Rolling Along

February 10th, 2020

Something interesting happened to me on this last cruise assignment.  We had the typical fairly rough crossing the first time I sailed the Tasman Seas between Australia and New Zealand; In the past, i would have just slapped on a scopolamine patch for seasickness, but for some reason I decided to wait to see if I really needed it.  For the next few days I totally forgot about it and was fine the whole way.  On the reverse itinerary that followed, I decided to see how well I could do again without the patch.  Just like the previous time, the ship was pitching and rolling  enough to tun everyone into drunken sailor impersonators in the hallways, but still no symptoms.  The same held for my third and final  crossing, and I came to the conclusion that maybe, at least in seas like that, seasickness really is all (or mostly) in one’s head.  If you expect it, you watch for it, and you find it.  That’s not always true, especially if the ship is rolling side to side, but I learned something about not assuming the worst.

I had a similar situation with jet lag on my return.  I had a truly horrendous time on my westbound return from the Baltic last summer, with four days of complete insomnia that left me staggered.  Traveling east is not nearly as bad, but I was amazed that I really had almost no symptom I could attribute to the travel, at least that wasn’t taken care of by a short nap the first two days.  I suppose it helps that I was dropped into a whirlwind,  having only a couple of weeks to do everything it takes to move my things back into my condo, move my son out of said condo, do a serious downsizing by clearing out a packed-to-the-ceiling storage unit, and preparing for the Great Giveaway party I am having in a few days, to pass on to my friends things I think are special but I no longer want to keep.

On this last assignment, I thought about what a move to Canada would mean in terms of possessions. After several decades of moves reduced my living situation from two homes to a one-bedroom condo, I am down to things I have cared (a little to a lot) about keeping.  I still have far more than I would consider taking that great a distance into an uncertain situation. And anyway, could I replace that favorite pan or vase, and not lug all that bulk and weight along with me?  For some things, easily yes, but other things remain priceless.

How much of what I still have reflects a life I no longer want or need?  What is memorabilia of a person I no longer am? How much stuff do I need to fulfill the still somewhat foggy vision I have of the next chapter in my life?  How much (or how little) will my son Ivan truly want to inherit? 

Nothing like asking him while he is here.  After multiple trips to Salvation Army, the consignment store and the dumpsters, I am considerably downsized, and he is figuring out how to take what he wants with him when he leaves next week. It’s more than I thought he would choose, and it pleases me he cares about some of the same things that have meant a lot to me. He  is in a different stage of life and he is taking what suits him now, or some version of himself he hopes to have soon enough to make lugging boxes worthwhile. Plus he can deadlift or wrestle pretty much anything in and out of a car now that his diet and exercise program has gotten him so gorgeously buff!

So back to the point about self-induced ailments, I have been simply too busy in body and mind to have jet lag, so I didn’t.  Maybe it’s a one- off, but it was a nice gift.

Oh, and another thing.  I have kept my weight pretty consistent, gaining only about ten pounds in seven years,  despite all the excesses of my way of life. This time,  for whatever reason, I packed on some pounds.  How many?  I don’t know, as I am scared to get on the scale.  When my clothes fit as well as they used to, I will weigh myself and say “gee it must have been really bad if I still weigh this much.”

Ivan has been doing the keto diet combined with 16/8 intermittent fasting for some time, the latter of which he got me started on before I left in November. He  has lost 30 pounds and looks fantastic.  I was pretty good most of the time about the  intermittent fasting (easy if you don’t care about breakfast) but apparently It wasn’t enough, so I added the keto diet the day after I got home.  I mention this because  there is a lot of talk about “keto flu,” the symptoms one may get when starting the diet.  Well, the symptoms are a lot like those of jet lag, and my conclusion is that starting the keto diet immediately upon return  was a great way to roll any mild symptoms of jet lag and keto flu into one short period.

So, dear readers, if you come back from vacation dragging from a long flight and feeling a little roly poly,  may i suggest that very low carbs and a couple of afternoon naps are a way of killing two birds with one stone.  One stone.  That’s fourteen pounds.  I’ll settle for that.

Two Closures

January 31st, 2020

In March of 2018, I left for Manaus, Brazil with my good friend Jane, to begin what I called My Year of Living Travelly. Today when I disbark the ship, what grew into a full second year is now complete. Since I have no cruise until past the anniversary date, this is indeed a marker for me, made especially sweet by the fact that i am once again traveling with Jane. These kinds of bookends always add special meaning to events.

It is, in a sense, closure on this chapter in my life, because the things that marked truly living travelly were giving up my condo to tenants and getting rid of my car. I will sleep in my own bed for the first time in two years, and once i have wheels, I will no longer have to arrange a ride, or limit myself to what i can walk to. My San Diego friends have gotten so used to this that whatever we plan on doing, it is either walking distance or they simply add “I’ll pick you up.” Now I can do a little returning of the favor, though I must admit in a lot of ways I have actually liked life with no car. That is good to know as i plan my future.

