When I heard about a round the world cruise last year, taking in 135 countries and docking at 375 destinations over three years, I was the first person to sign up for it. I chose a seventh-floor cabin with a balcony, setting me back $562,000 (£444,000).
I had been preparing to set sail last month, from Miami. As the date approached, I started packing the four small cases I was planning to bring aboard with me and then had them sent to the port, ready to be put on the ship. But we hit stormy seas. First, the cruise operator told us our boarding destination had changed, from Miami to the Bahamas. Days later, we were told the cruise was cancelled entirely.
The company, Life at Sea, couldn’t complete the purchase of a ship, it was reported. We were told its investors had pulled out, citing unrest in the Middle East. Later, we learned that Life at Sea was still trying to buy the cruise vessel passengers were supposed to be boarding, days later, as some of them arrived in Istanbul to get on there. The company promised to give us our money back, with the first instalment of three refund payments due next week.
My motto in life has always been to experience, learn and then grow, as I’ve written in the Guardian before, so I’ve tried to take the news on the chin. I’ve suffered a lot of loss in my life, and I have learned that looking for the positive works better than living a sad life. Since my trip of a lifetime fell through, I’ve found myself repeating the words of that Nat King Cole song: “Pick yourself up/ Take a deep breath/ Dust yourself off/ And start all over again.”
Some of my fellow passengers are also trying to look on the bright side, taking the opportunity to travel or change the trajectory of their lives. But those who had quit their jobs and had ploughed all their savings into this trip are understandably anxious to get their money back. Some have sold houses – and have been left with nowhere to live.
Over the past year I have gradually sold off most of my things in anticipation of my departure. The rest of my worldly possessions were put in storage and I gave notice on my rental accommodation. That may sound like a stressful situation to navigate – having no roots, no fixings – but I’ve found it liberating. Who else has the kind of freedom that I do now, with nothing tying me down to any one place?
And I still have big travel plans. In December, I’ll be boarding another cruise that will take me to Patagonia, Antarctica and Argentina. From there, I am planning on flying to Saudi Arabia and then travelling on to Dubai. It won’t be the same as the round the world trip, but it will be my own adventure. My plans should take me to mid-February. After Dubai, who knows where the adventure will take me.
Life at Sea is planning another three-year cruise for November 2024 – its biggest one yet, supposedly. I’m not sure if I’ll sign up again. But never say never.
Meredith Shay is a retired flight attendant from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US. As told to Lucy Pasha-Robinson
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