
I learned that when you least expect it, there could be a monkey hanging right freaking behind you as you undress.
But perhaps cheesiest and most hopelessly-romantic of all, I learned that there exist people in possession of traits you never thought real people had. Even if you, or they, aren’t ready for each other, just yet. It is a comforting feeling to learn that such people are not mythological, and are not merely a product of Another Head Full of Fantasy.
If I set out on a mission exclusively to write and fill up my notebooks with prose, then I failed.
But if I set out to experience life, meet people, gather and garner memories, then I succeeded.
If there’s one thing I want you, dear readers, to take away from this, it’s that there is no substitute for experience. I know I get up on my proverbial soapbox about that a lot, but hey, better to lead by example.
If you’ve had any profound experiences – traveling or otherwise – that left your head spinning and your creative juices flowing, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
I’ll leave you today with a track from a recently discovered artist named Andrew Rayel who, as I learned over the course of the cruise, happens to be the protege of one my old favorites, Armin van Buuren. We’re talking serious Trance here.