How I Can Afford To Travel!

My most REVEALING post to date! If you've been wondering how the hell I've been able to last traveling this long, well here it is! All secrets are out in the open! This post tells you how I do it, and how YOU can do it too!

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Working On A Cruise Ship

I somehow managed to get myself a job working at a Cruise Ship. This post is an inside look on what it's really like to live and work below deck. You never know... You might be enticed to work for one too, and travel the whole world like me! Read on to find out more...

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Scotland: My Favorite Country In The World

I've been to many places in several different continents, and have seen spectacular beauty... But every time I visit Scotland, every other country pales in comparison. Read this post to find out why at this point, Scotland was and still is, in my opinion, the most beautiful place on Earth...

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On Finding My Bliss In Italy

When you go on big trips like this, however cheesy it sounds, you always do end up 'finding yourself'. And there are moments... difinitive moments when you achieve clarity, contentment, and pure happiness. This all happened to me in Italy. Read my most soulful post to date, inspired by the full moon in Italia...

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On Being Featured In A Documentary

I somehow managed to get myself featured in an upcoming documentary about "Voluntourism". This may be the big break I've been waiting for! The trailer is out - and I'm in it! It looks so good, I'm so excited! See for yourself... watch it here!

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An Epiphany At Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is one of my favorite places in Italy. We hiked 5 villages in one day, and it was breathtaking! But something completely unexpected happened on the hike... An encounter with a complete stranger made me realize possibly one of the most important things I need to do with my life...

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My Ayahuasca Experience

Ayahuasca, is by far, the most INTENSE thing I have ever experienced in my life. I died and was reborn. It is both horrific and beautiful at the same time... I can't explain it in a few words. You HAVE to read my story to believe... I promise it will be worth your while...

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

On What It’s Really Like to Work for a Cruise Ship


I’ve been asked this question a lot lately. And although working for this industry for the past couple years doesn’t necessarily make me an expert, I think I may be credible enough to shed some light on this very mysterious and elusive career.
See – the problem is that quite a few people probably have a very misguided idea of what working on a cruise ship is like. Some think it's glamorous - for good reason. The ships are beautiful… they travel to all these exotic places… there’s constant booze and entertainment… overflowing with delicious food… Which is all true.

For the guests.

Not for the crew.

On the other hand, some of you may have the misconception that crew members are treated like slaves in a floating prison. That’s a little bit of an exaggeration too.

It's a little better than prison.

So please allow me to set things straight – both for the curious cats who are interested, and also for my fellow crew members who are wrongly perceived. It’s time they found out the truth.



Let’s Start With…


THE PROS


1. THE VACATION.
 



Truly, for me, the best part about working for a cruise ship is THE VACATION. If you are living in the United States – you only get about 2 weeks of paid vacation per year. With tenure, some lucky folks get to accumulate more the longer they stay with the company. Still doesn’t beat this though.

My rotation is 4 months on, 2 months off. Which means I get about 4 months of vacation total per year. The majority of the crew members on my  current ship work 5 months on, with a 5 week vacation right after.

But I have to admit, my ship is a little different from the rest.

The crew members on the other ships usually work 6-9 months on, 2 – 3 months off.
Still not bad, right?

2. YOU GET TO SAVE MONEY --- If you’re smart.

When you’re at the ship, everything is paid for. Food, lodging, laundry, EVERYTHING. I can technically go for a full contract without spending a dime.

I do not have an apartment or a mortgage. Sold my car before I did my round theworld backpacking adventure. I don’t have any utility bills or insurances that I need to worry about. Nada.

So for me, this set-up is ideal. That even if the salary is lower than my previous corporate job, my take-away or my “cash on hand” is either even, or a little higher because I am factoring out the bills I used to have to pay.

If you are in the Philippines, or somewhere in South East Asia, or Eastern Europe, or South America, or the Caribbean– the salary is even better because you earn in US Dollars, not in your currency. Great opportunity to save and send money home to your families and loved ones. 

Now – if you are American, and you still have a mortgage, or an apartment, or bills to pay, and nothing changes in your lifestyle, and you decided to work on the ship --- this may not be the job for you if your sole purpose is to try to save some money. I would whip out a calculator and make a huge analysis before I take this job. Some positions make this worth it though… say if you were a higher ranking officer or a manager. Otherwise, I would think and calculate.

3. IT IS DIVERSE 




It is seriously a United Colors of Benetton advertisement, when you are sitting at the crew mess having dinner with a dude from Jamaica, a chick from Peru, a guy from South Africa, and a nice lady from Nepal. These companies take on crew members that hail from all over the world, and it’s really super fun to get to meet all these people and learn about their cultures.


