Round The World in 100 Days: Fantastic Voyage

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success. ” -attributed to a 1901 Times of London newspaper ad allegedly placed by Ernest Shackleton, famous explorer and sailor.

In the “You Lucky Dog” category, I’ll be heading out shortly for more than 100 days of round the world (RTW) travel by sea. I’m thick in the throes of prepping for almost 4 months aboard the ship MV Explorer and praying that this voyage will be less susceptible than Shackleton’s to things like pirates, mutiny, and beri-beri.

After 9 years, 3 applications, and some good juju, I was selected for a post with Semester at Sea (SAS). Now I’m going to attempt to circumnavigate the globe without leaving the earth’s surface-which means I’ll have to endure the scary prospect of traveling overland from San Diego back home to the east coast. I’m looking forward to an amazing , once-in-a-lifetime voyage as we sail east around the globe from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to:

Nassau, Bahamas
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Salvador, Brazil
Cape Town, South Africa
Port Louis, Mauritius
Chennai, India
Penang, Malaysia
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Hong Kong
Qingdao, China
Kobe, Japan
Honolulu, Hawaii
San Diego, California

SAS is an academic study abroad program that uses a converted cruise ship as a floating university campus to educate the students on these popular voyages through both classroom techniques and field experiences, in a host of countries around the world.

The program also had its 15 minutes of mainstream fame, when it was featured on a season of MTV’s “Road Rules.” I am smitten with the fact that there are community service opportunities in nearly every port and the students have a long history for generosity of time and money on these forays into second and third-world areas. In the fall they sail west around the world, and in the summer they concentrate on a region such as Latin America or Europe.

Our trip as I mentioned, sails east chasing the rising sun, which means we should have pretty good weather, but we will lose 24 hours in a series of daylight savings time-esque one hour “spring forwards” as we circle the globe, the good news is that we’ll get a “Groundhog Day”-like experience when we live April 30th twice when we cross the international date line.

I first learned of SAS during a trip to Kenya with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) where I ran into an SAS alumni who was there volunteering with the Peace Corps. Nolan raved about the program and how it changed his life by expanding his view of the world and his place in it. My alma mater (The University of Virginia) recently became the academic sponsor for the program and my conversation with Nolan and subsequent research ignited my passion for the program back in 1997.

I couldn’t resist the opportunity to live at the intersection of two of my passions-travel and education. And so, I am raiding Blue Ridge Mountain Sports with a giftcard I got for Christmas, and Wal-Mart for all things waterproof. I’ve been stocking up on my favorite gum, favorite chapstick, ziploc bags, and downloading so much music that my iPod is so hot its about to catch fire. And yes, I did download “The Love Boat“, everything by The Captain & Tennille, and I love “Wish I” by Jem, so I’m fired up from head to Teva’d toe (actually I’m all about my Crocs these days) for this trip.

I’ve been working hard to get my day-to-day life together to a point where I can travel like this, seize these types of opportunities and combine my many hobbies, passions, and interests with any excuse to hit the road. I left full-time work last February, and I have been freelancing and traveling since then, so the offer to join SAS came at a perfect time in my life where I find myself free of many of the usual restrictions, responsibilities, and obligations (is anybody hating me right now?).

While I am enjoying this lifestyle, it does have its own sacrifices. Chief among them are not having my own home which means I sleep on Disney themed sheets, in a single bed, in the bottom bunk of my nephew’s room when I’m not wandering.

I can’t wrap my head around traveling with 900 other people this way, and I do wonder how it will alter the experience. I’m not a strictly solo traveler. I like traveling all sorts of ways and my last trip (3.5 months in Mexico) included a stint with The Green Tortoise (adventure travel with 30 other people), mostly solo travel, and travel with friends at various points throughout the journey. Each experience was amazing in its own way and for its own reasons.

I love traveling by myself and without a schedule or a plan. This trip will be the antithesis of that, with carefully plotted arrivals and departures. I enjoy those lazy travel days when reading a whole book or taking hours to stroll through a museum seem like the most amazing of accomplishments. And who doesn’t enjoy being able to run off to Borneo when you had initially thought that Burma was where you’d head next?

I have traveled pretty widely but I’ve never been to any of the places on our itinerary so my excitement includes a learning curve both intellectual (learning about each country) and personal (scaling plans down to my absolute “must see/must do” items).

Though I’ve never been on a large ship before, I have sailed on schooners, dhows, and pangas, so I’m relatively sure that I’m not prone to seasickness. However I admit that I have an acute fear of open water and an irrational fear of heights, and in my opinion a ship of this size combines the worst of those two elements! After reading Iva’s “Murder on the High Seas” post, I’m not taking any chances. I might have to spring for this Gadget or this Watch, just in case someone pushes me overboard.

Fortunately, my curiosity gets the better of me and I haven’t let either of these anxieties stop me before. I’ve snorkeled off the coast of Kenya, pet a 16m Grey Whale, and sailed through the most amazing biolumenescence you can imagine. So I am confident that I’ll face these fears head on because there’s no way I’m not getting on that ship for the trip of a lifetime. Join me as we chase the sun at 20 mph.

I have already had so many e-mails from people offering to be my: husband, wife, sherpa, cabin boy, porter, chambermaid, best friend, etc. that I’m considering starting an e-bay bid for the extra bed in my cabin.