Thursday, December 15, 2011

Try-Umph Travels: Home Again

I got off of the ship in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and disembarked feeling many things. When I agreed to be a part of this voyage I knew the limitations. I knew I had to return home in December. I knew that whatever I saw, heard, and felt would end. I knew assimilating back into my life would be both difficult and comfortable. Even still, I didn’t feel ready. I wished I could take many things about my time on the ship with me or that I could bring my home life onto the ship.

When I disembarked I had to say goodbye to a lifestyle. Each day I had the privilege of being a short walk away from one of the most beautiful sights and peaceful experiences. There is something remarkable about viewing the ocean from the middle of the ocean. There are no buildings to obstruct your line of sight. There is no sand. You don’t need binoculars. You are right there. On the water, part of it. When it sways you sway. More importantly, if it’s still, you are still.

I don’t know what’s in my future. I don’t know what my next year looks like. All I know is that I’ve learned. I’ve grown. I’ve seen. I’ve felt. I’ve tasted. I’ve cried. I’ve laughed. I’ve laughed some more.

It was an impressive journey. It was fascinating to be at the mosque in Morocco during the call to prayer. Speaking to the young artist in Ghana as he proudly showed me his artwork inspired me to have a more youthful pride about my gift. Climbing Lion’s Head Mountain in South Africa taught me the benefits associated with completing a challenge. Relaxing on the beautiful beach of Mauritius with beautiful company reminded me of the importance of comfortable silence.

The complexities of India illustrated that I can and should accept my own complexities. Listening to a cover band in Malaysia showed me the impact that music has on creating a common experience across cultures. Learning to cross the busy streets of Vietnam illustrated that I cannot take for granted even the most basic life lessons. Standing on the Great Wall of China reminded me of the strength and fortitude we all have within us. Being personally escorted to a train by a friend’s mother in Japan showed me kindness in its most genuine form. Feeling the uncomfortably hot, dark sand under my feet on a Costa Rican beach allowed me to experience nature’s power. Sitting in a kayak off of an island in Honduras being soaked by a downpour prompted me to think of the humor that exists when we step outside of our usual.

All of these lessons are important and will remain with me. However, one of the most influential experiences didn’t occur in some exotic location. The time on the ship was just as valuable as the time I spent exploring off the ship. When I got off the ship in Florida I also had to say goodbye to people who were a part of my every day for a significant part of my life. Due to the extreme situations we faced our time together felt a lot longer than what the calendar revealed. When you are separated from all of your comforts and thrown into intense travel experiences that four month block of time expands into much more.

What was my favorite place? The place where I felt safe and secure enough to be vulnerable. What was my most memorable moment? Each moment that I trusted those around me enough to be authentic. You may think that place of safety and security or moments of trust should occur often, but on day one we were introduced as strangers. On day one we didn’t know one another’s names, let alone who would be welcome in or deserving of that space. On day one we set out to see the world, but we ended up seeing one other. By day 110, I’d developed safety, security, and trust with some amazing people, and that alone was well worth traveling around the world for.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Try-Umph Travels: Honduras

Seven of us got off the ship in Roatan, Honduras, and headed to Marble Hill Farm, an eco-lodge tucked away on the eastern side of the island. I was immediately struck its beauty. Bright variations of greenery surrounded and filled the property. It was lovely. Panoramic views from several vantage points overlooked the property and a beautiful bay. The ocean slowly rolled which helped to emphasize tranquility and its sparkling shades of blue.

Our group decided on Marble Hill Farm partly because of its beauty, but also because it offered kayaking. I had never kayaked, but thought it would be fun to try. Travel seems to suppress my inhibitions. We got into our kayaks and headed toward the reef.  As soon as we reached a good pace it started to rain. I don’t mean drizzle. It was a downpour! The harder it rained the harder we laughed. We were getting soaked, but we were so amused by the ridiculousness of it that we sat out on the bay for a while. When we returned to the lodge some fellow travelers told us that our laughter traveled across the water. They got a kick out of hearing us laugh during the deluge. I’m sure as I reflect on all of my travels my first kayaking experience will stand out as one of my favorite memories.
The next morning we were treated to another benefit of Marble Hill Farm. They make their own jellies and jams so we had a tasting for breakfast. Fruit and freshly baked bread accompanied the jelly and jam explosion. It was not only delicious, but it was also fun to start the day sampling so many flavors. There was guava butter jam, hibiscus jelly, apple banana butter, plum jelly, key lime pineapple jam, mango orange jam, and a few others. My favorite was probably the guava butter jam.

