So now you know all about the trip… the exotic ports of call, the beautiful ship, the sun soaked afternoons by the pool/ It was fantastic. This is my second cruise/organized vacation and they definitely have their benefits. Limited decision making, eager staff, plentiful food and drink–it’s relaxing. It’s also a great deal less adventurous than the travel I’ve experienced in the past. There is something to be said about showing up to a city in a foreign city armed with nothing but your trusty backpack and perhaps reservations at the least-manky youth hostel you can afford. It’s not relaxing, I’ll grant you, but it’s a great way to learn about yourself.
I made the effort to attempt a few new things on the trip, however, because I think that no-one should ever outgrow self discovery. Here’s a small sampling.
Snorkeling: Never had the opportunity to try it before, other than in our four-foot deep swimming pool with my parent’s gear they’d brought back from Hawaii. It was too big, of course, and leaked terribly. I was convinced for years snorkeling simply didn’t work. since my childhood I’ve only had one or two chances to go to the ocean. both times I mostly stuck to the beach with a good book and a lot of sunscreen. Twice on the trip, I had the chance to snorkel and swim further out in the ocean than I’d ever dared. It was addicting and I’d go again tomorrow. Of course, I’ve rarely heard of anyone who can swim who dislikes snorkeling, so this “risk” was a pretty mild one, but one I’m so glad I took. Things I’ll do differently next time: bring my own mask and snorkel tube, better sunscreen including the kind you spray into your hair, and a waterproof camera or waterproof camera case.
Food: To say the least, I am not an adventurous eater. My mom could have her own blog about it. I find comfort in familiar foods and am weary to branch out. It’s almost as though my psyche thinks that if I don’t enjoy the meal, I’ll starve. On a cruise ship. this isn’t a problem. Two meals a day, we ate in a buffet, so there were no consequences for trying a scoop of the weird looking pasta. Just pass the plate off to the waiter and start again. Dinner in the formal dining room was trickier. There were always familiar options like steak or seared salmon, it was easy to stick to the stuff you know. The appetizers were more exotic though. One evening, I decided to try bouillabaisse. Didn’t care for it, but I’d try it in another venue since I’m sure recipes vary wildly. One night I had a tougher decision: go for the Japanese-style shrimp dumplings that sounded interesting or the baked fish I know I’d like. At the end of the day I opted to try the new dish and really enjoyed it. This may not seem very adventurous to many of you, but for a burger-and-fries, girl, it’s a big deal. My only regret food-wise was that we didn’t have much opportunity to sample local food. Next time. I bet the flying -fish sandwich in Barbados is awesome when it’s freshly cooked. Not so much when it’s been kept warm for a couple hours on a catamaran.
Being social: As a writer, I am very comfortable in my own company. Many of my friends would be surprised to know that I don’t consider myself very social, but that’s mainly because I’m much more comfortable with my established friends than trying to strike up conversation with complete strangers. The biggest difficulty that we had in this area was that our ship left out of Puerto Rico and a larger percentage of the boat spoke Spanish amongst themselves. While I’m confident that most of them spoke excellent English, it felt rude to try and strike up a conversation in English, and sadly my Spanish is too limited to join in theirs. We did have a nice conversation or two with strangers, but not as many as we had hoped. Next time we’ll oped for a fixed dining time with a mixed table so we are forced into a few more social situations.
Body Image issues: I’m not thin. I’m not obese. I spent a huge amount of time in public in a bathing suit. Left to my own devices I’d have chosen a boring black one-piece like my grandmother always insisted was the prettiest and most flattering. My husband insisted on bikinis and one funky one-piece. Flashy ones. With things like sequins, leopard print, and black lace over magenta fabric. Ya know what? I looked just fine. I certainly wasn’t the worst-looking person by the pool or the beach. Truth be told, a woman my age would have probably stood out more in the frumpy one-piece than in a nice bikini. And without going into too much detail, my trip to the naked beach in St. Maarten was really good for my self image. No Victoria’s Secret models there, I assure you.
So if I have any advice to impart it’s this: When traveling, or even when you’re not, make an effort to step outside your comfort zone. You’re likely to surprise yourself!