 When I just got started and I was working on one of our International ships, meeting people from all over the world was definitely one of my favorite things about the job --- it made me feel like I hadn’t stopped traveling. 



My current ship is sort of unique in that we are the only US Flag ship in the world, so by law, we are required to have about 75% American workers, and 25% International.

But… it’s still fun… you know… getting to know someone from… uh… Delaware…




Shenanigans at the Crew Bar

4. YOU GET TO TRAVEL

And I mean this in 2 ways.

1st – If you get assigned to a ship that has an amazing itinerary, then it’s a win-win! Some of our ships go to Europe, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and pretty soon – China. You may as well toss out your piggy bank because there’s no way in hell you’ll be able to save money if your itinerary is any of the above. How can you resist NOT seeing those places if your ship takes you there? You have to take advantage of the opportunity – I mean I would. I took this job so I could continue to travel! And being assigned to see those places is a dream.
My first ship took me to the Caribbean - and I hadn't seen any of those places before, so --- score!
This was in Cozumel, Mexico


I think this may have been Costa Maya or Roatan in the Honduras. I can't even remember anymore.


2nd – If you get assigned to a ship that has an itinerary that you don’t really care for, then you can save up the money you earn and travel during your 2 month vacation! Which is exactly what I do!

I am permanently assigned to our Hawaiian ship, and it’s pretty spectacular! But if you’re there year round, you can hardly consider that traveling anymore, especially if you look like a local. So after my 4 month contract, off to wherever-else-I-haven’t-been-to I go!


Beautiful photo I took of the Napali Coast in Hawaii

THE CONS


1. YOU WORK 7 DAYS A WEEK – NO DAYS OFF.


I’m not kidding. This is basically a 24/7 job. No rest for the wicked, type.  On average, a crew member works about 10 hour days, 7 days a week. You’d think it’s all fun and games, but it’s really not. It’s hard work.

In fact, some days, I find myself staring into the ceiling of my small cabin, wishing for at least one day off - out of my 4 months. I was wishing for 1 day out of 4 months!!! And my contract isn’t even that long. The other crew members who are working 8 – 9 months are probably wanting to throw their shoe at me right now.
It’s a lifestyle that you have to get used to. No weekends. No “Happy Friday’s”. Those don’t mean squat.



2. LIVING ARRANGEMENTS – Dorm style.
Like in college, only worse.

It’s not going to be easy for most to have to adjust to living with 3 or 4 other people in a small confined space, especially if one has never lived with other people before.
Because of the position that I am in, I am one of the more fortunate ones who get to enjoy the privilege of having a solo cabin. It’s small – but it never really bothered me as long as I was by myself.
This is my current cabin. And that's Falcor, my dog.

 The majority of the other crew members live with 2 to 3 other people in a very small living space, and that could be a major issue for some people. If you are lucky, you get roomed with people who are fun and you actually get along with. This is the dream. 

Essentially, this is what a (contraband) Cabin Party looks like, in a normal Crew Cabin :) It's nice and snug.

If not… If you get roomed with someone weird, or messy, or OCD, or someone who is downright crazy --- then, good luck.

A friend of mine said she woke up in the middle of the night to her roommate staring at her. Naked.

This story gave me nightmares for weeks.

3. CABIN FEVER

Sometimes you're too busy, and you have a crap schedule, that you don't really have time to get off the ship. And sometimes because you're so busy, that even if you do, you'd rather sleep. Living and working and eating and breathing inside the ship can make one go a little crazy if one doesn't take care of one's self. You don't really have the luxury of driving out to a pub to meet up with your friends after a hard day's work. All you have is the crew bar. And you have to watch your alcohol intake, because cruise ships have a very strict alcohol policy (Your BAC can't go over .04). 

Let's see... What were my favorite things to do on land after work, that I couldn't really do while I'm on the ship:
  • Grocery Shop and then Cook
  • Go and watch a movie
  • Happy Hour Thursdays with my friends
  • Happy Hour any day with my my friends
  • Boxing & Muay Thai 
  • Watch a concert/show
  • Go have a picnic in a park
Yeah. I miss all of that. But at least I don't do the dishes. And I don't do my own laundry.
Silver lining!

4. MISSING YOUR LOVES

It's definitely difficult being away from your loved ones. I have a relationship with my phone, which is reliant on WiFi on the ship that is expensive, even for crew. I've seen my little nephew grow up via photo messages and video chats. I can't even imagine how much harder it is for crew members who have families and kids back home, being gone for months at a time. It's definitely a sacrifice.


Look at that CUTIE!!!

