Did you read the recent post that highlighted tips for having a great vacation? Bill and I just returned from a Caribbean cruise (score!), and before we boarded the ship, I’m so glad we took our own advice and heeded the tips we routinely pass on to other travelers.
Our main goal for this cruise was pure relaxation and down-time, with no schedule and no ‘shoulds’ – just pure freedom to roam and do what feels right in the moment. So before the cruise, we did some research and figured out what we wanted to do on each island, making sure to keep it low-key.
However, during the cruise – each time our ship pulled into port, we both felt a bit uneasy. The truth was that neither of us wanted to get off the ship, despite the sheer beauty of each island that beckoned us.
So we did something crazy. We stayed on the ship for the week, instead of venturing out onto the islands.
And each time we thought, “Wait, shouldn’t we be getting off the ship to explore the expansive beauty?” After all, our favorite place in the whole world is the string of Caribbean islands. Everyone’s got their vice; ours is the Caribbean.
What happened in St. Thomas
The morning we pulled into St. Thomas, we slept in, had a leisurely breakfast, lounged on the deck, walked the track, and then went back to the room to get ready for the island. We thought for sure we’d do our favorite deal – have lunch at the Greenhouse and visit the beach we’re so enamored with – Magen’s Bay. But once in the room, we looked at each other with a mutual: “We’re not going anywhere” nod.
So we stayed on the ship.
Huh? What a strange thought. You’re supposed to get out and enjoy the islands! But then we quickly realized that this was a “should.” The truth: Even though we were docked at such a beautiful lush island, what we really wanted to do was enjoy relaxing on the ship while everyone else was in port. It almost felt a little naughty – after all, the beauty of a cruise is to take you to exotic destinations with exciting experiences you want to write home about.
Our gut told us, though, that this week was our turn to enjoy the ride and not focus on the destination(s). Staying onboard was certainly the road less traveled, but it’s what felt right.
That day in St. Thomas, instead of following a ‘schedule,’ we followed our hearts.
We walked the ship and stumbled upon a ping pong table, so we played (quite the aerobic workout and a very heated match!). Playing in flip-flops not recommended.
We walked by a hammock for two. So we got in. And we laughed ‘cause we kept gravitating toward the middle, squashing each other.
We smelled the grill and grabbed a burger.
We walked by a putting green. So Bill took a couple of shots.
We strolled by a cushiony chaise lounge for two. So we reclined. Bill read, and I got lost in the blue sky and watched cloud formations.
We walked by the ice cream counter. I’m sure you can guess what we did there (yum)!
It was as though life kept “appearing” as we continued walking…and invited us in. None of it was planned, none of it was expected, none of it was on the agenda.
We caught some sun on the deck, relished in the live steel drum music, and then enjoyed late afternoon pizza.
That day, Bill spent a good amount of time reading (his favorite thing to do on vacation). And I spent the time just staring at the ocean and the hills of the island (my favorite thing to do!).
And around 4:00 (see, we have restraint), we grabbed a cocktail at our favorite bar.
Then as we pulled away from St. Thomas, we were greeted by the most amazing sunset and watched the whole thing unfold right from our private balcony.
It really was a perfect day.
Anyone we encountered that night told us about their busy and fun day in St. Thomas, and naturally wanted to know about our day on the island. I was surprised by their reaction when we said we stayed on the ship. Most of them seemed to pause, reflect on the novel idea, and then said something like: “Good for you” or “I like your thinking” or “I’ll have to try that sometime!” The day was just what we needed. It was the perfect day to just ‘be’ without rushing, without a schedule, without the “should’s.”
The other islands
The next day we also stayed on the ship while we docked in beautiful St. Maarten – one of our top picks! It’s okay, though, the island will wait for us until next time. In the meantime, it turned out to be another perfect day of doing nothing. Besides, we could feel the vibe of the island and it felt like we were a part of something amazing anyway.
When we docked in San Juan, Bill did have one special request. He wanted to get off the ship and stop in Senor Frog’s right across the street for one of their legendary margaritas. “Ugh,” I thought to myself, “That’s the place where we used to whoop it up in our twenties.” I was so not interested in going inside that crazy establishment. But we were celebrating Bill’s birthday that week so I kept quiet. We opened the door and the music blasted my ears off and instantly we were invited in to do megashots. Nice. I ended up sharing my disdain with Bill and said, “This is stupid. We’re gonna be the oldest ones in here!”
And the joke was on me.
To my surprise, we were actually the youngest ones, by at least a decade! The other touristy partiers in the place served as a reminder to me to lighten up and enjoy the moment. They were obviously following their joy! And they provided fantastic entertainment. We never saw any shows on the ship, but this group of wild seniors certainly made up for it!:
Throughout the week, there were all kinds of opportunities to be busy on the ship. From art auctions to dance lessons to bingo. It’s all good stuff, but I’m proud of us for not partaking in any of it because we stuck with what felt right in the moment. And that was generally to just “be” and go with the flow.
It does take work to stick to that plan, though, especially when there are endless exciting opportunities and activities and islands distracting you at every turn! (Although I will say that at the end of the week I was tempted to attend the “Weight Loss” and “Puffy Eyes” Seminars conducted by the Spa staff).
I was grateful for the one thing that we did keep in our plans that week: Formal Night! It was fun to get dressed up among a few thousand others who participated in the elegant occasion with us. We clean up well, don’t we?
Many of my clients talk about how hard it is to keep focused in life when there are so many things in front of them. I know. Life can certainly be distracting. But on this trip, I was reminded of the importance to:
1) Be clear on what you want; crystal clear
2) Keep checking in with yourself to ensure you’re honoring your needs; if you’re not – adjust accordingly
3) Enjoy the ride – that’s where joy lives
My clients know that when you say ‘no’ to one thing, you’re actually saying a bigger, resounding “Yes!” to something more important in the moment. So, by saying ‘no’ to spending time on the islands, I was saying “Yes!” to the down-time I so craved that week.
Every vacation, I come back feeling wiser and more enlightened. This time I learned the power of going with the flow and detaching from (self-imposed) expectations. My job these next few weeks and months will be to incorporate my new ‘a-ha’s’ into my daily living at home. Feel free to check-in on me. :)
And be sure to check-out my additional post about our cruise called The Joy of Being Pampered. For anyone who has ever yearned to take better care of themselves – this one is a must-read.
How good of a job are you doing at letting yourself “be”? And what have you learned along the way that helps you stay on track?
Author’s Note: A big shout-out to Celebrity Cruises! Our new favorite cruise line, hands-down. They rock!