The weather was less extreme so we headed back out into the bay. Some snorkeled. Some kayaked. One of my friends found a huge starfish that she named Henry. She carefully lifted him out of the water and we all held him. He was gorgeous. It looked as if someone painted and polished him. As I sat in that kayak on day two I was flooded with peace and gratitude. It felt great to sit in the midst of such quiet splendor and simply breathe. I will fondly remember Roatan for its magnificent colors, calming breezes, roaming geckos, and radiant peacefulness. Next stop, United States.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Try-Umph Travels: Costa Rica

I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica after dark and as I traveled to my hotel, I knew the scenery was gorgeous. I couldn’t see it, but I could sense it. Varying shades of darkness revealed when I was riding alongside a mountain or near the ocean. Bursts of scents signified when we passed wild flowers or were getting closer to the water. Even in darkness Costa Rica is an intriguingly beautiful place.

When I woke up the next morning I could see the gorgeous mountains, the emerald trees, and the sun’s reflection swaying on the ocean. A simple car ride provided postcard perfect views. Costa Rica was a visual breath of fresh air and that’s exactly what I needed.

The group I traveled with decided to venture to Jaco Beach. We took a forty-five minute ride through the luscious mountains. When we arrived on the main road near Jaco Beach I was immediately pleased with our decision. Quaint shops and restaurants lined the laid-back road. It didn’t take us long to explore shops and have lunch at Taco Bar Restaurant. This adorable restaurant specializes in gourmet fish tacos. I had a shrimp taco and a red snapper taco. Both were flavorful and did not disappoint. In addition to the tasty food, I loved that the restaurant had swings at the tables. They were a nice touch and made me smile.

Following lunch we headed to the beach. The dark sand on Jaco Beach on a sunny day is blazing! The sand feels as if it’s been sprinkled on top of an electric blanket. My sandals remained on my feet nearly the entire time. We left the beach in search of shade and refreshments. Within one block we located the perfect place—a sports bar that was showing NFL games. After rehydrating we decided to do a little shopping and head back to the Caldera port.

Prior to the end of the night our cab driver recommended a wonderful restaurant to us. We asked if he would join us, but he declined. He told us his wife made him dinner. Knowing he couldn’t take us back to the ship he led us into the restaurant and spoke to the owner. We thought he was arranging another cab for us. After experiencing food euphoria, we were told that our ride was ready. The restaurant’s owner’s daughter drove us home.

The next day I headed to the city of Puntarenas. The first thing on the agenda was lunch so based on a recommendation from a faculty member, we ventured to a restaurant that was a little further than the main strip. I was extremely pleased with my garlic lobster tails and fresh vegetables. It was delicious!

We walked through a street market and picked up a few gifts before stopping at a vendor cart for a shaved ice treat. I opted for orange flavoring, but it was the condensed milk topping that was brilliant. My shaved ice resembled the same flavor as an orange creamsicle. I happen to love creamsicles so I was pleased.

As quickly as I arrived in Costa Rica it was time to say goodbye. Thinking back to my time on Jaco Beach and in Puntarenas will conjure up images of beautiful landscapes where ocean and mountains create breathtaking views. I will remember the scents that flooded the cab during my night ride. I will remember all of the fantastic flavors that sent smiles to my taste buds. I will remember the kindness we were shown by so many. I will remember and always be grateful that Costa Rica was everything I needed. Next stop, Honduras!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hurt and Healing

Two days ago I returned to the MV Explorer after being gone for twenty days. I’d been up and down the gangway countless times between sailing on reunion voyages and sailing as a staff member on this voyage. However, this embarkation was vastly different.

The last time I’d been on the gangway was a day my life shifted. Someone else was handling my luggage, but I’d never felt so weighed down. I was leaving the ship, the place that had been my home since August. I was leaving the comforts associated with traveling in close quarters with new friends. I was leaving behind life as I’d known it. I wasn’t taking some fabulous excursion to an exotic destination. I was heading back to the United States because my dad had passed away.

Following the funeral it was important for me to return to the ship. My last memory wasn’t a pleasant one and I didn’t want such an incredible experience to be overshadowed by the last conversation I’d had on the ship. As I took a plane to Costa Rica to join the voyage again I was filled with questions. Had I stayed home in August would my father and I have had more time together? Did I want to leave home because home wasn’t the same and never would be ever again? Was I returning to the ship to avoid adjusting to living without the most influential man in my life? Would I spend the rest of my life avoiding that adjustment?

On the way to the port, the ship came into view and I broke out into a huge grin. Just seeing it gave me comfort and I became anxious to rejoin a community that had been my family since August, including the day that I heard the news about my dad. As I looked at the beauty surrounding me and felt the sun’s rays embracing me, a sense of peace and joy melted my doubt and apprehension. I knew that at that moment, I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

I still have questions. I am still scared to face life without my dad. I miss his presence immensely and I know that I will for the rest of my life. Yet coming back to this ship has helped me to understand that even in the middle of my heartache, I can miss my father and still be in a place of beauty, comfort, and love. It is possible to hurt and heal at the same time.