"C'est un poisson d'avril?" you might be wondering. "Are you really following up a week of talking about right wing politics, Humanity and Death (in the comments section no less) with...a cruise?" I am, dear friends. Call it an antidote if you wish but I also made a promise to the lovely Marsha at Splenderosa, who is the founder of the By Invitation Only International series, that I would stick to the theme...for once, since it seems that...um...I am not always so great about that. This month's theme is, as the title of this post infers, "10 things to take on a cruise." So here we go...
Heather's List of Ten Things to Take on a Cruise
1) Flexibility. Perhaps you have flown for days (literally) only to arrive at your tropical destination and find that...it is raining. Hard. Or let's say the boat, your home away from home and mode of transportation, is not all that you had desired. Perhaps you will have to travel up the Maroni River in the French Amazon for days on end with the sun beating down mercilessly on your head which is already weary from the endless mosquito whine of the straining outboard motor. You know what? It's all good. It's just another part of the story and you have gone on the cruise to write a new chapter to your story, n'est-ce pas?
2) Patience. Not everyone is on the same time schedule and time is one of those oddly relevant and irrelevant things while traveling, isn't it? So perhaps you will have to wait many hours while the afore-mentioned motor is being repaired or several days floating in a prism of heat on the Niger River until you meet up with your rendez-vous. All the better to let the scenery imprint itself on your mind until the end of your days. And those stars at night that burn so bright will remind you how silly your rushing to and fro actually is.
3) Reading, writing and research. But still, even the most zen of us can use a little outward inspiration and inward exhalation. So make sure that you have plenty of good words around you, both those by others and those which you will slowly scrawl on a page until you remember what it is like not to type. And why not do your homework and bring it with you? If you understand, really understand, what you are seeing, it will mean so much more to you than, "Oh...that is...pretty." Not to mention, it is just the smart way to travel when on excursions onshore. For example, while everyone else is at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap for sunrise, pushed into sardine-like groups to capture that rising burning ball, you will be at the Bayon, alone save for the wizened Buddhist nun who is the attendant. She will nod at you as she lights her offerings and the moment will be pure magic.
4) Protection. Let's face it, even on a cruise, it can be a jungle out there, so be prepared. It goes without saying that your skin is going to take a beating so please apply the SPF liberally and often. If you happen to be in a boat that is low lying to the water (as opposed to those jumbotrons that are destroying the canals in Venice - oops - did I say that? Moving swiftly on), keep in mind that you won't be able to hide from the sun's reflection, even under a big floppy hat. The brown spots on the back of my hands said that they are warning you. I have been known to snorkel in a long sleeved shirt to protect my bright white skin. And your eyes? I don't care if you just bought the newest Prada with rotating crystal flowers on the sides, leave them home and get serious lenses with old-school filters. Pretty please? And additionally, have a photo copy of your passport and credit cards (not in your wallet) just in case...
5) The goods. Ok, so we are deep into the non-fun part of the list but truly? Do you want to spend your precious days groaning in your stateroom clutching your belly in pain? Think how far most of the food has had to travel to be prepared on even the finest of ships. Accidents happen. Plus, of course there is the whole panoply of other "must haves": dramamine, mosquito spray, anti-malarial meds if you are in that type of zone, anti-bacterial gel...actually, just see the amazing Slim Paley's list here. Oh and a pair of shower shoes. Because if, after two weeks of having gone without a shower, you arrive in Timbuktu only to find that yours is lined with thirty giant cockroaches, you are going to need them.
6) Portable elegance. On that note, there are times when you might need a little pick me up. We all have ours. Mine is without a doubt my beaten but still true Hermès scarf. And red lipstick. Without fail. Even if it has gotten me some strange looks in certain countries. Silver jewelry is also a favorite but why not leave yours at home and buy some where you are? You will be helping out local artisans and giving each piece a special memory as you do so.
7) Kindness. A little goes a long, long way and I can promise you that it will not be forgotten.
8) Simplicity. Even when on a fabulous yacht in Bora Bora, I'm not a fan of excessive embellishment. A happy glow will do most of the work and if the world's top designers keep their Cruise wear lines simple, it is for a reason. As much as I live in black, it is just weird on a boat (unless there is a funeral at sea) so I like to keep it light. I live in my white cotton shirts and khaki capris, wide-legged linen pants and long skirts that roll up in the suitcase. They dress up or down. I have a pareo that Remi brought back from Ethiopia that is the perfect weight to work as either a cover up or a scarf. Oh and always, a clean outfit (protected in its own plastic bag) to wear home on the plane.
9) A camera. Now, I realize that in our Instagram world (hey, I have given in to it too, you can find me at @lostinarles), this can be a catch-22. How amazing to seal memories onto a disk (and then print them out into albums or books), how sad to spend so much time snapping away that you ignore your partner and the bliss of the moment. À vous de juger...
And most importantly...
10) A clear mindset: stay open, be ready for adventure and have a sense of humor about it all!
Et voila! Wow, that was fun to write. Those of you who have been reading for a long time are no doubt very surprised at seeing so many photos of me, more than in the nearly four years of blogging combined. And trust me, it will never happen again. But oh, these are all so old, some more than ten years (!), that it made me happy to revisit wide-eyed young 'un me. Hi you! Those truly were such incredible life experiences.
I have already mentioned the cruise in Bora Bora for my first post in BIO, you can see it here.
I wrote about our trip up the Maroni River here.
Both of our journeys on the Niger River in Mali and on the Mekong in both Vietnam and Cambodia were truly epic and are stories for another time...
Toujours l'envie pour l'aventure? To read all of this month's contributions to By Invitation Only, please stop by Splenderosa by clicking here.
I would like to extend a special welcome to two friends that have just become members of this fine group, Jeanne McKay at i dream of and the charming La Contessa of Vintage Hen House!
Two of the photos are used with permission and copyrighted by my companion, Remi Benali, so please do not use nor share on any social media such as Pinterest. Merci!
PS...Oh! Don't sail off just yet as I have a favor to ask. Remi's story in National Geographic in the April 2014 issue is now out on newsstands worldwide. For those of you in non-English speaking countries, would you be willing to email me a photo of the opening page at firstname.lastname@example.org? It is just for us, just for fun and we would be so grateful...
Remi's musical suggestion for this post, perfect for traveling: