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With almost 1,600 days outside under my belt I’ve experienced a thing or two about what makes one set of outside time better than another. After all, 1,600 days is a LOT of time — hours and hours and hours. And even if I am inclined to do the same things over and over again, and I so totally am, it’s still too many days to do it all on repeat every single time.
I’ve done outside things that still blow my mind — like the time we ran more than 20 miles to a glacier, or sitting on the top of mountain ridges, or lingering on a beach basking in the simple presence of powerful waves. I’ve done incredibly low key things like simply sitting on my porch listening to birds, or walking through the woods on a Tuesday afternoon. I’ve muscled through outdoor time in wind storms, flooded streets, -20 degrees and along the drop off area of airports during layovers.
And in all of that time, by far the most surreal time I’ve had is this surprisingly loud selection: during the day on the pool deck of a cruise boat off the coast of Florida.
Yeah, I know.
That’s where I found myself this month during a long-planned cruise from Florida to Mexico. This was my fourth similar cruise but the first since very early 2020 right before, well you know. We booked this trip back in early august with the idea that the world would be fine and we’d be incredibly ready for a week of warm sunshine by January. Only one of those was entirely true, but we went anyway. All told, the experience was very low-key entirely vaccinated crew and passengers and masks worn indoors at all the typical times. And better yet, the boat was only at just over 30% capacity.
There’s a bunch of reasons I really like cruises, like the price, or how easy it is to turn it into a multi-generational family trip. But the biggest reason is that it’s the easiest way I’ve found for me to get an actual vacation. I get on a cruise boat with its endless buffets and kid-related activities, and no one needs anything from me for days on end. That never, EVER happens in real life. I don’t buy the ship’s wifi, so I’m completely disconnected from the world — and no one can ask me any questions or need anything from me for my job or other commitments. And since my entire family is fed and happy without me doing one thing or making a single decision, I also get a break from those normal demands too. I am fed, I can rest.
And I can be outside. … sort of.
I know I always say outside is outside, and it definitely is. But cruising always reminds me that there are benefit levels to it for me, even when the warm sun is involved. Now let me just say that if you find being outside on a cruise ship pool deck to be a fantastic outdoor experience, go with it. But while I eat up that sunshine and simply can’t get enough of it, the nature part of the cruise ship experience for me is, well, not there.
That’s because sitting on a cruise ship pool deck is NOT full of nature, unless we mean human nature. It is fabulous people watching. But loud music, a big-screen tv playing endless loops of something — in our case it was dumb internet videos — and a parade of people offering to bring me alcohol? To me and for me — that’s not peak nature.
And yet there were still moments where I found my kind of nature during this cruise. There were the minutes where I sat on the balcony, watching the sun rise or set. There were the times I stood against a railing, gazing at the ocean going by.
And oh man was there ever a lot of sun. On the last day – an “at sea” day meaning we were traveling and not docked somewhere — I sat in the sun, reading a really good book, by the way, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab — and felt that sun warm deep into my skin, all the way to my bones. I love Alaska and I am so grateful to live here, but I also know that a break in the winter for some sunshine and peace away from my hectic schedule is crucial to me being at my best.
And yet am I going to take another cruise? Heck yes I am. But I do it while knowing that I go on a cruise not to experience nature in the way that I like it most — far away from people, while moving through trees and wildflowers. And that’s OK. It’s OK to take nature as you find it, use it for what you can and move forward to the next day. There is no nature ideal that you have to meet daily, no requirement for what outside looks like for you today or tomorrow. Outside is outside.
Right now I’m looking out my window at leftover damage from that windstorm, snow that’s fallen since and a winter wonderland of trees, temperature 25 fahrenheit, and remembering those warm hours in the sun.
If you want to see some pictures from our cruise — mostly they are just me sitting on a pool deck — you can follow me on Facebook or Instagram at Humansoutsdie. And of course please do share your photos from your outside time. Tag them with #Humansoutside365.
Until next time, we’ll see you out there.