A cruise ship creates an interactive mini-world experience involving many different cultures. I would never have a fraction of the daily encounters that I enjoy on this 25-day cruise. It’s a result of having so many different people together in one boat, and everyone intermingling in group activities.
I am taken from the comfort of whatever my usual routine would be, and lead out to explore other peoples, other traditions and other points of view. I’m doing things I wouldn’t ever consider elsewhere. I eagerly jump into comic improvisation (which terrifies me), ask someone who appears to me to be a Tai Chi master to give me a few beginner tips, bring a dance instructor to help someone else when I really think they could use a helping hand or order something that I don’t see on the menu even though everything under the sun seems to be offered. I talk and joke with people from cultures far from my own whom I may never have met before, and even those that I may have harbored prejudice against in the past.
I make natural connections with everyone just by the common activities we share. I eat different foods and ask my neighbor to identify something on their plate that I’ve never tasted before. I’m learning Tai Chi that I’m sure will help me with my really stiff and sore knees. I’m taking Zumba even though the moves are too fast, complicated and the bouncing hurts my already stiff and sore knees. I’m enjoying newly met ‘friends’ laughing the loudest and staying the longest in the dining hall.
I see no frontiers but only common threads among us all. If I was even sure about a certain culture from what I’d read or heard, I begin to rethink what I was so sure about before. I’m sometimes even surprised that ‘facts’ about cultural stereotypes are so skewed.
I realize, as the Sufis say, “Knowledge that takes you not beyond yourself, is far worse than ignorance.” We become distant and removed, and sometimes elitist compared to people of other cultures. Most people are friendly, eager to be helpful and a majority have open hearts, ready to share and laugh with me.
I’ve always loved that video “Where in the world is Matt?” who travels to so many countries worldwide. He does his silly awkward dance and finds that everyone, everywhere, enjoys joining him. They all laugh, and happily offer their own version of the funny dance with Matt no matter where he visits worldwide. It’s so apparent that every one of us has similar life experiences, hopes for the future, aspirations for ourselves and our children no matter from which culture we come.