Dearest Rachel –
No, it’s not quite been that long; believe me, I’m painfully aware of each time the twenty-third of the month has rolled around. We’ll be there in a couple of days, yes, but that’s not what this letter is about.
No, what’s going on right now is something that just arrived in my inbox, something that would have had us pondering whether this was practical to even contemplate, but something that we would have been dreaming of doing for a long time – just… not to the extent suddenly being offered to me (rather than us).
Among all the physical junk mail we used to receive (yes, it’s another letter about stuff arriving in the mail – how meta is that?), we would occasionally get stuff from Michelle’s firm about a literal fleet of cruise options that might be available to us. We had dreams of doing like my folks had in their day, and taking one (or more!) every year going forward, especially now that I was able to retire and we were essentially earning enough on investments to live off of. Of course, last year, there was the pandemic, and this year, well…
But after all that, it seems that our favorite cruise line has decided to go all in, and offer something we’ve seen in a few of Michelle’s brochures before, but always from other lines, and always leaving us shaking our heads at the offering. Who could afford it, both in terms of money and time? But here it is, and I have to confess, it’s so very tempting:
Consider this, honey: the Grand Tour.
One ship, going completely around the world, stopping at 157 destinations on every single continent (including Antarctica – see that little curlicue just beneath the tip of South America? Imagine the swell of the ocean as we pass through Cape Horn) along the way over the course of Nine. Whole. Months. Or, if one preferred, one could hop on any one of the four legs of the journey, each of which lasts no less than 63 nights. I’d go into the details, if I thought I (or we, as I hate to think about leaving Daniel out of this picture) could manage it.
Because at first glance, it seems like the most fantastic voyage. Ever since we traveled with the rest of the family to Alaska back in 1999 (and had it codified two years later when we went through the Baltic Sea, even visiting my ancestors’ hometown), I think we’ve both been bitten by the cruise bug. After all, what could be better than unpacking yourself into a single ritzy hotel, where everything you need is taken care of (and then some – these places are notorious for overfeeding you, for instance), and virtually every morning you wake up by the hub of a new fascinating city? To see the entire world this way, why, that would practically be a dream come true!
And yet, the word ‘fantastic’ rings true on multiple levels. Sure, it’s been a fantasy of mine to travel like this ever since I saw the first brochure with something like this advertised in it: “Hey, honey, get a load of this! Wouldn’t it be so cool if someday we were able to go on something like that?” But there’s also the realization that such a journey would be insanely impractical. This isn’t a vacation, this is moving in for the equivalent of an entire school year – two whole semesters, without letup (In fact, I think this particular ship was, a few years ago, outfitted for similarly long voyages they were marketing as ‘Semesters at Sea,’ which were meant as somewhat more educational – and longer – than the typical vacation cruise). There’s not just the question about whether one can afford this trip from a monetary aspect – and I have to admit, despite being fairly reasonable compared to other such trips we’d seen offered back in the day, the price is fairly eyebrow-raising – there’s also the question of time.
While it’s true that I’m not chained down to her job, a pet, or even a child (after all, Daniel’s a grown man; if he doesn’t want to or simply can’t join me, he should be able to take care of himself back here at home), I have deep roots here. The idea of simply picking up and swanning off for such an extended period of time just doesn’t seem feasible, or appropriate. I know, I know, in some ways it would be like being offered a ride in the TARDIS (albeit without the time travel aspect), and I’d be a fool to pass it up. But being away from my family and my church community, well… it just doesn’t seem right. There’s barely a week or two where I feel like I’m not needed somewhere around here – to take off for even a month or two would feel like I’m running away from my responsibilities.
And what kind of community would I be getting myself into? Because I would essentially be moving into a new community. I imagine there wouldn’t be too many people our age, as those with the disposable income to spare on something like this would still be working on building up their fortune, rather than living off of it. So I’d probably be one of the youngest ones there. And after that amount of time, I’d probably familiarize myself with much of the staff, to the point where I would probably start to become conscious of the caste system that would exist between passengers and employees (not necessarily crew, but everyone working on the ship), and I suspect that might be rather uncomfortable to be aware of.
I remember that, when mom and dad were first floating (see what I did there?) the idea of a second family cruise in 2001, they asked me what I thought about the Caribbean. Not having the first clue of their intent, I responded with the fact that, while a beautiful place to visit, I would probably be disturbed by the relative poverty of those living there (I was still remembering my visit to Thailand a decade previous), and would probably rather vacation elsewhere. To hear them tell that story, after we went home from visiting them that day, they looked at each other and said, “well, back to the drawing board,” as they had actually been planning such a cruise at the time. On the other hand, it worked out so much better to visit the Old Country, so there’s that. And I admit, I’ve enjoyed the cruises we’ve taken there after all, if for no other reason then tourism is a big boost their economy – we’re doing our part to help!
Yeah, I keep telling myself that.
And then of course, there is the timing. Sure, it’s entirely possible that ‘Megumi’ is in fact out there. It’s entirely possible we may meet in that interim period between now and the day of departure, fall in love, and marry. But this would be a terrible idea for a honeymoon. Two weeks is long enough, and then we need to get back to real life. And without enough time to adjust to each other, the relatively spartan accommodations of a ship’s stateroom could quite easily cause issues with a too-new relationship over that length of time. It would be like being co-ed roommates at college, with all of the attendant conflict involved with that arrangement. Not the best idea at all.
I know this probably sounds like I’m sour graping things, trying to convince myself that my inability to actually go on one of these truly once-in-a-lifetime trips is better for me than going. Maybe I am. I would probably take a contrary position to that; the fact is, while it would be a reach to pull off, for once, it’s tantalizingly possible. But just because I can’t, doesn’t necessarily mean that I should, does it?
I say it so many times, honey, but it’s never not true: I wish you were here, because it would make the decision so much easier.