There is another chapter ending today With great sadness, I announce that I will be ending my seven-year association with Silversea effective today. No, I have not been let go—in fact my evaluations are as high as ever. The problem is that the line has introduced new requirements of lecturers that aren’t acceptable to me. I hope they will soon change their minds, but the professional standards and code to which I hold myself aren’t consistent with working for Silversea at this time.

I am not going to say more here, because I value my relationship with the line. I sincerely hope they change their new policies, and when they do I want them to ask me back. Public airing of my issues is not a good way to enhance the chances of that. To me, the things they are now requiring aren’t worth the loss of good lecturers (I am pretty sure I won’t be the only one), but I have to recognize how many people would love to step into our shoes, regardless of what the line demands, so I have to be prepared for this to be forever.

Either way, I could never find words adequate to express my gratitude for the opportunities Silversea has given me to see the world and to continue teaching. Nothing but praise here for the wonderful people who have made my life soar far beyond my expectations and fulfill so many of my wildest dreams.

And San Diego, get ready.  You’ll be seeing more of me, at least for a while.  The next chapter, whatever it is, awaits!


January 6th, 2020

I had a weird and wonderful experience yesterday.

A little background first:  for the last seven years I have never gone on a cruise where I wasn’t at least a little obsessed with being prepared for my lectures.  I leave home with everything as ready to go as I can make it, but I always discover problems with builds or images in the  slides, or decide I need to make it a little shorter or add something I just learned. I look things up that I have new questions about.  I doublecheck pronunciations of  place names and people.  It’s worth every minute to go on that stage ultra confident, and so far I have avoided anything close to a disaster.  Even when my hard drive failed earlier this year in Vietnam, I had a back up plan, or two or three, and limped through the rest of the cruise with the audience unaware anything was wrong.

The last two cruises have been particularly stressful because I have been in the role of destination speaker, meaning that my content is supposed to stick pretty close to the ports we are visiting.  I spent time between cruises a year ago visiting New Zealand, where I had never been, so I could get some awareness of the lay of the land and the general feel of the places we were going . Nevertheless, I still had to talk with a degree of authority about several places I hadn’t been able to visit.  Adding to the stress was the extraordinary number of Aussies and Kiwis on board—well over half the guests.  I hadn’t expected that because I assume people go away to take cruises, but when you live so far from so many of the world’s destinations, a chance to cruise locally is very attractive.  If I was a fraud, Iwould be found out for sure.

It all went off without much of a hitch, and since things went so smoothly I guess I wasn’t aware of how much stress I was experiencing.

On this cruise and the next (the last for this assignment) I am an enrichment speaker.  That means that I can talk more generally about interesting topics of my choosing, like women at sea, famous mutinies, Polynesian navigation and the like.  I am totally in my professorial comfort zone, and in fact have given all of the talks multiple times before.

Yesterday morning I had no lecture to give, and since I am ready for all upcoming ones,  I had nothing at all to do or to worry about.  I was hanging out in my cabin, reading  a totally enjoyable book on my veranda,  drinking a second cup of coffee, watching the  sunlight on the water—all the good stuff passengers on vacation can do.

I went in to my cabin and saw that it was still only about ten in the morning.  I was astonished.  Why in the world was there so much more time than I was used to?  Oh well, I said to myself, and settled in to do something to fritter away a little more time before lunch. I was just bobbing along, floating.

Then it occurred to me:  there were things going on that morning. I always go to my colleagues’ lectures and one of them was almost over! I dashed to the theatre just as he was finishing, then realized that another talk followed his that I wanted to go to.  I was so utterly out of it that I hadn’t even checked the schedule, wasn’t even relating to anything outside my own veranda, my own chair, my own time.

And it was wonderful!  I was actually on vacation, however briefly.  By that point it was over.  I had roiled the waters.  I was back on board, back in role. But I caught a glimpse of something I have difficulty ever achieving—a real, true break.

People may think of my life as one long vacation, but it’s not.  I am on duty every time I step out of my room.  I  have to please at a certain level or I won’t be invited back.  I’m not complaining, but please don’t picture me poolside with a tropical drink in my hand listening to the ukuleles play, because that almost never happens. Don’t picture me walking on stage and chatting my way through a lecture, because though I want it to look that way, that absolutely never happens.

I spent some time yesterday, walking by myself on the beach, occasionally recapturing that sense of  happy drift (selfie below). Today I am going off on Mare Island, New Caledonia, on a ship tour. I will be the escort, which means I go for free, but I have to be vigilant about what is going on with the guests.  At some point we will stop at a beach for a swim.  Sounds great to me, but you know what I most want to do?

Ditch it all, lie on my back in the water and just float.