When the taxi pulled up at Sydney harbour, I looked up at the ship from the ground. It was enormous, and this was to be our home for the next 10 days.
We hadn’t been on a proper holiday since moving to Australia in 2016, so I was very much looking forward to having a proper break, but I’d never been on a cruise before so was slightly worried. What if I didn’t like it and wanted to get off? What if I get sea sick? Where will I run? As I walked through the terminal building, these questions were running through my mind as I moved into a new context.
The ship had 10 Decks and we entered on Deck 3, walking through a very gaudy door that would have felt very at home in the Palace of Versailles. We took the stairs to floor 9, the famous buffet floor, which was crammed full of all kinds of food. Working in the food industry, I naturally now look to see what food is most popular. Pizza, burgers, chips and cake seemed to have the queues. There was a salad bar too, and not much of a queue, so I headed in that direction hoping to find some organic spinach and kale. When I got there, there was a single organic leaf to be seen, just iceberg lettuce, potato salad, pasta salad, rice salad and a pumpkin salad which was ok.
I started to get a bit grumpy as I was out of my familiar surroundings and didn’t have access to the food and drink that i usually consume. I didn’t quite know what to do. One option was to get off the ship and stock up with organic leaves. But then I remembered that any change is good and you need to be able to adapt to any event in order to survive. In that setting, I had a choice. I could either remain grumpy and bring everyone down, or I could look on the positive side and throw myself into this new situation which is exactly what i did. I decided to treat the whole thing as a retreat. Quite different from other retreats which usually involve yoga, meditation, organic juices and salads, but in truth, that is my everyday. This cruise life was completely new and alien to me and i needed to embrace it in order to grow. Here’s what happened…
At that point, I felt so liberated! I could access my emails from anywhere and didn’t have to go to the office to communicate. It was amazing. But like all good thing, it then became less amazing and before long it felt that this liberating tool was actually sucking my time and attention. I was checking my email first thing in the morning to catch up with my colleagues in Asia and the US and replying to emails to colleagues in the US before going to bed. The boundaries of my life had blurred and whilst i still thought that I was in control, in truth, the device was in control and it took me a long time to recognise that.
So with this context, not having access to communication channels for 10 days was very unsettling. There was so much going on in my personal and professional life that I was very worried that I’d miss something important and I wouldn’t be contactable.
But then things started to change. I began to relax and get used to a true feeling of true freedom that only comes when you decide where to put your attention. I noticed that time got a little slower and I had more time which I put into reading novels and just chilling out whilst watching the waves on the ocean.
The whole experience reminded me of how holidays used to be ‘before the smartphone’. I am old enough to remember those times very well as you’d go away and literally have no contact with the outside world, apart from a postcard! Coming back was always a challenge as you’d have a nightmare time trying to catch-up, but after a day or so, you were back into the swing of things.