Independence of the Seas

Independence of the Seas

Cruise ships exist in a bubble of reality apart from our own. My wife and I comment on this every time we’re lucky enough to take a cruise and it holds true every single time. In fact I think it’s difficult to not understand this in short order once on-board. I mean where else on earth can you literally walk off with food and drinks and not only not be pursued by an offended party, but encouraged to do such things?

Sure there are other bubbles: some vacations, conventions, Disneyland. But to me, cruises stand alone. It’s probably the isolation of the cruise itself. Barely any TV, no Internet, no cell phones. There’s nothing like being on a cruise, looking out at all that ocean and knowing there’s nothing else to do, but relax and enjoy the company of friends and the amenities of the ship.

This past week I was able to step into that bubble once more when I was fortunate enough to attend the 2015 Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat aboard the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas. This meant that not only was I going on a cruise, but a cruise full of writers and their families. Over 150 of them in fact. This number of passionate writers, combined with the great hospitality of the ship led to a really memorable, wonderful event. A special bubble as it were, unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.

If you’re thinking that sounds like possibly the coolest thing ever, you’re not far off. But perhaps not for the reason you’re thinking.

Class in session!

Class in session!

Sure the ship was wonderful, the weather sunny, and the ports of call fun. Sure the instructors were brilliant, the classes informative, and the discussions lively. But it was the people who come back to me now. The teachers, the students, and their family members. The way we all connected is something I’ve never experienced before.

Going into the cruise I figured I’d meet some people, do a little “networking”, probably hang out a bit. The sorts of things you do at most conventions and the like.

This was nothing like that.

Within hours of meeting the cruise bubble was filling with connections, friendships, and laughter. It kept filling like that, day after day, class after class, dinner after dinner. By the last day, where hangouts were happening, board games being played, and stories being told, that bubble was plum full with one of the strongest senses of community I’ve ever felt.

In a word, it was amazing.

And it was this sense of bonding, of connections, of a tribe, that led to something very strange happening.

The problem with entering a fun filled bubble like a cruise, is that at some point you have to step back out of the bubble. Upon exiting, the bubble usually pops, and while you had a great time, you’re left a bit downcast for a couple days while you rejoin the rest of society.

This past Sunday I got off the ship, stepping out of the bubble and back on to dry land, and sure, there was a bit of a ‘pop’, but rather than finding myself doused in the real world again, I found that a bit of the bubble had survived. My own personal bubble composed of that sense of community I’d found on-board. Not as grand perhaps, not as exciting, and vast, but there none the less. My own little piece of the tribe, still with me days later where I’m now once again surrounded by city rather than the vast ocean.

It’s this feeling I’m going to take from the cruise more than anything else. And it’s all these amazing people I’m going to remember long after any other ships have sailed.

Writers, gamers, geeks, and all the rest really have a wonderful community. Perhaps it’s hard to find, or perhaps the connections are via tweets rather than smiles, but that community is there. It is around us whether we know it or not.

I know this is true because at the start of the cruise there were a bunch of us introverts walking around, eyeing each other, uncertain of who to talk to and what to do. And a week later those same people were connected through and through. All it took was a little time and a little warmth from the event organizers to spark the community to life.

It’s for this that I thank the great people who put on the event, and it’s for that reason I urge everyone reach out and find those around you with whom you can connect. Whether it be on a cruise ship, in a bookshop, or over a card game. The connection is just as real once made no matter how you get there.