I’m writing this after a recent week spent aboard a cruise ship.
For those of you who know me, this will come as no surprise. It turns out I can’t get enough of the sun deck, cheesy formal photos and a good old buffet line.
I’m also happy to say that the cruising experience can bring about some pretty handy tips about life. I present to you now just a few of them.
Come aboard, won’t you? We’re expecting you.
Saturday: The Taxi Cab Intruder
The first lesson came at the first possible moment…while we were still securely on land and at home. It happened as we made our way to the taxi stand near our house, all set for a quick and peaceful trip to the airport.
We rounded the corner and there sat a single cab, idling quietly in the pre-dawn hours. Perfect!
Just as we were getting in a woman lugging a big rolling bag behind her asked if she could join us and split the fare.
Our shrugs told her this was fine, but I felt my inner cynic rise as I let out a slow, silent breath.
- What did this woman know about efficient travelling in the dead of night?
- What if she had to go to a different terminal and slowed us down?
- What if we missed those precious minutes before boarding the plane, the ones where I planned to indulge myself with a glossy magazine and a Decaf Americano?
Seriously, was it really fair to deprive a Starbucks addict on her first day of vacation?
The woman slowly took her spot in the front seat of the cab, then turned around to chat. She asked about our destination before mentioning a few of the places she herself had travelled to.
It turned out this woman was quite the explorer, with more stamps on her passport than I might ever get in a lifetime. She’d visited exotic and adventurous places that filled me with envy…places like China and India and Thailand.
Every place I mentioned as a dream destination she’d already been to – and could recite the best areas to visit, to stay, to dine. I was enthralled and almost sad when the ride came to an end so quickly.
The driver let us out first, and when we went to hand her our part of the fare she refused.
“It’s on me,” she said, and then grinned. “Have a great trip!”
My face burned with shame at my own initial cynicism and judgment. Even though she said she’d cover it, I quietly tipped the driver as we got our bags just to make myself feel better.
The lesson? Life isn’t always about getting somewhere ASAP. Sometimes it’s about enjoying the ride with a stranger…one who is smarter, stronger and more generous than you ever gave her credit for.
Monday: The Cranky, Bloated Beach Family
A few days later found us peacefully catching some sun on an Aruba beach.
Actually, the peaceful part was a bit of a problem thanks to a large and loud group seated near us. There were several adults and one child named Sebastian.
I know his name because his mother kept yelling it at the top of her lungs.
Sebastian! Don’t run so close to the water!
Sebastiiiaaan! Come back here!
Sebastiiiiiiiiaaaaaaan! I swear I’m going to take that bucket away for good!
But poor Sebastian wasn’t the only victim of all that yelling that day.
One unsuspecting manager had the unfortunate job of trying to subdue the family so that the rest of us could relax.
He quietly asked them to keep it down and to gather their child, who was now having a temper tantrum right underneath our umbrella…and my left armpit.
The family didn’t take the request well. For 20 minutes they yelled at the guy for butting into their personal business, insisting he was trying to be a big shot, accusing him of keeping their child from his natural right to play at the beach.
Luckily they did come and collect their son, but only after defiantly grabbing and sitting in two extra chairs they hadn’t paid for… the perfect revenge for the ego bruising caused by their public reprimand.
This was turning out to be one dysfunctional family.
The manager weighed his options while the rest of us held our breath. Continue to fight or take the hit?
In the end, he took the hit. He knew he’d lost some money from the chairs and some pride from the public argument. Still, he walked away, knowing that this would help the family’s temper cool off and their minds sober up so that the rest of us could get some peace.
The lesson? The ego is a funny thing. Those guys who got all nasty? Their egos took over the situation with no regard for anyone else. The manager’s ego, on the other hand, was incredibly strong…so strong that it allowed him walk away from a useless fight and some extra cash.
Sometimes that’s the best you can do for everyone’s sake.
Thursday: Why Am I Feeling so Peaceful?
It took almost a week, but as I sat on deck and read my book I realized my mind was strangely…uncluttered.
This was very unlike me. Normally the constant presence of buzzing thoughts and new ideas in my head makes quietly reading a book nearly impossible.
Upon reflection I realized why my mind was so clear. I hadn’t clogged it up.
A limited and very slow internet plan meant precious few minutes to check emails while on the ship. An even more limited set of channels meant there was almost no reason to turn on the television, especially since I couldn’t blast myself with what had become a regular staple of 24-hour news updates.
When I actually did plug in, what I found surprised me. Instead of dozens of urgent messages and stories demanding my immediate attention…I found a few important items from a few important sources.
Those who emailed me knew I was away and were perfectly willing to wait until I could respond, or even return from my trip, to get their needs met. Those media stories that always seemed so crucial were mostly just repeats or updates of stories I already knew.
Soon I went from not needing the digital world in my life every second, to not wanting it there. Things took on a more peaceful tone when I took some intentional time to check in, do what I needed to do, and check out.
Perhaps, I realized, I could do the same thing once I returned. After all, the sea isn’t the only place where we all deserve some peace of mind.
The lesson? Despite what we like to believe, the world won’t fall apart if we aren’t always connected to it. The outside world just doesn’t need us that badly…and we don’t need to know every detail of its unfolding either. We’re both better off when things slow down and the clutter clears out.
Become an inner cruiser. Give people the benefit of the doubt, keep your ego in check for the benefit of all, and take a break from the chaos of constant connection.
Do it enough and you might find yourself stepping on deck for real one day.
Chances are I’ll be right there to welcome you aboard.
Now go do good…and do it well.
P.S. One final lesson? Embrace those formal photos with everything you’ve got. Below, one of our favorites, taken at the champagne waterfall. Cheese!