The essence of the world lies in the intangible.
I may have been to UNESCO heritage sites, I may have ogled at various ethnic meals before I devoured them, I may have shopped for silly little souvenirs to remind me of each country… - my room has a Ghanaian mask hanging from the bathroom, a Moroccan rug on the floor, a tribal elephant pillow case from South Africa, amongst many other things- but people and emotions make the place. The tangibles may be collectible, but the intangible is incomparable.
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
I am jealous.
Jealous of the people who went home and could be satisfied with their abroad experience, put it on a shelf like a prized trophy, and take it down occasionally to relive the memories. I relive the memories in my head every day, almost lovesick, pining for the experiences I had to resurface once again, even if it is in the most minuscule of forms. I think about all the seminars I didn’t attend, all the opportunities I had to stare longingly at the sea but choosing to watch movies indoors, all the opportunities to get to know more people than I already did.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
So to the questioning everyone has been asking me,
Do I miss Semester at Sea?
A simpler answer would be to say, “Yes, each and every day.”
But it’s more than that. I miss what the ship represented - the ship was my home. As we were literally on international waters for most nights, we were borderless in more ways than one. We were free to be who we wanted to be. We came with little knowledge of each other and our past. We were given a clean slate after two decades of being in this world. We could present ourselves to our new friends in any way we wanted to. It was a disconnect from the real world that allowed us to find ourselves, free from the expectations, demands, judgment of people in a bordered space. We could define ourselves for others to perceive us.
Being in Krabi, Thailand over the weekend brought me back to a familiar place. Beaches, water, salty sea breezes, a disconnect from my world at home. All disconnects are temporary, and I guess at one point, we all have to return home. I’m coming to terms with the fact that no experience in life will ever move me like Semester at Sea, and that’s okay.
“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G. K. Chesterton
Looking back on Semester at Sea, it’s not at all about the number of countries we visited. It was about the people and how they made me feel about myself. We were an idealistic group of kids, child-like in our enthusiasm to see and save the world. Semester at Sea may have been an artificial representation of life, a kind of Utopia that people will tell me does not exist. But it is the kind of artifice that I will strive for everyday from now.
It’s not so much about running away to new, exotic places every time I get the chance to. It’s much more than that.
“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes
I want to start with home. If I give home that clean slate that Semester at Sea gave me, perhaps I can find more beauty in what was already around me. Here’s to making home my Semester at Sea. Borderless, Moving, Flexible, Compromising, Fluid. A special space that brought me inner peace.