Soooo. Here I am. A full 17 months after the completion of my venture on the high seas as a teacher on Class Afloat. I’ve started writing this entry dozens of time… and I’ve thought of it at least 10 times as much. My last entry was in April 2011, about a month before our homecoming. By that point, I remember thinking there was little point to continue writing about what was happening. To me, it was starting to sound a bit repetitive… a bit mundane..
« So we sailed for a bit. I wasn’t sea sick! DOLPHINS! And then saw a lot of amazing places in port. I ate some good food. Now we’re sailing again! ».
At the risk of sounding unappreciative, or unaware of the incredible opportunity that became my daily routine (I wasn’t)…..it did become very normalized. As mentioned in one of my postings, life on terra firma was now the anomaly. Life aboard the Sorlandet had become my home…and I felt as though writing about my experiences at that point would have been the same as me sitting down and writing my daily occurances as they are now.
Life as a traveling teacher had become my new routine. Using my heated seats in September, and teaching Social Studies with access to current events (!!!) was a distant and foreign thought.
And so, as I returned to life in Calgary, I had little idea of what to expect. Sure, we had versed the kids in what « reverse culture shock » looked, smelled, felt like. And yes, my first semester ship BFF, and on-board medical officer Christina had written letters about how difficult the transition back to land life had been for her after she had completed her semester in January…. that I should probably expect the same. But nothing had quite prepared me what became my new reality in what I like to call my Calgary 2.0 life.
Mostly, I became crippled with the question « What now? ». Class Afloat had been my dream, my constant thought, my goal from the first time I heard of its existence 5 years prior. Everything since then had just been in anticipation of what would become the greatest experience in my lifetime. The cool thing my grandkids could say their grandma once did. The life and self-reflection adventure I knew I needed… the one that I’d ultimately be forever satisfied with. The one that would precede the phase in my life where I would finally « settle down » with a heavy backpack (George Clooney reference), and be content with my life as it now was.
Except, my life was not what I thought it would become. While on the ship, I had imagined my return to Calgary….but, almost immediately upon my return, I noticed that not much had changed. Of course, I was immensely happy to return to familiar faces, and a city that had now become my home… but, weren’t things supposed to be a little different? Hadn’t I just gone through the most significant, life-altering experience of my lifetime? Even though much had changed, why were things still the same? Why did my 10 months away now feel like a distant memory… something that felt like it had lasted all of 5 minutes?
Shortly after my arrival in Calgary, I distinctly remember driving with my best friend Jason after brunch, being a little too « bah-humbug » about the whole thing… he quickly pulls over next to a tattoo parlour, and says : COME ON CHANT. You just spent 10 months on a tall ship, seeing the world. Doing something you loved. Seeing many places people only dream of seeing. Remember that. Lets get you a tattoo. ».
The anchor tattoo I got that day began to symbolize, yes, the journey I had been on. But mostly, for me, it stands as a reminder of all the things we are so lucky to have, but somehow tend to forget, or lose perspective on. Instead of just basking in the glow of having been able to take part in something pretty great, I let myself wallow in the self-pity of « yeah, but what now? ». My little anchor serves as a daily reminder to focus on what I have, instead of what I don’t.
It also became representative of my realisation that the self-reflection that travel allows should not disappear once we return home to our warm beds, and to the rush of everyday North American life. I wanted to assimilate what I had learned while away, and help make this knowledge create a better version of me. I, in the company countless others I am sure, wanted to live a better, more meaningful life than the one I had left temporarily.
And so…… am I? After my temporary sulking, and lengthy readjustment to land life… what have I learned?
Calgary 2.0 has thus far been filled with laughs, love, friendships and constant reminders of what a charmed life I am fortunate to lead. Though intermitten with a few heartbreaks and small bumps in the road, there is no doubt that I am one of the lucky ones. Anyone who spends but 5 minutes in the company of those I surround myself with would quickly recognize this as well.
After 17 months of highs and lows, reflections and new directions…I have come to some conclusions. While I am still dissecting a few other life theories, I’m sure of a few things :
1. I will probably always feel the need to ‘escape’ once in a while. While I’m lucky to have had the chance to see a few places over the past year, they have not been enough to take me out of my comfort zone for a significant period of time – to the places, and time needed where I feel I learn the most. In short, I doubt that Class Afloat will be my last big adventure.
So what is next? I am not quite sure… in the meantime, I will enjoy planning my trip to Turkey over spring break, and make the most out of taking 16 of our students for a service project in Cambodia…. My first time in Asia! Just looking to get those passport pages all stamped… hey Ev and Hailey?
2. Nothing quite beats being in the company of the love of great friends and family. I want to make sure they know how much they are loved, and not allow the trivial things of life become more important than they should.
3. There is more to this life than this. In the past week, I have been fortunate enough to take part in many Free The Children initiatives as a part of We Day Alberta. Meeting Marc and Craig Kielburger will make almost anyone feel like a little particle of dust on any given day. What they’ve accomplished is huge – the ripple effect of their contributions essentially mind-boggling. While starting a huge NGO may not be in the cards for me, I still feel as though there’s more that I can do.
Next time I write, it will likely be about my experience in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands…that I went on in February. Timely. Ha. Woops.
Thanks for reading, friends.