Sailing Around the Globe
A personal experience of a globetrotter travelling around the oceans of the world
By Erica K. Jordan
A series of events that can only be described as fate had ended with me standing on a makeshift stage in front of over a thousand people, wearing a bright red dress. We were at the Port of Yokohama and I was interpreting our departure ceremony, during which the 850 of us on board waved goodbye to those who had gathered to see us off. With one final blow of the cruise ship’s deep whistle, we pulled away from the terminal, marking the beginning of a three months journey circumnavigating the globe.
Within a few days into the voyage, we were greeted by two typhoons, testing our ability to balance as well as the toughness of our stomachs. The inclement weather also resulted in delays, severely shortening our time at the ports in Asia. There’s nothing quite like the feel of solid ground under your feet after rocking harshly back and forth for days, so we were especially determined to make the most of our time on land. After a whirlwind tour of our three ports- Vietnam, Singapore and India- we found ourselves with another long stretch of ocean in front of us.
Though the time on land always proved to be fun and exciting, I especially looked forward to these week-long stretches out on the sea. A first glance it seems unchanging, but spending time looking out at the horizon really allowed me to learn the moods of the ocean. What was a deep blue and calm ocean can slowly shift into a dark navy one with swirling waters that finally reveals its anger through choppy, white-capped waves. Occasionally, it also rewards you with animal sightings. We once we even saw a playful pod of dolphins that stretched longer than our 205m long ships. On another occasion, what I thought was a leaf out in the middle of the ocean turned out to be a sea turtle, stopping by to say hello.
After our long journey across the Indian Ocean, we found ourselves in the Suez Canal. I was anticipating the full days that we would spend slowly making our way through the canals to be long, boring and drawn out. Instead, the days through the canal were some of the most memorable. It was incredible to glide down the narrow canal with the African continent on one side and Asia on the other. I’ve stood on the border between two states before, even two countries, but two continents was a first.
Once in the Mediterranean, we had a hectic schedule of a new port every day. Getting off of the ship and finding yourself in a completely new world at that pace makes it almost surreal. One day I was in Turkey, walking among Roman ruins, the next I was on a vineyard in Greece, the next yet found me in France, walking up a winding road to visit a cathedral at the top of a hill. At the same time, it made history much more than just fascinating stories, both in seeing the individual sites and in seeing the vast stretch of the various empires that reached over current country borders.
We were even treated with a taste of island life with stops in the Canary Islands and Jamaica. On the Canary Islands, I was able to see the drastic change in terrain and the flora that it supports from the front seat of an off-roading vehicle. Jamaica brought an opportunity to learn about and to see protected areas in the surrounding ocean through snorkeling in the crystal waters.
As we were making our way through the Panama Canal, I couldn’t help but stand in complete awe that I was seeing the result of all of the politics, disease and sacrifice that occurred, with my own eyes. This, coupled with the knowledge that the dense jungle along the banks were protected as a way to naturally provide water to the canal through increased rainfall, made it one of my favorite sites on our journey.
In Latin America, we were once again treated to experiencing bits of history, as the influences of the colonial era were blatant, even across country borders. The breathtaking landscape, the jovial disposition of the people and the amazing culinary treats in Central America all took me back to a trip I took four years ago to Nicaragua. This was the trip that started it all, that ignited my desire to see more of the world, even if it meant leaving my comfortable job and life back home. This time back in Central America renewed this desire to explore the world and myself through travel.
On the surface, the voyage around the world was an amazing and postcard worthy sampling of what this world has to offer. On a deeper level, it taught me to look at the world with a global perspective while still being able to see the beauty of each country, port, monument and individual. Reaching our first and final destination of Yokohama, I hoped that any footprints that I left along the way were as positive as the memories with which I walked off the gangway, one last time.