Well! I did it! 26 day cruise. Arrived in Hong Kong. Can’t tell you how happy I am to get off the ship! But it is a real mixture of emotions. The ship becomes your home for the time you are on it. You exist in this little bubble of life travelling between countries, climates and time zones on its own little adventure with little worry of anything else happening in the world.
It has by no means been a bad experience but it has definitely been very interesting from my own standing. Certainly the last two nights Onboard the ship were horrible as we were in particularly bad weather. A shame really to have ended it in that way. Wind howling, rain intermittent and large swell meant I didn’t sleep particularly well at all. In fact on both of the last nights I was woken by the weather at around 3am where I then got up and dressed and left our cabin to wander around the ship in order to feel some kind of sense of normality. It probably did the opposite though. There was no one around but all the lights were on. The huge vessel moving quite significantly from side to side. My only guess is that this older generation Onboard are so well weathered by life at sea (pardon the pun) that they have the amazing ability to just sleep right through it. This is certainly the case for mum anyway. So this weird ghost ship like existence of the ship at 3am fascinated me.
At about 5am I would walk to the crows nest, directly above the bridge at the front of the ship and sit and wait for the sun to rise. In these minutes I would sit there thinking just how incredible the cruise ship really is. It relies an awful lot on radar and satellite. In fact it must predominantly rely on that. There were no huge beams of light spanning out into the ocean in front of me. How on earth do the bridge see anything?!
The sun would rise but I didn’t ever see it for all the cloud. The sky would turn from black to pale blue light going through every hue possible before it arrived at its colour for the day. As the light got brighter I could see nearby ships and small pieces of land. We were due into Hong Kong at around 8am. So at 7am with still no sign of significant land I crawled back into the cabin safe in the knowledge we would be arriving in an hour and I could have a brief nap.
I don’t know why I couldn’t just turn over and fall asleep again at 3am. It’s like this huge anxiety just crept over me. The same I’ve suddenly started getting at being up high in a building or gondola or indeed in any form of transport. I don’t know whether it’s fear of death or disaster, lack of trust, or my characteristic of always wanting to be in control of my surroundings. But I guess at this point in time I think this is something I need I delve into further and explore about myself.
I think I’ve realised that a huge part of my time away from home so far has been discovering parts of myself that have changed over the years. No longer am I this fearless young impressionable and indestructible human being I was when I was 18 travelling the world in my gap year. I have been enveloped in doubt of my beliefs, doubts of confidence in myself, doubts of my body and it’s potential weaknesses, doubts of my confidence in people and doubts in the uncertainty of what my future holds. It’s scary when you realise all this. And I think it fundamentally materialises from the fact that not all of me is adhering to the collaborated western ideas of what I should be. Ideas from all corners of my life albeit friends, media or family; I should be in a job earning good money, I should be settling down getting married having kids, I should be exercising daily keeping on top of my physique, I should wear make up and buy clothes of recent popularity in fashion so I can wear them when I go out. I should listen to music that isn’t mainstream and that is different or quirky and that no one else has heard of so I can tell them all about it. I should save money not spend it. I should support gay marriage. I should not support gay marriage. I should not worry about flying its the safest form of transport in the world. I should probably not have another glass of wine. I’m too old to be travelling. I should be concentrating on a career and/or a family….
It’s tiring when you realise the burden and pressure of all of the above. I don’t think that expectation is usually talked about too often in our society. If I broach upon other peoples expectations of me with them; they are far too quick to jump in and say that they will stand by me and/or love me through whatever I do, want or decide. But underneath this fragile sentiment is the truth that they really do care about what you end up like and what you do and what you want from life because it could directly impact them, or the perception of them from others. And so my friends, I believe living in this forever moving circle of expectation leading to conforming leading to doubt leading back to expectation; this is what I have wanted to break free from. It has turned me into a bit of a nervous wreck! I mean, I’m trying not to over-dramatise here. Most of you would see me as a pretty together, chatty, lively person I am sure. And I am certainly not depressed. Just another human being trying discover their role in this world on their own whilst being influenced by everything and everyone around them. This then I think is why I wanted to go travelling. I needed some headspace to figure out what I want amongst what everyone else wants for me.
I am really trying not to sound all ‘woe is me’. It has certainly been no burden to work abroad and travel thus far. (Although I’m sure I will financially feel a huge burden upon my return home! Ha) Seeing how different cultures live and exist has been eye-opening and a beautiful experience and has only opened my eyes to how there are so many different ways of living. And each and everyone of us has our own way. How grateful we should be that we live in a country where we can essentially carve the path of our lives with freedom to decide when and how and which way we do it.
I think I still have some thinking to do on this subject which is pretty broad and hard to write about. Certainly before I boarded the ship I was not ready to return home. Now I am here in Hong Kong, home still feels very far away and yet getting ever closer. Ever closer are the looming decisions I will have to make over the coming year or so. But I think realising a lot of this is the first step towards creating and carving out a future for oneself. I have certainly a better idea now of what to do when I get home than I did before I left. But still I am not quite ready to get back home just yet.
I realise I have totally digressed from what I thought I was going to talk about in this blog. I was going to summarise my time on board Aurora:
It was an insight into another world. One where time doesn’t really exist because you have too much of it. One that is the complete opposite of how we use time in my generation. We are always leaping from one job to the next. One party to the next. One to-do list to the next to-do list. In this way it was good for me to try and sit still. Perhaps I should have used the time better to meditate on my life. Instead I was constantly thinking about the next port of call. Reading about its history. Tapping my fingers contemplating another day laying in the sunshine on deck and listening to music. Eugh. It was crazy! What we have done with how we use our time means that when we slow down we just become restless. This in turn makes me feel like I am being selfish and spoiled. And then the guilt sets in that I’m not being present with my surroundings. And then I try, I really do! To try and stop and absorb. But within a few minutes I’m onto thinking about where I am going next, what jobs I’m going to search for when I get home or indeed where I have been and the stupid mistakes I’ve made over the last couple of years. It’s ridiculous.
So in summary I have realised completely on this journey that I need to relax. I need to take time out on a daily basis to sit and do nothing or meditate. I probably need to stop thinking so much. Certainly I need to pick more carefully who I think about things with. I need to surround myself with friends that will develope me and not push me down. And most of all I have realised that I have the complete power to do all of the above just with a change in the way that I think.
So thank you cruise ship. Or really thank you travelling journey (so far) for creating this insight and highlighting my impatience against past and future happenings in my life and reiterating that I really need to concentrate far much more on the PRESENT.
And with this is mind I walk off the ship…