The Teachings of Travel

31 October 2015

Our family has been on a few cruises in our day. They were kind of our thing for a while, our vacation shtick. We're a family of many personalities, and cruising gave us the freedom to do our own things with only a handful of obligatory meet-ups, like the occasional family dinner or shore excursion. Those rare occasions aside, we were pretty much on our own. We preferred it that way. And so, we cruised.

Fast track to 2015. It's been nearly seven years since our last family cruise. Our mom turned the big 6-0 this August--shout out to Mom: HBD, Ma!--and she's been itching for a family birthday trip. Having a bias for Norwegian's freestyle cruising (eat when you want, where you want), we booked a seven-day cruise on the NCL Pearl and embarked on an Alaskan voyage over Labor Day weekend. We hopped from port to port, wandering through small seaside towns filled with salmon markets and tourist shops manned by "seasonal Alaskans" employed solely for the summer rush. We traveled by car, boat and train to see the sites, search for wildlife, and learn the history of these tiny towns.

But just a few nautical knots into our journey I quickly realized the perks I once relished about cruising--endless meals, open sea sunbathing, and an agenda-free lifestyle aboard the ship--just didn't strike my enthusiasm the way it once did in my teenage years. 

Rather, I returned to land seven days later with a burning desire to leave home again, even more-so than when we embarked. This wasn't the ordinary feeling of travel rebound. You know, the itch so many of us get after an incredible adventure, to plan another bucket-list trip and get out of Dodge before your usual routine sets in? No, this felt empty, and I just couldn't shake it. While seven days at sea was just what Mom ordered, for one reason or another the cruise just didn't satisfy my travel itch. 

Now, time out. I realize what a brat I sound like for writing that. I'm privileged to have the opportunity to travel, take a break from work, and spend time with my family. I'm very grateful for this, and I don't regret the cruise in the least. It was so nice to be with loved ones and soak in the beauty of Alaska, all while delighting my mom on a trip she's been craving for months. 

Though, it's hard for me to ignore what this trip taught me about my own cravings, and how important it is to really feed our passions in life. For some, passion comes in the form of art, or maybe sport. For me, it's exploration and travel. And, until this cruise, I didn't realize just what that meant or how deep that passion runs through me. My desire is one that requires me to connect with a culture or independently navigate a new landscape, and only when I can authentically experience this new experience and really soak in the scenery am I truly satisfied. As I've come to learn, this hasn't always been the case. But the older I get, the more my cravings beg for slow travel and authentic experiences. 

It's important to often put others' desires before our own, but it's also important to acknowledge what it takes to understand our passions, fulfill our individual desires, and then prioritize and truly satisfy them. After all, we work hard to earn a life we love. And I don't find it to be a privilege to feel alive, rather a necessity. 

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