It’s an interesting thing we do – travel. It’s even more interesting when you think that travel is something that can have such a profound impact on someone. From simple things, like being inspired to try a new type of food, or bigger things, like your outlook on life or your relationship with others, travel can truly change a person in both little and big ways, and usually for the better.
Earlier this winter (is it still winter? I live in Florida, so I don’t really know) I sailed with Viking Ocean Cruises aboard their brand new Viking Star. Now, this trip was already a big change as I had never sailed with Viking, a small ship cruise line, or even on a smaller ship. The itinerary, which included ports such as Istanbul, Athens, Santorini, Kotor, and Venice, were all new to me. This adventure would be a whole new thing for me. I was nervous. I was excited. I was walking blind into a new journey. I was ready to experience new things, new cities, and new countries. However, I never foresaw how a trip like this would change me and my daily life, in both small and big ways.
The Way I Opened My Eyes
Learning to put down the damn iPhone.
For me, as a 19 year old and a social media consultant, there is almost never a time my phone is not in the palm of my hand. My iPhone is half business, half addiction. I’ve never liked that I was that way, but hey, like I said, I’m 19, it’s normal for us. Walking down the streets of Istanbul, I found myself not needing the distraction of a lit up screen. Life was happening around me. This realization really finally hit me when I was walking aimlessly through the confusing, but amazing Grand Bazaar. I was enthralled by the little shops and the items they were selling. I was amazed by the architecture around and high above me in the grand tiled ceilings and arches. I was truly living in the moment. Not once did I look at a tiny screen, looking at photos on Instagram – I was living in an Instagram photo! I found this feeling continued with me throughout my trip with Viking. Whether it was walking through the streets of Athens, climbing a mountain in Kotor, or lounging around Viking Star’s beautiful atrium, I found no reason to retreat back into my virtual world. I wanted to be in the real world.
The Way I Changed My Apartment
Bringing some Viking back home with me.
Not all of these changes were deep or profound, but a change is a change. Sailing with Viking Cruises, I quickly became accustomed to the onboard life and style of living that Viking so perfectly executes. I found myself taking notes of the specific things that stood out to me that would be easy to replicate back home. That’s right. A good portion of my cruise was focused on seeing what I could mentally steal to recreate back home. Nowadays, my apartment is taking on a minimalist style, featuring a number of little things that I miss from “my” Viking Star:
- White strawberry tea is served at noon in my apartment, inspired by the incredible daily tea reception in the Wintergarden.
- Water is served with each meal in a Scandinavian style carafe, inspired by the water carafe placed in each stateroom aboard Viking Star.
- My living room is quickly filling up with travel books, globes, and other knick knacks that I fell in love with from the Explorer’s Lounge on deck 8. The model of Viking Star on my coffee table almost makes it feel like I’m back aboard.
However, until I figure out how to install an infinity pool and convince the Viking Star’s impressive crew to come work for me, I will have to go back to sea to have the full Viking Star experience.
The Way I Became A Citizen Of A City I Didn’t Live In
A new outlook on the world and tragic world events.
My sailing started in Istanbul, Turkey, a complicated city and country for sure. For my parents, they were nervous of me going to Turkey, but I wasn’t. Granted, travel doesn’t scare me, but I understood their concerns. I was going anyway. Then, two days before my flight to Istanbul, the tragic terrorist attack in Paris occurred. I won’t lie, it struck a nerve, but I wasn’t anywhere near cancelling my trip. Soon, I was actually on the ground in Istanbul and I was instantly mesmerized. I’ve always had a fascination with the Middle East (I can’t decide if Turkey is Europe, Asia, or the Middle East, but I think it’s a nice blend regardless) and I found myself excited to get to my hotel and head back out on the streets. For the first day and a half, I explored, walking down random streets and finding random stuff to do. I ate a traditional Turkish meal, trying to soak in as much of the culture I could. The next day, I embarked Viking Star. I was so excited to be finally aboard and still had two more days docked in Istanbul. I couldn’t contain my excitement.
The next two days, I explored Istanbul with tours from Viking. Walking through the city streets with fellow guests and knowledgeable local guides, I continued my exploring, sometimes even breaking away from the group and going away on my own. From reverent exploration of Sultan Ahmed Mosque, sampling of Turkish Delight at the Grand Bazaar, or practicing my Turkish with locals, each encounter with this city was drawing me in. I was quickly falling in love with Istanbul. Yet, soon, after three days, my time in this magnificent city had come to a close. I boarded Viking Star and we sailed off (literally) into the sunset. Istanbul would stick with me through the entire sailing and still does today.
When I learned of a suicide bombing in Istanbul only a few weeks ago, I was stunned. I found myself actually panicked. Panic turned to fear, fear turned to sorrow, and sorrow turned to anger. I asked myself how someone could do something like that to the city, to it’s people, to “my” Istanbul. I felt as if somehow this attack had been made on me. I found myself reaching out to locals I had met, telling them my sorrow for the city and that I was praying for them. Many responded saying how appreciative they were of my thoughts and prayers and how alone they felt after the attack, how the world had turned its back on Istanbul compared to Paris. I felt sorrow and pain as if I had lived in Istanbul my entire life. I felt as if I were a part of Istanbul, a citizen. I had never felt this way before about any other city I’ve been to. I felt changed. The wonderful experiences I had in Istanbul brought me closer to a city that was a relative mystery to me only days before arriving. I still like to refer to the city as MY Istanbul and I can’t wait to return to her.
Travel, if you allow it, can do amazing things for yourself. Travel can inspire, transform, and educate. In fact, I truly believe travel is the sole way to understand our world. You can’t learn the ways of others without experiencing it for yourself. You can read as much about Hong Kong, Vancouver, or Buenos Aires as you want, but you’ll never have the chance to experience the world if you don’t go. Experiencing our world offers us the opportunity to develop our worldview, learn about ourselves, and change the areas we need to change. Sailing with Viking Ocean Cruises presented me with the opportunity to learn more about our world and to change myself for the better – and boy what a successful journey it was.