I talk a lot about the link between family and happiness on this blog but up until recently I have not done enough to act on it. While I have done a fair amount of bucket list adventures with my siblings, I have not done enough of them with two of my biggest supporters, my parents.
My dad drove us to the port of Seattle and both my mom and I had the same thought. The ship was MUCH bigger than we had imagined. We made our way through the registration area and our excitement was tangible. I wasn’t sure if my mom was going to laugh or cry from excitement. There was an undeniable bounce in her step. “I haven’t had this much excitement in a long time!” We quickly made our way onto the cruise ship to start exploring.
As we walked, we counted six hot tubs, four pools, a two story theatre (it was beautiful), a casino and eventually we found our first target, a buffet that was the size of three city blocks. Clearly, we were not going to go hungry while sailing. I started with the sushi and my mom went to salad bar. We eventually converged on the dessert tables, grabbed some water and made our way to a window that overlooked the city of Seattle. We were in way over our heads… in the best way possible.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the massive ship. It had 12 floors, was at least three city blocks long and was full of fun things to do. It had 5 restaurants (in addition to the buffet), a two story shopping mall, several cafes, countless bars, two ice cream bars (all you can eat and free!), a spa, a running tracking, a full sized gym, two dance clubs, a sports deck and a giant observation deck. I checked my pedometer at the end of the day and we had walked over five miles just exploring the ship. Even still, we found new rooms throughout the rest of the trip.
On our way out of Seattle, my mom and I grabbed some chairs on the observation deck. When my mom was in school she had spent a semester at sea circumnavigating the globe. I had grown up hearing stories about this but now we took the time to really share the experience. I consider her stories of travel adventures to be one of the main seeds for my bucket list. We swapped stories and talked about how crazy our life journeys were turning out to be. We both had big smiles on our faces and learned a lot about each other.
We spent the next hour or so people watching and admiring Puget Sound from the best vantage point possible. We saw whales, seals, a lot of birds and a few things we didn’t recognize. We saw tiny towns on hill sides and were reminded of how much of our own back yard (the Pacific Northwest) we still had to explore.
It took about a day but slowly both my mom and I let go of everything back home. We didn’t have cell service or internet access and there was no obligations while aboard. Food and activities were numerous and completely taken care of. At any given point we had dozens of options of food choices and activities to choose from. We spent most of our time walking around and exploring.
A few days into the trip, I realized with a grin that this was the most relaxed I had been in months. My mom felt the same way. She was carefree and slightly goofy. Her voice was slightly higher and she constantly interrupted herself with smiling.
The cruise had three days at sea and four days with stops. We visited Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway (all of which are in Alaska) and Victoria, British Columbia (which is in Canada).
Each night we had a very upscale and delicious dinner. We tried frog legs, duck, fresh salmon and multiple types of steak. Depending on our mood, we chose to sit with a table of strangers or eat by ourselves. (Most nights we choose to meet new people) We met all kinds of people and really enjoyed our time chatting. The people we met were from all over the world and each brought something unique to the conversation. Our talks ranged from Egyptian politics to the Alaskan wilderness. Each night the group was completely different and my mom and I learned a lot.
Throughout the cruise we had two highlights that caught us by surprise:
We woke up semi-early one morning and found that our gigantic ship squeezed itself into a relatively small fjord which had a large glacier at the end. We spent a lot of time out on the deck taking in the sights and enjoying the numerous icebergs and waterfalls. As out ships started to turn around, we went inside a restaurant to grab breakfast. As my mom and I were enjoying some food, she glanced out the window and grabbed my arm in excitement.
Our ship had bumped up against a small iceberg and dislodged it from its previous position. We both looked in awe as the seemingly small iceberg emerged out of the water and revealed its giant underbelly.
(This photo is of when it started to surface, I didn’t get one of the whole thing)
It was shockingly beautiful.
The second highlight was more planned out (although not by us). When we landed in Juneau, we met up with a lifelong friend of my mom. Her friend, Brenda, had been living in the Alaskan city and was more than eager to play tour guide. Although my mom and Brenda, hadn’t seen each other for at least a year, they picked up their conversation from where it had left off.
Much to my excitement, Brenda had arranged a private helicopter tour of the city’s most famous glacier. We first went to the national park and viewed the massive glacier from the bottom. It was expansive but in the process of shrinking due to warming climate.
After viewing the glacier from the bottom we drove to an airport to start our tour. We carefully stepped into our helicopter and with little notice were up in the air. It was slightly cloudy that day and it made the already fun ride even more exciting. We flew quickly and it felt much more like combat flight than scenic flight. I loved it but my mom was a bit scared :-)
We landed on the glacier, jumped out of the helicopter and it quickly left us alone on the ice. After it left, it was almost completely silent. It was just the people on the tour, a tour guide and a very slow moving glacier.
It was like being on a different planet.
The landscape was incredibly blue and full of deep crevasses. As we walked around, I couldn’t help but think of all of the scenes I wanted to film there. We moved slowly as the ice was slick and a bit dangerous but everyone enjoyed themselves.
At one point we walked by a glacier creek and the tour guide invited us to take a drink. The water was cool and as fresh as it comes. It was the single most refreshing drink I have ever had.
The experience was tremendous. :-)
As I am growing up, the world is slowing unveiling itself as an increasingly odd place. Regardless of how hard I try, I find myself getting pushed into set patterns of living. Be it patterns of security (the easy path with a predictable outcome) or patterns of choice (comfortable ways of thinking), I see my future constantly being influenced by my past.
Thankfully, I have my bucket list to disrupt this cycle.
There is absolutely no way that I would have created this opportunity with my mom had it not been for my list.
I would have made excuses:
“I have no time”
“I don’t have the money”
“It will be uncomfortable spending that much time together”
and eventually it would have become too late. That is what makes strong relationships so paradoxically difficult to maintain. Because they are strong, they are the easiest to de-prioritize. I could have taken a cruise with someone else and my mom still would have been happy for me. This would have been the old easy pattern. If I would have done this, my relationship with my mom would have stayed at its previous level.
Instead, I scanned my life list, saw that I was going to make a cruise happen and figured out a way to get my mom to join me. I used the habit I have created of efficiently completing bucket list items and used it to become closer with my mom. This made all of the difference.
Before I started this bizarre bucket list journey, I had had the chance to chat with a lot of very successful people about their definition of happiness. Although their definitions differed in terms of priorities, there were two common themes of what made them happy.
- Experiences over possessions.
- The importance of travel, family and new learning.
It has taken me a long time but I am finally starting to understand that these themes are not separate. My best and most fulfilling adventures have been those in which I have had new experiences (#1) while traveling and sharing in my new learnings with my family (#2). The convergence of these themes and the multiplying effect that it creates has been one of my most important takeaways from this whole adventure. It is something I wouldn’t have been able to see without my mom inadvertently helping me.
Thank you mom!
For those wondering, our ship was the Celebrity Infinity. If you are looking for an Alaskan cruise, I highly recommend it! If you look around and your timing is good, you can find good deals via Priceline.com.
Also, this is my 100th blog post on Life Listed :-D Wow!