I spent three months at sea. Have I told you that?

When I was in college, I traveled around the world on a ship, through a program called Semester At Sea.

The ship departed from Vancouver, Canada in early September, then sailed across some very rough water to Kobe, Japan. My main memory of that long, long two weeks on the stormy ocean was being incredibly seasick and lying on the deck, unable to move or think. I was surrounded by most of the other students on board. We couldn’t believe how sick we felt, and we were too sick to talk about it, so we just lay next to each other, moaning.

After that, the rest was amazing. We went to Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, Eygpt, Ukraine, Turkey, Yugoslavia, and Spain, then sailed back to Florida, just in time for Christmas. It’s surreal to be on a voyage of that length.

We were learning as we went. We took classes on board the ship while we were at sea, then went into the countries to experience them in real life.

To pay the gigantic cost, I got a scholarship plus a work-study job onboard (I worked in the bookstore). This meant that I spent a lot of hours working during the time we were at sea. It felt like a worthy exchange.

However, at the time, I was kind of shy, and really self-conscious, and I didn’t have a lot of money, so I didn’t really fit in with most of the people on board the ship and didn’t have the same resources for traveling. So I traveled by myself. It got a little lonely, but I’m so glad I did it.

When I look back on the time I spent on Semester At Sea, I realize that it was one of the main things that shaped who I am; not just as a traveler, but as a person.

Recently I had the thought that this might be the most memorable trip of my life…unless I start planning something even more amazing. I have no idea what that could be.

Ideas? What have your most memorable trips been? I’d love to hear!

Comments

  1. I’ve been so curious about this program! I’m currently working in higher education overseas and have been daydreaming about Semester at Sea… Any advice for applying?

    And yes, I think formative traveling experiences in younger years can have a huge impact. I’m reminded of a trip to Thailand when I was 19, which really opened my eyes to just how big the world was.

  2. So cool! I feel like we are in the same Real World generation and I always wanted to do that when I was in college. But you are right, it was so expensive. Oh well, glad you got to do it and even still I think we’ve made up for it ten fold!

  3. Fellow SAS alum here. Definitely one of the best things I did in college. SAS has been one of by best travel memories and what initially fueled my passion to travel.

  4. pinkisnice says:

    Amazing.

  5. Sometimes we don’t realize we are on the best voyages/adventures until much later after the trip is long gone. I too studied abroad – on land – in Guadalajara, MX for 6 months. While I’m of Mexican heritage there was no language barrier, the experience was a huge culture shock! I had never lived away from home, and while I had a host family I was thrust into some third world experiences. I quickly learned humility, compassion and appreciation my family through so many homesick days. To this day its one of my greatest adventures.

  6. I did SAS, loved it. I also went around the world. I remember the passage across the Pacific too. We encountered a huge storm and realized that the ship which seemed so large in port, was just the tiniest of specks out in the open sea. It was an episodic voyage, with the air conditioning breaking down when we twice crossed the equator, we all had to sleep on the deck. It inspired great compassion for the families we would see in India, living in what were basically cardboard boxes along the rail road tracks in India. One of my favorite memories from the trip was not in port at all, but just the experience of being at sea and having the faculty so nearby. I remember a night when a friend and I were hanging on the rail and noticed a constellation we were unfamiliar with. We went and knocked on the stateroom door of our astronomy professor, who joined us and said…. ” Why girls, that’s the Southern Cross!” Awesome.

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