A recent holiday on a cruise ship has been a bucket list experience for my husband and myself, a wonderful time of exploration, adventure and relaxation. Having a real love of the sea, it was fun living and breathing all things marine – from that first view outside the cabin every morning to the tender trips ashore each day, and the sunsets across the water.
It was a time of many surprises, the first being the sheer size of the ship with restaurants, theatre, gymnasium and outdoor pool area. Life is full of new experiences, and like a kid in a lolly shop, I was mesmerized! But what surprised me most of all was the sense of family and friendship that existed between the 350 or so staff and crew working on the ship. Belonging to 40 countries and representing a mini United Nations, they work and live in confined spaces for months on end. Their genuine passion and love for their work, and the enthusiasm they maintain on a daily basis to ensure every guest has a happy and fun journey was inspiring.
I loved chatting to many of them and asking curious questions about how they felt about their life on the ship and what this job meant for them in terms of their Life Balance choices. Essentially they all have a ‘Fly In, Fly Out’ lifestyle, on the ship for several months at a stretch and then flying home for a while in between.
From the captain and his crew to engineers, chefs, waiters, housekeeping, maintenance, musicians, performers and gym instructors – each one of them had to consider some large life decisions before accepting this job. The chief purser was a German man who had not seen his baby son for 8 weeks, our waiter Shaun from the Philippines last saw his parents 6 months ago, and the lead singer from London had been an entertainer for 25 years, spending 3 months every year away from her husband and family in that time.
It struck me that every one of the staff would have had similar thoughts going through their mind as they mulled over what it would be like to have a ‘Fly In, Fly Out’ lifestyle:-
- An AWARENESS of their current life situation – their family and friends, their work and their finances. What would taking this job mean to their own life and to those they loved? What would be the benefits, and the challenges?
- An understanding about the OPPORTUNITIES that working in a ‘Fly In/Fly Out’ capacity would bring to them and their families. How it would benefit their career growth and potential, as well as what financial certainty it would provide.
- A knowing that there were CHOICES to be made. Who would they need to talk to and what outcomes they would like to see emerge from these choices.
- An appreciation that there would inevitably be SACRIFICES to be made. How would they manage the ‘balance’ or the juggle involved in maintaining and fostering family/friendship relationships?
Everyone I spoke to was very happy with the choice they had made, and so felt that despite the sacrifices, their life was absolutely ‘in balance’. I guess that explained the pervading positivity and energy they brought to their work!
My final welcome surprise has been my own ability to slow down a bit and ‘declutter’ my own very busy mind! I am sure we all thrive on holidays and then face the ‘back to work’ transition! So returning from holidays, how can we bring some of this ‘slowed down’ feeling back into our everyday life?
Scheduling some ‘time out’ each day helps us all to renew and restore and maintain our energy levels and productivity, so perhaps we can consider the following:-
- Create a digital free space for an hour each day, and give ourself permission to do nothing for 10 minutes every day
- Build a Me-time activity into our daily routine (even if only for 15 minutes – something we love to do!)
- Plan a date night every week with a souse, partner or friend
- Plan ahead to have small, regular weekend breaks away with family or friends
- Prioritize exercise and find daily ways to stay active
- Maintain our curiosity – and take the time to ask one stranger a question each day. The connections we make may surprise us!