“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” Mark Twain

Sunday, May 23, 2010

End of Voyage Memories, Reflections and Ramblings

This will be a long, wordy and quite a random entry so prepare yourself!!!

So I know that I have touched some on the time that was spent on the ship between Sea Olympics, Neptune Day, the Talent Show and numerous other programs, but unless you experience this community it is really hard to conceptualize. Having sailed before I thought I would be prepared for that environment and prepared to leave it but this was quite far from the truth.

The time between Brazil and home was filled with a whirlwind of emotions and took it’s tole on everyone. When we got back on the ship after Brazil we had a lot of students who were sick from being in the Amazon, some still recovering from being robbed in Salvador and most coming to the realization that our next port of call would be home. I would say that though there may have been some negative undertones this last week on the ship was a great example of the community that we had built. During this time we had final Sea Socials, the Alumni Ball, a Commencement Ceremony, a Day of Reflection and yes by the way the students had to take finals and hand in final papers. In case anyone may have forgotten the students were actually taking classes while we were at sea.

I will start with the Sea Social that I had for my sea. I had decided that I wanted to say some sort of parting words of inspiration but I also knew that if I were to do this without getting emotional I needed to write something down. Well that turned into a reflection on my experience on the ship which I wrote out and when I shared I did turn into a bumbling idiot and could not get past the first line without crying I believe there are some videos floating out there).
Here I am with a group of students from my sea:
I shared with them how grateful I was for the experience, how we were the only ones in the world that experienced what we did and we need to hold on to that. I shared some of what I learned on this “voyage of discovery.” I learned that I need to be true to myself, my feelings, my emotions. I have learned what I like to eat and what I don’t and I have also learned what I can live without because so many people are living with so much less then I am. I learned to forgive and let go which was a lesson that has only recently come to me. I learned some of this through spiritual dance, from places I have visited, interacting with the people I came across in different countries but most importantly I learned this from the people on the ship I had been with day in and day out for the past 4 months. These students that I was with were smart, talented and more worldly than I could ever imagine myself being even though I too have traveled the world. Lastly I shared that at that point in the voyage a lot of people were tired; physically, emotionally, mentally – that is why the voyage must come to an end but no one could ever take away what we have had together.

There was more to it and if you would like to read the whole thing I can share it with you individually; it is not something I want to share fully in this public venue.

I also sent this reflection to other staff and faculty that had an impact on my experience as well as students who were not in my sea. The response was amazing and quite overwhelming to be honest. I knew the effect that others had on me but to hear the effect that I had on them was quite overwhelming, humbling and affirmed the reason why I do the work I do. Not to do a Talent Show or plan the Sea Olympics (which were both a lot of fun) but to connect with and help the development of our students.  The moments I had on the ship that had to do with that; those moments that you can’t tally or really put into words that is why I do what I do and will continue to do this work.

When finals were finished we had something called the Alumni Ball which was an end of voyage dinner and dance. An excuse for people to eat a good dinner, dress fancy and dance past quiet hours! I think a great time was had by all and I know that I enjoyed myself.
The next day was a reflection day; a few of us from Student Life worked to put together some programs for all of the ship to participate in to start thinking about the reentry process, to reflect on their time on the ship and to start to think about how they would tell their stories when they are home. This day was filled with panel discussions, spiritual dance, collage, other programming sessions and the the day ended with Performance Reflection. This Performance Reflection was essentially one final coffee house that students signed up for in advance to perform a song, poem or story that they would use to reflect and to help others reflect on their experience. It was beautiful, reflective and a perfect end to a fabulous journey. For all of the other coffee houses students would be the hosts but because we (the staff) planned this day I volunteered to host this particular event. The thank yous I got at the end were incredible. What did I do, I put in an AV request, secured a space and then announced some names. No to them I provided a safe venue for people to share their creativity, an environment where any level of talent was welcome, a space that was free of judgment and encouraging of stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. This final program truly represented what we all tried really hard to create all semester…community and I certainly did not do this alone.

On the last full day on the ship was the end of voyage convocation type program, though I was a little bit disappointed that our graduating seniors were not called up to the front of the Union, the professor who was chosen to speak, Mike Ellerbrock, a favorite of many on the ship, was inspiring, motivating and moving my criteria for any good closing speech!! Loren Crabtree, our Executive Dean, also spoke about our experience as being serendipitous and I had been looking for a word to describe how all of these amazing people were placed on this ship at this time, how all of the 'right' people were and serendipitous was the perfect word to describe our time together.

