26.02.2012 72 °F
Last week, my husband, son, and I boarded a gigantic cruise ship headed to the Caribbean. We were on a week vacation with my in-laws, the first in quite a while. Bodhi was excited to see the enormous whale of a ship anchored to an equally giant dock. He pointed and yelled his typical phrase "Dohhhdit!" which loosely translated means, "what the heck is that!?!" he including wait to get on and explore. First we had to climb off the shuttle bus, hand over our luggage to the experienced but jaded porters on the docks in Miami, and pray that they would all miraculously arrive at our doorstep inboard, like was promised. Then we had to wait in a deep line to get through our checkin, get our cruise ship IDs, and be loaded on board. The entire process of loading and unloading the ship was an exercise in patience. There are big crowds on a cruise, so they have to do things in this semi-organized herded fashion. But for us long travelers, who are used to going our own way and avoiding crowds, used to winging it and not having a schedule, this was a new and frustrating process requiring us to let go and go with the flow of the large group without dissension.
At first, there was annoyance with things - why can't they be more efficient? Why does it feel so crowded? Then, partway through the experience, I learned that this is a part of the disorientation of travel. Usually we do things a certain way because that way is what works best for us. We have a vast comfort zone when we travel that most people do not have. Most people want to know where to go, where they will be arriving when, and how to get there. For my husband and I, this information feels stifling and confining, and reaches into the depths of discomfort with travel. We like freedom, open spaces, possibilities, whims. I don't necessarily like to know where I will end up tomorrow, but I like to take it one step at a time, knowing if we get on a train headed north and see a cute spot, we can jump off and stay. The unregimented open agenda is our comfort spot. Thus, the regimented schedule of a cruise line would prove to be somewhat of a challenge for us.
There is a certain stress and uneasiness that comes with travel for most of us - we have to keep track of our things, have to pack and unpack, have to plan and prepare, remember boarding passes, passports and medicines, and the there is the element of "what if". What if I need something while traveling that I don't have? What if I don't like the hotel? What if I can't sleep? What if my kids act up on the plane? What if I get sick? What if. There are so many of those what ifs. Those are the discomforts that keep people from traveling and the risks and difficulties that it can bring. Those are the challenges to our psyche and our way of life. Travel forces people in some way to step outside of their comfort zones of home, and experience something new. That something new may not always be better, or always be a welcome change, but it is something new. And it allows you to be able to question your life, your beliefs, your comforts, and see outside the realm of your everyday life. This is the primary reason that whenever travel calls to me, I answer.
So here we are, miles and knots away from land in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. I have found my sea legs after a very harsh night of tossing and turning without sound sleep, due to the waves shaking against the ship and rolling under our little cabin. I feel frustration and exhaustion rising up. I want to throw in the towel and stay home. I dont want to brave the day and just continue, I want time to feel bad. But the boy is up at six, and wanting to play. The sun is up, it is a new day. I am not ready for the new day, I have not processed the old day, but time moves on without me and so I rise, get coffee, and get moving. Attitude is everything. Travel is all about having experiences. As I was reminded on this cruise, there are some perfect moments and incredible experiences mixed with some disappointing experiences and little aggravations. It almost does not matter in the end how good those experiences are, it just matters that you went out, and had them. Life is like that too... you take the good with the bad, and in the end, all that you remember are the very best.
I am sitting, bare feet flat on the floor inside our condo in Florida, where we will stay an extra few days before our flight back to the west coast and onto Hawaii. I am fully stationary, yet I am swaying from side to side like a midday drunk. I am still in a state of perpetual motion after getting off the boat 36 hours ago. My mind knows I am on land, but my body still thinks we are moving. This continual sway is what reminded me that travel gives everyone a sense of vertigo. The chaos of motion: uprooting, settling, transferring, exploring, packing, viewing, doing, wandering. All of these verb endings of action come with traveling, because there is activity and there is growth, and there are discoveries that go on inside that cause us to shift, ever so slightly off-balance. This shift out of our comfort zone and into experiences can cause a vertigo that stays with you as you struggle to reincorporate elements of your new experience into yourself. Being off balance, or our of our equilibrium is what helps us to feel alive, and helps us to grow. I remember hearing in high school biology - an animal or a being that is in a perfect state of equilibrium is dead. The rest of us are struggling to find equilibrium as we tumble in and out of it all the time, finding balance for an instant only to lose it again. It is this process that constitutes life and activity and growth: this vertigo of motion and the balance beam of life.