Well, it’s almost 3 weeks into my voyage. It is going so fast and I am having the time of my life already, and there is still SO much more to do and see! It’s pretty insane, but we have spent 17 days out of the last 19 sailing the open ocean and stir-craziness set in relatively early. Besides our 1 day in Hawaii we haven’t seen or touched land since January 5th. I feel like a goddamn pirate. My flight to San Diego feels like ages ago, but I can still remember the excitement coursing through my veins like ice cubes. As I watched New York disappear into the distance beneath me, it finally hit me. I wasn’t going to see those lights or anyone I loved for at least 15 weeks. I felt the nausea of fear and the tingling of anticipation all at once. Something about the apprehension of adventure has me addicted. Flying into the sunset that night I kept wondering about all the unknowns I’d be landing in. What will China be like? Who will I be friends with? What will my roommate be like? Are my classes going to be hard? What am I going to eat? Will I get lost? Does it matter? What will I experience see in Burma? Am I going to run out of money? (Yes). I didn’t have too much time to think about it before I landed on the west coast to begin my journey. As the plane descended into the airport, I could see the harbor and in it was the MV World Odyssey which would soon be my new home. Any of the anxieties that I had were instantly replaced with a huge grin on my face. Being alone in an airport is always a surreal experience for me, probably because I never used to fly much and when I did I always had my parents there for guidance so I always end up feeling like a lost puppy. I managed to lug my 2 huge rolling duffel bags and my carry-on backpack across the terminal to the shuttle and arrived at the hotel in San Diego without too much trouble. There I met Alexandra and Natalia who I had been communicating with on Facebook leading up to the trip and we shared a room together. They have now become my closest friends on the ship and we’re pretty much inseparable. I also have a decently sized group of friends dispersed throughout the ship and even if someone isn’t necessarily a “friend”, all I have to do is smile, say hello and boom, another person I can connect with. After spending the first night in the hotel we made our way to the shuttle busses that would take us to meet our ship in Ensenada, Mexico as there’s some weird reason they wanted us to embark in a foreign country… maybe they save money on some sort of tax? I don’t know. So as we drove down the coast towards Mexico I began to drift off into that happy state of window-gazing without a care in the world. Naturally, since I wouldn’t be myself without some sort of mishap, I realized at the border of Tijuana that I had forgotten to pick up my textbooks that I shipped to the hotel to save room and weight in my luggage. That was an adventure in itself as I scrambled to have the hotel ship them to the next port in Hawaii. A few frustrating hours and $100 later and all was well again. We arrived in Ensenada and started the long process of embarkation. I finally got to my room and started to settle in.
My cabin (room) is quite small, just barely big enough for my roommate and I and all of our stuff. It is located on the 3rd deck (floor) which is the lowest one possible, and allllll the way towards the bow (front) so it gets a little crazy in there. The walls shake, the wood creaks and the water can be heard swirling right outside the exterior wall. Our small porthole has been closed for the last week as the ship has recently hit some pretty rough seas, which bothered me at first but then I opened it briefly and realized that when the waves hit we literally dip under water and that the pressure of the waves could break the glass and I had no problem closing it. When the ship rises over the waves my cabin takes the brunt of the force as it comes slamming back down, which makes lying in bed super exciting. It’s like sleeping on a roller coaster. Every so often a wave hits our wall and it sounds like a bomb going off so that’s cool while sleeping too. The other night we had 5 meter swells which means about 17 foot waves. That might not sound like a lot to some of you but trust me it most definitely is. Walking through hallways and up or down stairs became quite a challenge; it was like watching babies learn to walk or very drunk people try to make it home from the bar. Luckily, I’m not prone to motion sickness so it doesn’t really bother me much, and the swaying actually rocks me to sleep like a baby.