The day was filled with emotions as you can imagine. I had been encouraging people to say their goodbyes and share their final words with people they cared about before tomorrow came because that day would be a roller coaster ride. I tried to make sure I was also taking care of this and myself at the same time. I had many students who wanted me to write them a message in their journals and I felt this strong pressure to write some sort of motivating message, so I tried to write from the heart connecting with each individual who wanted this from me. I figured if they were asking then I had made some sort of impact on their experience.  I know that I am making an impact but it is really hard for me to realize the maginitude of that impact. I do not do this work for the thank yous but they sure do help you continue when you sometimes question why. I received a handful of goodbye/thank you notes and emails from some students and some of my colleagues/friends. There are two letters that I received from two women that lived on my sea that I had made a strong connection with and it was not until I read their words did I truly understand that impact that I had made on the ship’s community. These were not women who I had helped through some sort of traumatic experience or helped them answer the mysteries of life but I was just there for them, I listened without judgment, gave advice without being pushy and we listened to music and laughed. I guess that was all they were really looking for. This is in no way me trying to toot my own horn but more reflect on my impact (besides at this point I may be the only person reading this) and the impact that the community had on me.
The students in this pic frequented 'my office' which was the space outside my cabin:
Thank goodness for the laughter that we had on this final day as well.  All of the LLCs and the Dean's had been auctioned off to be pied and today was the day it would happen.  Here are some action shots of me being pied:
This picture was taken at a birthday party for Jenny and Andy's daughter Lizzie on one of the final days:
I am realizing that this very random entry is getting to be a little bit lengthy so I will talk just about one final thing; the day we arrived to Ft. Lauderdale. We woke the ship’s community with Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America” blasting over the loud speaker; some were highly amused, others not so much.
Here is Courtney the bearer of the music:
But this 6am wakeup call certainly got everyone’s attention. I was able to eat an early breakfast, watch the sun rise and watch us pull in to port. We pulled in around 8am to the cheers and banners of parents awaiting the arrival of their student’s.

I agreed to help throughout the morning which meant that I got to be present as everyone disembarked for one final time. What an incredible day full of a range of emotions. The gratitude I felt from the student after student that I embraced as they left their floating campus, their home for 4 months, and their new found family was so profound and amazing. In the grand scheme of life in any other space and time 4 months is insignificant but in this environment it was so significant. I am continually humbled by the students that I work with I always have and hopefully always will be and hope they realize that the impact that I had on them was just as great as the impact they had on me. Goodbyes were exchanged; some spoken, some through hugs and some through a gaze into each other’s eyes.

When I finally left the ship I was able to walk through customs answering the question “Do you have any food in your bags” with “I have some granola bars I started out with” and that was true. Thank goodness the bags were not checked!!! From there it was off to Starbuck’s with Midhun and Laura to decompress, drink some coffee (Oh how I missed Starbuck’s iced coffee) and make some phone calls. A few of us met up for one final meal of Mexican food (it was Cinco De Mayo) said our see you laters and then it was off to Boynton Beach, Fl to stay with my mom and grandma for a few days.

Final Thoughts (I promise):
The most beautiful sunsets I have ever experienced have been on a ship surrounded by infinite miles of ocean on all sides; watching the sun literally disappearing into the water. As I watched the sunsets on some of the final evenings I would think that I cannot believe I will never see such a beautiful sunset again. On the evening I was driving from Ft. Lauderdale to Boynton Beach leaving my new found friends and family to visit my mother and grandmother I saw a sunset that mirrored the ones I saw on the ship and then the tears fell. As I was driving and crying I suddenly became aware of the music on the radio…Knockin Heaven’s Door by Guns ‘N’ Roses and the clouds in front of the sunset looked like the heavens opened up and the sun rays were pouring out of the sky. It was a magical moment. Beautiful sunsets will not cease to exist because this particular journey has ended. There are so many more beautiful sunsets to experience… this was a sure sign that my journey had just begun.
Final sunsets from sea:


  1. Most beautiful final thought EVER!!!!! Cheers to more adventures!!!
    Love, JT

  2. I love you Stacey...thanks for the best time of my life, I will miss you so much! xoxo

  3. That was very beautiful. You made me cry. There are actual tears on my keyboard.