I have limited life-advice to dispense, being a middling millennial and all (but dibs on the band name). If you were to create a heat map of all the places I’ve lived up to a year ago, only one 15-mile-radius dot would glow. Not that physical movement is commensurate with worldly wisdom, but it can seem that way for someone feeling stuck and uninspired with life (i.e. ‘me’ and maybe you, too?)
So, I quit my life and joined a cruise-ship.
And so should you!*
*Immediate and abrupt disclaimer! I recognize that there was a tidy coalescence of circumstance and privilege that led to me ever stepping foot on a ship.
For one, my financial situation was such that I was able to walk away from a fairly well-paying job.
Two, I was able to rent out my house to cover my mortgage and a storage unit for all my junk.
Three, no significant other/kids/pets/plants—I’m a Single person with a capital S.
Oh, and skills and qualifications or whatever.
Anyway: and so should you!
You’re not hot stuff. Prepare to be humbled.
I think the world generally comes together in agreement on these two things:
- Everyone should work retail/restaurants/customer service jobs at some point in their lives.
- (However politically incorrect and yes, Not All Americans™), American tourists are just the f**king worst.
Anyway, nobody strictly needs to experience the turds of the universe to truly understand what it means to be a kind, patient, and humble person. And, you don’t have to be hit with someone’s shitty attitude to remember that the problem is with them and not you. Remember kids, use your Q-TIPs regularly and Quit Taking it Personally. We all have ideas of how not to be a garbage human without having to work on a cruise ship to get there…
But, it certainly helps.
Reminisce with me for a moment about all the different times I was screamed at:
- During a Bingo session because a dauber is $2, and why didn’t you just give it to him for free?!
- A guest missed their show reservations (and that’s somehow my fault).
- A guest had to wait thirty seconds to be helped and I didn’t say, verbatim, “Would you kindly excuse me for a moment, please, my good sir?”
But remember to never stop smiling! Ugh.
In another area of awful, prepare to deal with guests who let loose a horrifying barrage of unfiltered racism because you’re white, American, and English is your native language… it’s a foregone conclusion that you agree with them, right??
To those people, I’m happy to now be able to say: f**k off.
That was cathartic.
My blood pressure has risen. Let’s move on.
The ultimate travel hack
So while you’re growing positively as a human with good interpersonal skills—or whatever—you get paid to travel the world!
Sure, there are a million ways to see the world on a budget. Not to disparage credit-card churning or AirBnB-ing for the modern traveler, I feel like I beat the system altogether. I earned money to travel the open seas whereas guests paid thousands of dollars for just one week (and then had to pay for drinks on top of it! Suckers.)
I don’t know where your Happy Place is, but for me, it’s the beach. I’m a water sign, after all.
Happily enough, all my ports-of-call were Caribbean. The friends I explored beaches with were
concerned impressed at how long I would float in the water while everyone was on shore shotgunning margaritas. There in the bluest waters you’ve ever seen, something was clicking within my brain and soul at the absolute absence of negativity: no more angry thoughts about awful guests, no more worrying about my mortgage, no more anxiety about my future, etc etc… I didn’t even feel any urgency to make the feelings last because I had seven Caribbean months at my disposal, and I’d be back to the beach in no time.
Everything was so simple. Just me and the fish. All I had to do was close my eyes and float away, literally and figuratively.
In hindsight, I’d unwittingly been meditating and achieving temporary inner peace in the world’s biggest float tank. Whoops!
Meditation seems trendier than ever, nowadays. I hadn’t paid much attention to it before, but it really did wonders for my mood, happiness, soul, aura, et al. Again, you don’t need to work on a cruise ship to physically and mentally travel to your Happy Place. It’s just, I can say without a trace of insincerity that I feel like a different person after my meditative impressions of flotsam, and, yearn though I may, I have yet to regain that feeling back here ‘on land’.
Also, I pretended to be a mermaid a lot. It was awesome.
The people you meet
Unfortunately, life is full of compromise. You’ll always be working with people you don’t like, whether you’re working on a cruise ship or elsewhere. It gets hairier when you work and live with a thousand other people in, literally, a shipping container. But, since you already know how to deal with assholes and have zenned the f**k out (see above), it’s easier to take it one day at a time.
In the end, it’s worth it to be able to play the role of an exchange student without being in, ya know, school. My heart did a little pitter-patter whenever crewmates would start a sentence with, “In my country…” My particular ship touted its 60+ nationalities among crew, and one of the canned phrases from the Cruise Director was ‘The United Nations could learn a thing or two from us.’
One night, after we’d finished our evening shifts, two friends and I were chilling in my cabin (Frequently Asked Question #1,657,398: How big were the crew cabins? LOL. They weren’t). We were playing a simple card-slapping game… but alcohol made it difficult for me by a factor of ten thousand. I couldn’t stop the ridiculous noises that were coming out of my mouth every-time I took a pile of cards, followed by tears of laughter and stomach pain from laughing so hard.
My 4’9 Brazilian friend took a moment to get sentimental with me and the 6’2 Dutch boy. “How amazing is it that we have three different continents right here? When would we ever be able to come together like this?”
Ouch. Right in the feels.
I knew then that the adventure had been worth it; much as I missed my friends back home, it’s a big world out there. We have endless capability to love, connect, and be a citizen of the world if only we give ourselves the opportunity to.
Put your friggin’ phone away
In the middle of the sea, the Internet was as limited as it was expensive. Not only that, but you didn’t actually have the luxury of time to peruse Facebook (working seven days a week and all). All this meant deciding whether seeing the latest from Facebook was really that important. I still needed the Internet to pay my credit cards and mortgage, but after that, I’d just do a perfunctory scroll through Facebook, download the week’s new Discover Weekly playlist from Spotify, and go about my merry way (…to the crew bar.)
For the first time since the mid 1990s, I could categorize my Internet usage as ‘less than two hours per week’. I felt weird and confused and maybe a touch more appreciative of the ‘real’ world around me*.
This isn’t to say I’ve permanently eschewed screens post #shiplife. I think I spend more time in front of a screen than I did before my contract. Plus, I don’t think unplugging would’ve been realistic if it weren’t purely for the circumstance of the situation. Maybe you really do need to work on a cruise ship to reap the benefits of a life less Facebook’d.
*Maybe correlative, maybe not, but I touched a sea turtle.
And there you have it. Update: but wait! I have more reasons you should quit life to work on a cruise ship. Would you do it, given the opportunity? I hope so. Sail away, my fellow pirates.
Enjoyed this post and want to stay in the loop about side-hustling and cruise-shipping? Sign up below to receive email notifications on the latest and greatest from Life Well Hustled.