Goodbye, Semester at Sea

I have been hit with a bit of writer’s block in the past few weeks. And sketcher’s block, too, I suppose, since I just haven’t quite been able to sit myself down and finish my sketches of my last few Semester at Sea ports. Maybe, subconsciously, I’m trying to prolong the experience by putting those things off. Probably I’m just being lazy. Often, in writing and creating, one wishes to wait for a bout of inspiration in order to sit down and actually create; sometimes, you just have to sit down and start creating without that certain feeling – no book in the world would be finished in a timely manner, or at all, if its author simply waited around for those moods to strike. 


Well, Semester at Sea is officially and definitely over. Though I myself am not quite home yet – I am in Bilbao, Spain, as I write this – the MV Explorer has sailed on, under a new name, to become a part of a Grecian cruise line, and my Semester at Sea friends have scattered across the globe in all directions. I am sitting, quite alone, in a hotel room, listening to the sounds of voices and cars as they rise up to my window, and taking a break from my family (who I’ve been stressfully – due to a finicky GPS and my father’s less-than-great relationship with tollbooths - road tripping across Spain with for the past week).


Parting with Semester at Sea was strange, but it felt right. I felt ready to get off of the boat, and, as in most large-group-goodbye type situations, I said goodbye to each of my friends at least three times (thinking each time I wouldn’t see them again, only to run into them ten minutes later). I also left Semester at Sea in the most perfect way I could imagine – I walked five days of the Camino de Santiago (if you don’t know what this is, look it up). I walked because it seemed to me the perfect transition out of SAS. First off, I got to get my land legs back – I walked for five days straight after sitting on a boat for four months (which probably can’t begin to make up for the muscle I’ve lost, but it’s a start). Second, I got to be with three of my friends for a few more days, instead of abruptly leaving them behind and throwing myself back into being with my family. Third, I got some time to calmly process everything I’d done and seen and learned on my voyage. In some ways, five days could never be enough, and I intend to hike more of the Camino someday, but it was just enough to smooth my transition back into life as I knew it pre-SAS.


Now I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus. As soon as I arrived in Santiago de Compostela, where the Camino ended and I met my family, things fell apart. My stomach started hurting. I got anxious about getting back to school. I came down with an awful cold. I felt disconnected from my friends. And, while of course I was happy to see my family again, I suddenly felt, despite all of my newfound insights and stories to tell, that I had nothing at all to say. I was – and am – mentally and physically exhausted. I feel under the weather, underwater, and zombie-like emotionally. I am numb and unable to be anything but quiet. Perhaps just a by-product of being on a steady dose of ibuprofen and decongestants.


I don’t do well with transitions, and I am most definitely in a state of transition at the moment. For that reason, I am annoying my mother by not smiling enough and annoying my sister by being “standoffish.” It’s not my fault, I say. My soul just hasn’t quite caught up to me yet. Though I tried to slow down and walk with it from Semester at Sea, I think it’s still lingering somewhere over the Atlantic, waiting for another MV sunset. I was ready; I am ready; I will be ready to go home. I just haven’t quite caught up to myself yet; but that’s understandable since I am, according to most people, an exceptionally fast walker.