by Dr. Denise R. Ames
A day at sea. After a whirl-wind tour of interesting Baltic Sea ports—Tallinn, Estonia, St. Petersburg, Russia, Helsinki, Finland, and Klaipeda, Lithuania—it was nice to take a breather before our last cruise stop in Warnemunde, Germany. After that, my friend and I were looking forward to continuing our vacation with several leisurely days in Copenhagen, Denmark.
I gave my last cruise ship lecture on Berlin in the morning, so I had the rest of the day to relax and reflect on the cruise so far. Although snagging a gig as a cruise ship lecturer sounds glamourous and adventurous, I found that giving the lectures was quite stressful. The room was darkened and I couldn’t see the audience, so I had to be a solo performer on stage. The last thing that I aspire to be is an on-stage performer. I love to teach in small group settings, and I even like larger groups if I can see their faces! But I was literally in the dark. I didn’t think I would continue with cruise ship lecturing again. At least in the format that was set up for me.
After another lovely lunch at the trough of the cruise ship’s overflowing buffet, I had the afternoon free. No more rehearsing presentations and making sure my power point slides were in order, but ample time to reflect and see what I could see at sea. After several rounds on the cruise ship “track” to walk off some energy, I settled into a lounge chair on the upper deck facing the gray spray of water spewing upwards as the speeding ship plowed its way to Germany. With pen poised and journal spread out before me, I started to think about my experiences.
I sat there stuck, unable to conjure up any thoughts, feelings, or inspiration from my recent travels. My mind was a blank. Then I glanced out to sea to see if the sea could trigger anything into my jammed-in-place brain. Slowly the mesmerizing waves started to work their magic, a deluge of feelings emerged about my event-packed travels.
I am always struck by the transformational nature of travel. I have found the mere act of traveling is a way of enlivening the senses, making things more colorful and brighter, and stimulating my optic nerves to see things that are new and fascinating. I remembered strolling through the gardens at Peter the Great’s Petershof near St. Petersburg, and seeing the green foliage more vibrant and colorful than I could have imagined. Also, I remember being flooded with a foreboding unease during my tour of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, realizing the great wealth and power concentrated in the ostentatious palace, but knowing the suffering that existed outside its reinforced walls.
My capacity for understanding others enlarges as I travel. I observe their simple actions as reflective of their way of life, and a taste of their national character. I remembered noticing immediately the different national character of the people of Helsinki to those of St. Petersburg. This difference was reflected in the way the Finnish tour guide greeted us with opened arms, a friendly smile, and a hardy handshake. The Russian tour guides were all business, unsmiling, and devoid of emotion. A stark contrast.
Travel once again worked its magic with me. As I closed my journal, put away my pen, and rose to feel the fresh sea air sweep across me, I felt the act of travel was inspiring me to be more open, less judgmental, and grateful for the opportunity to enrich my world through the mere act of doing it. A wonderful feeling that I was eager to share with others.
About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames
Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.
Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.
Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books