February 19, 2006
Antarctic Cruise Day 14
The Plan: Get kicked off the ship and thrown back into the real world.
I had to get up early to pack my stuff for the first time in two weeks. Not constantly reorganizing my pack meant that I needed over an hour to get everything in order. I had breakfast, made sure I didn't forget anything, and thought about my cruise.
In many ways I was sad to leave the ship. Everything I wanted was handed to me for the last two weeks. I ate more food than I normally would in months. I never had to worry about finding a place to stay, finding something to do, or my stuff getting stolen. With all of those daily inconveniences out of the way, I had plenty of time to learn about the places I was visiting and have fun.
On the other hand, two weeks was long enough for me. After the second day, I barely met any new people. The food I was eating, while plentiful, was horrible for me. The activities were fun, but I was always on a strict schedule. But most importantly, I think being on a cruise gives one a diluted view of the world. How much can you really learn about a big city in 8 hours? And how many local people are you going to meet when you're being bussed around in a guided tour all day? The people I meet while traveling usually don't have a lot of money, but they are usually friendly and more than willing to show me what living in their country is all about. On a cruise, when your hand is constantly held by a tour guide, you never really leave your own country. When that happens, it's tough to learn about somebody else's country, which is what I value most in traveling.
Still, this cruise has been one of the highlights of my entire life. Seeing the glaciers, the wildlife, the endless miles of desolate land of Antarctica, is something not many people are privileged enough to experience. In fact, only about 300,000 people have ever set foot on the white continent, and now I'm lucky enough to be one of them. The cruise had its share of pitfalls, but it still will be an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life.