Sunday, July 28, 2019

It's Raining Men

I say that I’m not a cruise person. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have a good time last week with all 6,000 members of my family on a boat in Alaska. But the good time was had in spite of the boat, not because of it.

It’s probably because I’m a snob that I say this. Not generally. I don’t think I’m a general snob. I think I’m a travel snob.

I’ve got a friend who has a theory that everyone is a snob in at least one way. Even the most laid back person has at least one thing they are a snob about. Maybe you’re a food snob or a movie snob or something really specific, like a toothpaste snob or a Dr. Who snob. We all have at least one thing about which we are particular to the point that we almost subconsciously look down on others for having different (read, worse) taste.

Well, I’m a travel snob.

That doesn’t mean I stay in the Ritz and fly first class. Being a travel snob for me means seeing the world without being a “tourist,” whatever that means. It’s about going to places lazy people won’t deign to suffer. Places where you probably won’t get giardia from a hut in a town not found on maps.

I think the first time I ever even saw a cruise ship was in 2016. My friend Adam and I were in Helsinki and we needed to get to Estonia. We found out you could purchase one-way tickets across the water on a cruise ship that was making stops in both places. It was a three-hour or so ride. We, the temporary-ticket holders, were ushered to the buffet dining area of the ship to find a seat at some table. We sat with the cruisers, our noses slightly upturned, as they avoided us because we hadn't showered in a few days. 

We were deposited into Tallinn with the cruisers who then had a completely different experience in Estonia than we did. They wandered to the edge of the port town and bought tacky t-shirts that said “I [heart] Estonia” in English, and they had cartoonists draw their pictures, like they do in Disneyland. After a couple of hours the cruise line sent vans to drive the tourists the two blocks back to the dock so the ship could take off to its next destination.

The town transformed once the ship left. The t-shirts shops shut down and the streets came to life with local music and small food festivals. We got a rental car a couple of days later and drove through the country, stopping in small villages, visiting 500-year-old churches, staying in people’s homes, and eventually crossing the border to spend time in Latvia and Lithuania.

It occurred to me somewhere along the way that those cruise people were going to go back to Ohio and tell their neighbors that they went to Estonia. “Oh, we’ve been to Estonia,” they might bark during a casual conversation about bucket lists. “Not much different from here, really. Same t-shirts and food.”

I snobbishly resented the cruisers the same way people who actually live in Estonia for some significant amount of time probably resent me for acting like I really experienced the place.
“Cruises aren’t real travel,” I told people from time to time thereafter.

And then, suddenly, Skylar and I were packing clothes and books and shoes into a few bags to take off for a seven-day Alaskan cruise with my family.

“It sounds wonderful,” Skylar assured me. Of course it sounded wonderful to him. He can take naps and read books for hours without once feeling like he’s been wrapped in a tight blanket, his movement totally restricted, his freedom completely constricted. The word “relax” doesn’t make him break out into hives like it does me.

My dad decided to do it for his 70th birthday, which isn’t for another two years, but who’s counting? He told us last year he wanted the whole family to go, including all nine adults and seven children (minus one baby because we don’t know if we love her yet).

My mother made t-shirts for the occasion, which t-shirts she made us wear one day for a family photo. In front of other humans.

We wandered into some towns every day or two.

We visited crab boats.

We biked around a rain forest.

We hiked to a glacier.

At one point we went to a karaoke event that was, well, totally boring. Until Skylar got onto the stage. He had been hanging out in our room in his sweats because he was "very sick." I convinced him to join us down in the karaoke area, and he just couldn't abide the crowd, which was mostly falling asleep. So he signed up for a number, and asked my sister, Micalyne, to be his backup singer. I tried to warn Micalyne that she would be totally irrelevant once the music started. 

This is what then happened. I'm sorry.

My future husband, ladies and gentlemen.

When it was over, a woman walked over from the other side of the room and said to Skylar, "I feel like I've been waiting my entire life for this exact moment." 

Look. We saw Alaska, and it was wonderful.

Not much different from here, really. Same t-shirts and food.

 ~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. I've lurked for years but I have to comment on this because Skylar's performance was the best thing I've seen all day. Probably all week. Laughing my butt off here! 😂😂😂😂 Go Skylar! Killin it! (And your poor sidelined sister...😂)

  2. I love Skylar so much. 😂😂🤣

  3. I’m a travel snob in exactly the same way. Also, I spent the night once in Tallin, driving between St. Petersburg and Riga, and definitely didn’t see any of the touristy things you describe for the cruisers. My choir did get to sing in the town square during a market though, which was a fun and impromptu experience.

