A few years ago, I had the good fortune to travel aboard a ship in a two week journey in the Arctic Circle from Greenland to Quebec City with one of my best friends. The trip was meaningful in so very many ways. It was chance to reconnect with my friend in ways I couldn’t even imagine because we had the luxury of time. Staying up late and talking well into the night in our cabin reminded me of talking well into the night with my college room mate, exchanging ideas and thoughts about life and living. What a wonderful gift to have the luxury of time in order to connect with another person so deeply. This cruise visited many wonderful sights, including L’Anse-Aux-Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada. L’Anse aux Meadows is the first and only known site established by Vikings in North America and the earliest evidence of European settlement in the New World. As such, it is a unique milestone in the history of human migration and discovery. To think that I might have been walking among the same path that Erik the Great once walked was so humbling. The cruise was memorable for many reasons but because of the people I encountered. Connections with people make all the world of difference to me.
This cruise was truly life-changing because I met so many inspirational people. I met a woman who grew up in East Berlin before the “wall” fell. Her mother was a doctor, and her dad was a professor. After the wall fell, her mother was no longer allowed to practice medicine but finally got an assistant job in a medical clinic with HIV patients. Her dad ended up selling insurance. Many of her parents’ friends committed suicide because the change in their lives was so difficult, yet this young woman saw the change as opportunity, even though it radically changed her world. I couldn’t help but think that everything is perspective. We Americans thought the wall falling was a good thing, yet many of those in East Berlin may have thought it wasn’t such a good thing at the very same time. Very inspiring. Very life-changing.
I met an 88 year old man from England who sails on a cruise every month for the past fourteen years since his wife died. Instead of pining indefinitely for her death, he has moved on, although he misses her. He gave half of his business away to a friend because he no longer needed it, then gave the other half to another friend because his kids no longer needed the business. His goal now in life is to be arrested for speeding when he is 110! He said the secret to his success was to always be himself, work hard, and be kind to others. Such a simple ideology that I share.
I met the hotel director who eats dessert first (and sometimes two) every night. On occasion my friend and I eat dessert first now in deference to all that we learned on that wonderful journey.
I met the ship’s doctor who had served in Kosovo and Afganistan but still remains to be light-hearted and smiles a lot.
I met a couple from America. She used to be an opera singer who gave that up to open a pottery studio. He used to be a high-powered marketing entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. They decided to sail to New Zealand, and stopped in Hawaii for a few years along the way. When they went to New Zealand, they loved the attitudes of the people and found them so refreshing that they decided to become citizens there. They now reside there and are citizens of New Zealand.
I met a German woman who lives in Abu Dhabi and works in Dubai. She traveled on the cruise as single woman without any companions and is a strong and powerful woman, having overcome a difficult family and homelife as a child.
I met one kindred spirit who smiled at us when we first boarded the tender to get us to the ship in a tiny little cove in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. This boarding was not what we expected, with make-shift home-made wooden steps, when we thought about the luxury cruise for which we signed up. The cruise line was French-speaking, so some of the conversations around us were difficult to understand with my limited French speaking ability. This beautiful kindred spirit near us spoke to us and simply said, “Strange, right?” in English. He is the first person who understood our thoughts about which we dared not speak. I felt like the “Emperor Who Wore New Clothes” looking around to all the others who thought the embarkation was wonderful, yet this stranger from Belgium who later became our friend had the courage to reach out to us with his similar thoughts. His joie de vivre that we had come to know on that ship still inspires us to this day. He reassured us that once on board, the cruise would be wonderful and luxurious, and he was right!
Finally one of the most magical moments of the that cruise was having the captain wake us up in the middle of the night over the PA system to see the Aurora Borealis one night. Seeing the Aurora Borealis was always on my bucket list, and I am humbled and grateful to have had the opportunity to see it. It was magical. We all scrambled to the upper deck, with our parkas over our pajamas to catch a glimpse of what the ancient people in Greenland thought was the spirits of children who died at birth. The dancing of the children around and around caused the continually moving streamers seen in the Aurora.
Life is, indeed, good…………