Smooth Sailing

When I was younger, I wouldn’t have thought that I’d be such a fan of cruising as a form of vacation.  I’d seen the commercials with Kathy Lee, and wondered why anyone would want to spend several days on a big ship out in the water.  The thought of visiting a hot, tropical island was never very appealing to this girl, who sweats in anything above 80 degrees, and I don’t think I was aware then that cruises stopped at locales other than the Caribbean.

Plus–as much as I like the water–I honestly thought I’d go stir-crazy if I were stuck on a boat for 7 days.  Of course . . . that was before I realized just how much stuff the cruise lines like to pack into each and every day.

So, while I never thought I’d do too much cruising in my life, I’ve been on three cruises in about five years.  Heck . . . if we include the one I’m on right now, that’s four in five years!

I’m not sure why it never would’ve occurred to me that I’d enjoy this.  There’s plenty of stuff to do on the boat; plenty of activities or excursions to partake in at each port of call.  Plus, the ship is large enough that you’re sure to find a nice, quiet area, if you’re looking for solitude.

That’s something I DEFINITELY took advantage of on my last cruise.  I took a 7-day Mexican cruise for my birthday last year . . . by myself.  Craig was also looking for some alone time, and didn’t feel he could take the time away from work, so I went off on my own.  There had been so much stress in my life for the previous two years, and I just didn’t want to be around people too much.  So–with a couple of exceptions–my days looked like this:

Wake up
Go to buffet area to eat breakfast
Go back to room
Read until I fall asleep
Wake up
Go to buffet area to eat lunch
Go back to room
Watch movie or read until I fall asleep
Wake up
Go to restaurant for dinner
Go back to room
Sleep

I’m not kidding you . . . that was my life for that week.  There was an 80s Music Trivia Challenge that I participated in (lost by one point), and I did step off the boat in our two ports of call; Cabo San Lucas (AWESOME snorkeling), and Puerto Vallarta (found a cool cemetery to photograph).  Otherwise, I kept to myself 80% of the time.  And let me tell you, I NEEDED it.  Toward the end of the cruise, my system must have been rested, because I was doing more reading than sleeping when I was in my room, but I still enjoyed the peace and quiet.  And I’ve found myself longing for another “do almost nothing” cruise lately, though this time I’d be okay with Craig joining me . . . cuz he desperately needs it right now.

But the cruise we’re on now is a bit more exotic.  We’re somewhere in the middle of a 14-day European cruise.  Craig and I wanted to take Athena to Europe, and she seems to like cruises, so we let her pick out the route.  We leave out of Southampton, UK, and stop in Gibraltar, Nice, 3 places in Italy, Spain, and Portugal.  Craig and I definitely have our cameras at the ready, and I hope to come back with a TON of cool photos to boost my photography career.  But, more importantly, about half of the days will be At Sea.  While we’ll definitely spend some time together as a family (this is Athena’s last summer as a high school student, and she’ll soon be off to college), we’ve also got our own agendas for the At Sea days.  Athena will likely spend it with the teen group on the boat, or in the pool as much as possible.  Craig will also spend some time at the pool, or stippling in a corner somewhere, and he’s discovered that there’s a miniature golf course on the boat.

As for me?  Well, I’ll probably join Craig on a few activities here and there on the boat, but I’m also packing 3 or 4 books for me to hole up with in our room . . . before I fall asleep.

Letter to Lake Michigan

Aaahhhhh, Lake Michigan!  It’s been so long since I got to swim in your warm waters.  Oh, how I’ve missed you!

You were my first foray into a body of water that’s so big I couldn’t even see the opposite shore.  And I remember your waves were over five feet tall back then.  Of course, I was a kid at the time, so my memory might be a little off on the actual height, but they were taller than me. So much so that I felt certain that someone could surf there.

I barely remember the 90-minute car ride from our house to your shores near Holland, but I very strongly remember climbing out of the back of the station wagon, sand already getting on my feet from what others had dragged back to the parking lot, and I remember my excitement that my family and I were gonna spend several hours soaking up the sun’s rays while swimming in your blue water. It felt like it took forever to get from our car to the shore, and when my parents finally found a spot to lay our towels, I couldn’t kick my flip flops off fast enough, so eager was I to jump in.

We only came to visit you a couple times in my childhood, but those few times stayed with me even after I left Michigan to explore the rest of the world. I’ve gone snorkeling a few places in the Atlantic Ocean–mostly off the coast of the Florida Keys–and I truly enjoyed swimming with sea turtles, and seeing the brightly-colored corals, but no matter how lovely things were under their waves, I still longed for the salt-free taste of your liquid. I even asked whether or not it was possible to snorkel in the Great Lakes, but was sad to learn that those things don’t appear in bodies of fresh water.

Living in Chicago for ten years, I got to swim in you again. Only a couple times, but it was more than I’d done in the ten years since I’d moved away from Michigan. In my memory, your Eastern shores were much sweeter than those found in the Windy City, but I was still thrilled to wet myself in your waves once again.

Whenever discussions with other people turned to swimming and which shores people liked best, I always touted you, my wonderful Lake Michigan. I extolled the virtues of water that was clear and warm, yet had no briney after taste. I also talked about how swimming in you didn’t leave one with a sticky feeling on their skin. And again, all this could be found in a body of water that was large enough to seem like an ocean. Most people didn’t agree with me–or try to tell me that I’m not supposed to drink the water–but that’s okay, I still love you (besides, you can’t help but taste the nasty salt water on your lips).

When Craig, Athena and I visited you during this recent vacation, I must say that you were chillier than I remembered, but I know it was a longer and much colder winter than in recent years, so I forgive you for submerging us in icy water when we stepped off the sand into your oh, so welcoming waves. I personally felt that I’d come “home” once again, and your enveloping embrace was all that I needed to know you’d missed me, too.

Athena also remarked on how nice it was to not have to spit out gritty salt after reemerging from beneath the surface, and she’s since commented on how she wants to come back to visit you again.

Thank you, Lake Michigan, for giving me some wonderful childhood memories (and now some adult ones, too), and thank you for staying just as pristine as I remembered. I hope it’s not another 30 years before I get to touch your wonderful waters again.

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