I poured the first cup of coffee of the morning and opened my email. There was the usual flood of messages: personal notes from friends, updates from editors and scattershot public relations pitches. And there was one surprising note. It read:
My sister and I were so inspired by your articles about your Norwegian cruise last summer that we decided to copy you! We have booked a cabin on the (Hurtigruten) Midnatsol for August.
Do you have any advice for us? Is there anything you would do differently?
Jane and Carol
I read the email again. And again. You may not know it, but this is a rare thing.
Like most writers, travel writers in particular, my job is to translate an experience. To make it come to life. That's the goal anyway, but whether or not anyone beyond family and friends is actually inspired to make the journey is unknown.
I wrote back with a few tips, but they sound like women who who like to travel and know what they’re doing.
The one thing an American traveling on one of Hurtigruten’s Coastal Cruisers should know is they are not cruise ships the way most American’s envision them. They are more like floating trains, the way train travel used to be in this country and still is in other parts of the world, moving people from town to town on time and in comfort. The cabins are well-appointed and the food is plentiful and reflects the locale. But this is not a luxury cruise
Norwegians use the Hurtigruten cruisers to travel from place to place and they move on and off the ship during the voyage. Occasionally, you might find someone sleeping in a corner of the lounge. It's frowned upon, but it happens. To me, this kind of mingling was a bonus. Why travel if you aren't going to meet new people around the world? And I enjoyed the conversations I had with the Norwegians who were on the ship with me.
I would remind anyone taking the cruise to dress for any kind of weather any time of year. And, of course, to bring a camera. The landscape is like no other.
And what would I do differently? Well, I might close my eyes a bit more. The midnight sun may be waning by August but daylight still lingers most hours day or night. There are port excursions at any hour and it can be exhausting to try to do too much. I never want to miss a thing so I booked a lot of excursions. And kept my curtains open most of the time so that whenever I opened my eyes I would instantly see the view from my porthole, which meant my eyes opened often and I slept too little.
Of course, that's what I say but, truth be told, probably not what I would do if I took the trip again. I never want to miss a minute.
I hope the sisters enjoy their trip and I hear good things when they return. I do admire their spirit. Life is short and it’s a big, wonderful, world out there. When inspiration comes our way, why not strike out on an adventure when we can?
I don’t expect to grow old and die without a few regrets. No one can. But I hope one of them won’t be the journeys I didn’t take.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org