  4. Ok, first things first....when you don't post for a week, that is exactly a week of me having nothing to read on the internet and being bored with podcasts other than Strangerville.

    And Skylar's performance is the most epic of performances. ALL of them.

    1. Follow Skylar on Instagram. This is how I knew Eli didn't get kidnapped. I just assume that if he's posting pictures of crab, Eli is probably still alive.

  5. I cried laughing at this. I watched it a few times. He's a pretty good dancer and what he lacks in singing talent he certainly makes up in enthusiasm.

    I went to Skagway once too. I drove there from my home in Montreal in a minivan alone with 5 children. (It's just over 5600 kms.) We saw all the cruise ships docked there and we partly mocked them and were partly envious of them (mostly because we were going to have to drive home again). I always think that I am not a very bold tourist but I have driven to every province and state in a minivan with 5 children so I guess that takes a certain kind of daring.

    I like that Skylar was willing to embrace the moment and just have fun. I know a lot of adults who aren't capable of doing that and it makes for a dull life. I'm sure it bodes well for a happy marriage :)

  6. Skylar is a national...nay, a WORLD treasure. Thank you for sharing his amazingness with us. Alaska is beautiful, and so are you guys.

  7. there are a lot of things about your life i could be jealous of, your hair, your boyfriend, your income, but... the only thing i actually am jealous about is your family inviting your boyfriend on a cruise and giving him a matching family shirt. that's all i want..

  8. I will never again attend a Strangerville show unless Skylar is in the line up. I need to see this live.

  9. I’m a taco snob. 😁

    It’s good that Skylar is so young, otherwise he would have thrown his hip or back out with some of those moves! 😂 It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen! You are so #Blessed to have him for a future husband 🙌🏼 😂

  10. Your mother is amazing. And your boyfriend. And your whole family.

  11. Wow! Skylar is amazing! That performance was incredible but can you imagine what it would have been if he wasn’t “really sick”? He definitely needs to do perform again!

  12. I could do a cruise if Skylar can come with me!

  13. I have also participated in the art of cruise ship karaoke. I now have a new goal.

    My family was not willing to video my off key performance of Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline even though it was amazeballs. 🤣

    My mom did video me awkwardly, and slightly to the side, being a backup dancer to Baby Got Back.
    There was no request for back up dancers I just RAN from the back of the room to shyly show off my moves, or lack thereof.
    I had no second thoughts until I got to the front and started dancing and my MOM started videoing me. My 13 yr old daughter was also there to witness the AMAZINGNESS that is her mom. 🤣

    Although it is not as great as Skylar's it was a good reminder for my parents... You can't take me anywhere... Even the middle of the ocean.

  14. Convenient niece placement in family photos means you could have NOT worn the shirt and Cathy would have been none the wiser!

  15. I have to say, after living in Alaska, you missed out on some of the best parts. The Saturday market in Anchorage... the BEAUTIFUL George Parks Highway... The Northern Lights away from everyone else and just with friends. The tiny little trees and the colors in the fall, and the Nenana Ice Classic (which I'm sure someday I will win). Ugh. The cruises can only do so much. (I worked for a cruise company, ironically, so I saw the other side of things... people thinking they were having an authentic experience)

    Also... Skylar! That has to be the best worst karaoke number ever. "Scary-oke".

  16. Ooohhh.. what cruise company? My cousin is working on an Alaskan cruise ship as an assistant cruise director right now. She just had a religious group that booked the entire ship and then refused to have a priest on board (can't have other religions mixing in), had the information from tour guides"cleaned up" (no references to the age of glaciers), and other such very interesting things that I really need to remember.. Wasn't your family, right? You did say 6000...

  17. Can I just say that the picture with your niece is adorable! Sure the pictures of the landscapes and your other family members are great and Skylar will always be one of my favorites, but that little girl in your arms is my favorite picture.

  18. Seriously. I hope you have a little girl of your own someday. 😍

  19. Wow... That was amazing. You should really start being nicer to Skylar because that man is a CATCH. He didn't even pay me (much) to write this.

    Also I think there are two types of travel - travel for the destination, and travel for the journey. When I travel for the destination, I want to get to know a place as much as possible, and the people who live there; it's all about that place. When I travel for the journey, it doesn't matter where I am going so much as the enjoying the people I'm with. We can sit on a cruise ship and drink our endless watered down fruity drinks and enjoy the sun and breeze and have a great time. So you might not have had the most authentic Alaskan experience but I'll bet you enjoyed being with your family and seeing some beautiful sights with them. And we all enjoyed the on board entertainment!