My last two posts have been about how our pre-Advent cruise reflects Advent itself, and prepared me for my Advent journey this year. There is one more thing I’d like to talk about: community.
When we boarded the Wind Surf on November 11, we didn’t know anyone. We didn’t know anything about cruising. We didn’t know anything about making an ocean crossing. As I said before, we were noobs. Little did I know that we would discover so many new things on our trip, including an on-board community.
As soon as we were standing in line in the lounge, waiting to register our passports and find out where to go, we knew this was not going to be like other trips. People were greeting each other all around us. “Oh! I haven’t seen you in so long! How are you?” “Hello again! What have you been up to the last two years?” “What trips have you taken since I saw you last?” Hmmm. How do these people know each other?! What is going on here? One of the first things we learned is that people love this crossing so much, and this ship so much, that they do it over and over. Interesting!
We got checked in and found our room, and since we were soaking wet from the pouring rain, we had to wait for our luggage. By the time our luggage arrived, it was getting to be suppertime. We had made reservations (as suggested by the Maitre d’) for one of the special restaurants, so we went up and had supper alone. After supper, we wandered the ship, checking out our home for the next three weeks. There were a few people around, but not many. We didn’t leave the dock. We figured the crew had things to do before we cast off, so we weren’t worried. Then we started to overhear conversations and heard that we were to cast off at 11:00 pm. Well, that begged the question (which we asked), “We had to board on board by 5:00, so why are we not casting off until 11:00?” What followed was our first experience of community on board! Not only were we told that we had to wait for the lowest tide so that our tallest mast would make it under the bridge, but people started to ask us questions. “Where are you from?” “What cruises have you taken before?” “What made you think to take a crossing as your first ever cruise?!” Those who had done this before were more than willing to answer our questions, and to bring us into community.
There were only 210 passengers on board for our trip. We didn’t get to know all of them, but we did get to know some of them. We made friends! Like, I want to see these people again for sure kind of friends! I was not expecting that! We learned so much from our fellow-passengers. So many of them have travelled so much, amongst them I’m sure they could have spoken knowledgably about everywhere on earth. And they were more than willing to share their knowledge, their anecdotes, themselves with us.
This is what it is to truly journey through Advent as well. Community welcomes me, answers my questions, shares their knowledge and gives me directions. They also share themselves with me. This is, I think, my 7th Advent with my spiritual formation community, Tapestry. I could not have had the experiences I have had meeting God, learning, growing, and enjoying the journey without these fellow-travelers. I was welcomed as a beginner those many years ago and shown the way. And now, even though I have taken the journey many times, I still need that community. Our well-traveled friends also still want community, and so welcome newcomers and old friends alike, sharing not only wisdom, but camaraderie, joy, appreciation, and love. As a seasoned Advent traveler, I want to remember what it was like when it was all new: exciting, yes, but also a little daunting and maybe even a little scary. I want to welcome the newcomer as my new friends welcomed me and Barry. I want to be there to help, to come alongside, but also to allow another to discover what may be new for both of us. Our new traveling friends have been wonderful examples to me of how to do this. (Joanne and Don, Bill and Larry thank you! You made our voyage so much better than we could have asked or imagined!) I hope we, in some small way, enhanced their journey as well.
In talking to our compatriots on board, we found one couple who had made an Atlantic crossing 14 times previously. It’s their favourite cruise. Why? Because it’s not just the places to go and things to see, it’s the people you travel with. That’s the Advent journey: it’s the things to learn, and experiences to have, but it’s the people you travel with that are really important.
Photo: St. Lucia With New Friends: Joanne, Don, me, Barry, Bill, Larry (with our ship, the Wind Surf behind us on the right) – Heather Holtslander