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- The Avid Cruiser
When I was in High School, the one bright shining example of an otherwise wholly miserable time was a course called the Travel Club. Led by my school’s guidance counselor and his wife, the Travel Club arranged a trip every year, usually to Europe, designed to get students interested in travel and different cultures.
For the teenagers eager to leave home, this was an easy sell: two weeks in Europe over spring break. For the parents footing the bill, it wasn’t such a sure thing. Some were leery about letting their kids travel “all the way” to Europe, while others were concerned primarily with the cost which, although a spectacular deal, was still quite a bit of money.
I remember going to my school with my parents in tow one snowy November evening to meet with the rest of the group that had signed up. The representative from the travel agency, which specialized in student tours, was going to be there, and that night was the evening where parents were presented with the ins and outs of the trip, along with a full itinerary, and the total cost. After that night, you were either in, or out.
The lady who ran the travel agency, Pat, must have been in her late 60’s. Short and bespectacled, she more closely resembled someone’s kindly grandmother than a globetrotting travel agent. But she stood up in front of the parents and said a sentence that hasn’t left me since: “No one talks about the year they bought the fridge.”
It was an appropriate statement, since this trip cost as much as a new fridge (the ones with the stainless steel, the ice maker, and the water taps, no less.) But it was the absolute, unmitigated truth. No one sits around the table years later and says, “Boy, remember when we bought the Maytag in March of ‘94?” unless there’s a spectacular story of failure and bodily harm coming after it.
But you will sit around and talk about the year you went to Rome, or London, or maybe just London, Ontario.
I’d never been to Europe before. In fact, I’d never been on an airplane flight by myself, or one that was longer than an hour in duration, or one that carried more than maybe 100 passengers. But something about that phrase clicked with my parents, and in March of 2000, I was off with 30 classmates to Athens via Montreal and London to board a week-long cruise, followed by a week in Rome, Florence and Venice. And it was without a doubt the coolest thing I had ever seen or experienced.
When I returned, I gushed endlessly about Europe. My parents had never considered going to Europe, but that summer, they flew to England and spent two weeks traveling around the British Isles, largely so they would have some new stories to tell and could shut me up, I think. Since then, they have traveled to Europe every summer. Like me, the experience completely infected them.
Twelve years later, I have been to Europe five times now. It’s not a great number, but every time I travel anywhere – be it London, Mexico, or just a quick hop down to Seattle or Victoria – I remember those words: “No one talks about the year they bought the fridge.”
My love of cruise travel has touched every facet of my life; to me, there is no greater experience on Earth than setting foot aboard a cruise ship. They are floating palaces in their own right, but unlike even the most luxurious hotel, cruise ships have a personality. They are as much a living, breathing thing as the people who inhabit them. Each ship has their own distinct temperament, decor, and onboard feel. I don’t have much affinity for hotels, but cruise ships have been an endless fascination for me for decades.
They have taken me to new worlds and old; they have whisked me to far-off places like Iceland and Sweden; Greece and Italy; Mexico and Barbados. Large or small, mainstream or luxury, they offer an infectious brand of travel that has, above all else, stood the test of time. The ocean voyage of 2011 may be more glamorous than a hundred years ago, but the magic of being at sea remains unchanged.
But travel itself fascinates me; I could throw a dart at the departures board at the airport and come away with a worthy destination. I want to see and do it all, despite the fact I am fully aware this world holds more experiences than one can cram into their short time here.
Do you have a cruise you want to take, or a desire to visit some of the greatest cities and places in the world? Don’t put it off. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Do it now, while you can, even if you don’t think you can. Fly somewhere you’ve never been. Cruise on a ship you’ve never been on. Experience the unexperienced. You never know how life-changing it can be until you try.
Because no one talks about the year they bought the fridge.
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