This was my (losing) entry into the Un-Cruise Adventures essay contest. We had already packed for Costa Rica in anticipation of our win. It looks like we were premature, but we still intend to get there some time.
We Discovered More than Alaska’s Inner Passage On Board the Wilderness Adventurer
In 2011 my family took a trip to Alaska with Un-Cruise Adventures to commemorate my wife’s 50th birthday. In anticipation of this trip there were many things that we expected to discover, having perused the Un-Cruise website, and we were not disappointed. But it was the things we did not expect to discover that remain the most rewarding memories, the ones that have stayed with us for the five years that have passed since our Alaskan cruise.
We expected to discover the untamed beauty of Alaska’s inner passage. Although none of us had ever been to Alaska, we had heard wonderful things. We brought with us grandiose expectations of what we would see, but remarkably we had completely underestimated Alaska, even in our wildest dreams. We were surrounded with wildlife from bald eagles, to seals and sea lions, and finally to bears and whales. We saw calving glaciers, majestic mountain peaks, and spectacular birds. We learned about nature from the onboard naturalist. We expanded our vocabulary to include words like “nunatak” and “petroglyph” and saw these things up close.
What we did not expect to discover was the beauty of mankind. We are from the northeastern United States, where people often have a tough exterior and can seem unfriendly. But stepping on board the Wilderness Adventurer for the first time the crew welcomed us as though we were family. We were personally escorted to our cabin by Monica, who we soon found out was also the ship’s bartender and occasionally provided musical entertainment. From that moment until we disembarked, the crew was always there to make sure we were comfortable, make sure we had enough to eat, and make sure we were mentally and physically challenged to be our best. We enjoyed the crew as much as the natural wonders. We took yoga with Shannon, and went on hikes with Ben and Will. Each brought with him or her a whole life of experiences which were as worthy of discovery as that which Alaska offered. They engaged our 13-year-old son, instilling in him confidence to hike, kayak, photograph, and explore. They taught us plenty and made us laugh.
We also did not expect to discover the kindness of the other passengers. Over the course of the week, we became family with the other adventurers onboard. We explored with them, paddle-boarded with them, ate with them, and had cocktails with them. We watched the Aurora Borealis with them, and even did the polar plunge with them. At the end, we exchanged email addresses, sent photos, and became friends on FaceBook. We’ve even met with one couple, who live near us, to socialize.
But the most important thing we discovered on the journey was ourselves. We found out there is more to life than the daily grind. We came closer together as a family. We found out the world is bigger than ourselves, and that the trivialities of daily life are not as important as spending time with the ones we love. We found out that a difficult hike or a long day of paddling a kayak enhances our appreciation for what we have been given and how lucky we are. It taught us to live every moment.
It was those things about ourselves that we discovered that became the fondest memories of our trip with Un-Cruise Adventures. It was in discovering the beauty of mankind that we were able to discover ourselves. And it was in being receptive to the beauty of nature that we were able to see the splendor of humans. We look forward to the next adventure, so that we can again discover something new about ourselves.