It’s been many years (50+?) since I read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, but there is one aspect of it that I remember to this day – the people who traveled together on pilgrimage were colorful, varied and had interesting stories. Of course, that was part of the charm of the story.
This is the longest cruise that we have ever taken. And the advantage of 80 days on a ship is that we are really getting to know some of our fellow cruisers and the staff who faithfully serve us all.
Some of the characters on our journey include:
- A number of the older (that’s most of us!) couples who are recent newlyweds. And very touching is the story of one couple who had very separate lives – spouses, children and living in different parts of the country – who were high school sweethearts who found each other in their later years.
- Another couple we’ve come to know pretty well live in different countries – he’s US, she’s Canadian. They move back and forth following the seasons.
- One couple is gay and he used to be an elementary school teacher and occasionally breaks out in song or quoting simple books from memory, much to the delight of those around him.
- Several couples who live in RV’s have formed a group. Most of them travel around the US and drive to the cruise ship, leaving their mobile home behind.
- One cruiser can be depended upon to complain about every experience.
- Some have had health challenges – falls or simply old age taking over.
- Another couple we know well had a death in the family but did not fly home so we gathered for a short celebration and memory of his life.
- One gentleman is here with his 11 year old daughter, Madeline. His partner was an executive with Holland America and died just a couple of years ago. Madeline was raised on HAL ships and is quite sophisticated for her age.
- Several of the staff members we know have children and a spouse at home waiting for their return after several months at sea. All of them come from different cultures.
Beneath the surface of most people lie some deeper meaningful stories which, over time, are often shared.
I find that as we continue to develop these relationships through shared experiences on board and in the ports we visit, our the desire to stay in touch grows. I have already become Facebook friends with one of the first couple we got to know and I’m confident that email addresses will be shared before we part.
The desire to connect with others in meaningful and life-giving ways is built into our human nature. The kind of connection that I long for requires the time of shared experiences to develop. Since retiring in 2013, my weekly schedule has become quite full. Daily life tasks take up much of the time but then there are other gatherings, the work I do with individuals, some time for creative work, and before I know it, the week is gone. It all begs the question: How do I continue to develop and deepen relationships with new people?
The gift of travel, especially as a pilgrim, is the suspension of “normal” life and the opportunity to be with new people and cultures. Although we live out our lives mostly among folks who seem to be just like us, there is the opportunity to explore the difference that emerges from our histories. Attending to that when we return home may help to open the way for the kind of deepening of relationships that I have experienced on this ship. It all reminds me of a song we used to sing in Girl Scouts: “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold”. True companions are more precious than both.