I was not nearly excited enough when I first thought about my semester at sea. I thought that perhaps I’d find a new place, a few new faces, a tiny portion of the sights and sounds of the world. I thought it would be a glorified cruise, and that maybe, just maybe, I’d improve myself a little bit too. Maybe I’d visit an orphanage in Vietnam. Maybe my view of the world would be widened a little bit. Who knows?
None of that comes close to what I’ve gotten, even in the first few days of being on the MV Explorer. From my arrival in Halifax to sitting in the hall here and now, this has been a non-stop high of excitement. Time, it seems, has dilated, slowed, grown into a vast expanse that has no bearing on the manner in which I live my life. These five days seem like infinity. Sunsets go on for months. And someone you’ve known for a few hours seems to be a lifelong friend. Nothing I write can show you what it is to be awake at 2 am, and suddenly it is 3 am, and you are rapt in conversation with someone whose insatiable wanderlust has already led her to every continent. And at every waking moment, there is the realization that we are at the mercy of fate in a ship bobbing like a cork in the watery plain that is the Atlantic Ocean.
But we shouldn’t assume that this is the central meaning of our experience: have a good time. Make connections. Learn a little bit and understand foreign cultures. Take a few small risks and call them life. I am not here for that; I’m here for a new lease, not on life, but on existence. The first day, we were guided through a thought exercise, asking us “Where are we? And who are we in this place?” And as we cross time lines every other night, these are valid questions. The next day, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa spoke to us about the way in which college students, with all our idealism and all our hopes for the future, re-energize him, uplift him, give this great and kind and optimistic man an even more hopeful perspective on life.
Every moment is a reminder that nothing is more important than today, because, as clichéd as it is, today is the first day of the rest of your life. Every single one of us human beings, tall or small, art or engineering major, has some part to play in this world. Every one of us, here in the middle of the ocean, those we will soon meet in Spain, Morocco, or you back home in America, even those in central Eritrea—we all have to ask ourselves, “Who are we, and what are we doing with ourselves?”
I can’t wait to find out.