Unsurprisingly, class on a ship is pretty similar to class on land with some minor differences to get used to. When drifting off into a daydream, instead of endless fields of grass outside the window you get lost in the transience of the ocean’s waves. You’re no longer staring out at a sea of wandering students, but you are gazing into the immense distance between your body and your home; getting lost in the sun’s reflection dancing along the water’s surface. Instead of complaining about your “8 AMs” you get to gripe about your “oh-eight-hundreds” which really aren’t even that bad because there’s relatively no commute time unless you count having to walk up the few flights of stairs between your bedroom and the classroom. You become VERY creative in your use of Wikipedia as opposed to google, because wiki is the pretty much the only accessible internet site on board and is therefore basically your only source.
Essentially this experience for me so far is sort of like living back on campus, except everyone is a freshman and everyone else is dorming too. The ease in which people freely approach each other almost as if to ask “hey, can we be friends?!” is something I had forgotten. Once the stir-craziness set in, we all had to find ways of having fun. For the most part, we hang out and talk in each other’s rooms, play cards, watch movies, hangout on the top deck studying/reading in the sun, swim in the pool, sunbathe on the lounge chairs, give and take tours of each other’s rooms, play ping pong or chess on the giant chess board, tell stories, play music and more. It’s not as boring as you might think. My classes are amazing, and I’m in love with all of my professors and the entire staff here. I am learning exactly what I want to be learning, I’m doing exactly what I love to do and I’m exactly where I want to be. Life honestly doesn’t get much better than this, and I am eternally grateful for whatever gods or fate brought me here.
Hawaii was absolutely insane. Despite only being there for 1 day I had the most wonderful time. The island of Oahu is gorgeous, with landscapes that look so much like they came from a postcard that I didn’t believe I was looking at real life. My Environmental Ethics Field Class went into the rainforest to study the biodiversity of the ecosystem there. I was just happy to be in 80 degree weather in the middle of January! I fell in love with the island, and I already can’t wait until I can go back. I spent the whole day with my mouth wide open in awe. The discussions I was able to have with my peers and professor were real life applications of the things we learned in class, real ethical issues facing the environment and I totally geeked the hell out. It feels so great to be taking classes that I am actually excited for and passionate about. After the rainforest we drove down to the ocean and spent the rest of our time by the beach discussing the ocean life. The day went by too quickly and I desperately wanted to ditch the bus back to the ship so that I could just stay there forever.
What astounds me the most about travel, at least for me, is the human capacity for adaptation. I always quickly find myself subconsciously accepting the notion that “this is my life now”; and in a way forgetting all that I had left behind. Now this is not to say that I have forgotten my family or my friends, my cat, my house or my life as if none of it matters… but perhaps it’s a safety mechanism of the brain to be able to act as if all of that was just a life I once lived, and now is like the distant memory of a dream. I suppose it keeps me from getting too homesick or dwelling on all I could be missing, but it still surprises me that I can just jump into any sort of new and crazy life with such ease. It also seems to be the case for others I talk to as well, so I’m definitely not the only one. Everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that it feels like we have been on this trip for years already!
In just a few short hours we will be docking in Japan and I cannot sleep for the life of me. I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. It still does not feel real that I will be on the continent of Asia soon. Being at sea for so many days really makes you appreciate the idea of land. I am probably going to kiss the ground the second I step foot off the ship. The first day I have a Field Class with my International Relations class. We will be going to the US Consulate in Osaka to meet with American and Japanese diplomats which is super exciting. Then we’ll be off to the University of Osaka to meet and speak with Japanese students. After we get back to the ship I’ll be taking a high-speed bullet train to Kyoto, the old capital city. I will be spending roughly 2 days there and then heading to Tokyo, which I am SO EXCITED FOR. I plan on eating at least 150 pounds of sushi. Per day. The last day will be spent between Osaka and Nara and then I will head back to Kobe to have the best Kobe beef I will ever consume.
Well, I suppose I wrote way more than enough and I doubt anyone has read all the way to this point besides my parents anyway so if you happened to make it here CONGRATS AND THANKS FOR READING. I’ll post some pictures of the ship, my room, and Hawaii on my next post, along with everything from Japan 🙂 Until next time…
Catch ya on the flip side!