IN CONCLUSION


This job is not for everyone. It's a lifestyle choice, and it either suits you or it doesn't. Having said that - I really do think that the experience of working at the cruise ship is what you make of it. I know a lot of people who have made a lifetime career out of it, that allowed them to pay off debt, buy a house, and send their kids to college... not to mention, travel the whole world!

I also know people who quit after working for a day. Claustrophobia or something. And good for them... better quit earlier than endure something you clearly don't like. 

As for me -- at the moment, it works. I think at the beginning I resisted the idea. I thought I was only going to do one contract... and now I'm on my fourth. Time flies...

I don't know how long I'm going to be able to do this, but I'll stay as long as it works for me and my chosen lifestyle.

My first instinct on my first few days on the ship was to quit. So I went from hating it... To tolerating it... to appreciating it... to -- now, not thinking it's so bad after all. I focus on the perks... The reasons why it's great... I focus on the PROS.

Besides... once you've gotten used to the long hours, the 70 hour work weeks, the cabin fever and the sea sickness... Working at the ship can actually be a lot of fun.

Well, I... at least make my own fun. ;)







Have you worked for a cruise ship? Are you interested in working for my ship? Leave me a comment below and I'll help you get started!





Thursday, August 18, 2016

On Traveling Through Air, Land and Sea





Almost 2 years since the last time I wrote. I don't know what to say, as I am a little ashamed of this prolonged absence.

All I could offer as an excuse is that - life happened.
Too cliche'? It doesn't make it any less true though!!!
Friends, I urge you not to dwell on the past and move past this. The past is in the past, and so let us focus on what lies ahead! (See what I did there?)
I am sorry for disappearing... Really... But I am here now. I missed you guys! Besides, I refuse for my post about getting into the cruising industry be the last thing that anyone ever remembers about me... because there truly is a lot more to say... A mountain of stories yet to be told... And I am not done. At least not yet. :)


WHERE I AM NOW

I am writing this in the middle of the forest in Maryland, at a training center for my ship. Yes, I still currently work for a cruise ship, same position as a trainer, but a different ship with a different itinerary. After a brief stint in the Caribbean, I was assigned to our American ship that is primarily based in Hawaii!

Alohaaaaa!



Yes – I have been a Hawaiian for more than a year now. It works pretty well though because I totally rock the Hawaiian look. People think I’m local… And my ukulele? I mean come on. It’s like the mother ship called me home.

I would like to say that all I do is surf on the beach and jam on my uke with the locals all day, grazing around in my grass skirt with flowers in my hair…
Alas… the only thing that is true about that statement are the flowers in my hair. 



BOOM. Tangled, anyone?
Work is still work, and although I enjoy seeing Hawaii whenever I get the chance, I do still work long hours inside the ship.

Every now and then, I do allow myself the pleasure of hanging out with my turtle friends... I mean, come on. How can I not?





I am in Maryland now, assigned temporarily to our training facility that feeds the ship new crew members.  I’m back on the ship in September.

ON TRAVEL

Truly, the best part about my job is the vacation. When I was moved to the Hawaii ship, my contract changed. I now work on a 4:2 rotation… which means 4 months of work, 2 months of vacation – year round. It’s really hard to beat that, don’t you think?

And during my 2 month vacation  (since the last time I wrote, there have been three vacays)  I did travel quite a bit. Of course I did.

I went back to Europe

Hola, Sevilla!

Explored bits of Eastern Europe



That is the glorious landscape of Sarajevo
At one point, I went back to the Philippines
Lalalaaaa....Palawan you're so beautifuuuul...

And Europe Again...




Berlin!



So I’m happy to say that travel is still a very significant part of my life. I think it always will be... just not the same way it has been while I was backpacking.

ON LIFE AFTER THE ROUND THE WORLD TRIP

Truthfully, one of the reasons why I started writing again is because in the past few months, I've started reading my old posts. It's weird because it almost felt like I was reading about the adventures of another person. Isn't that wild? I almost didn't recognize myself. It was only then that I truly got what other people had been telling me all this time... That I was brave. Maaaaan, I had balls of steel!

I mean... my road trip through the North Island of New Zealand where I went through MORDOR was terrifying. Hitchhiking in Israel was pretty ballsy. Getting robbed in Buenos Aires was AGGGGHHH - annoying! And lets not forget, my otherworldly AYAHUASCA ceremony experience that killed me and brought me back to life. That's not even half of the stuff I did.





Reading about all of that was so much fun. I laughed out loud for the majority of them, maybe shed a tear or two for some... But mostly it made me reflect on how much what I did changed me. Going through all of that really and truly changed who I am. I am no longer the same person I was before I started all this.

Yeah, putting myself out there and living through those experiences does sound brave. But when I think about it and remember how I felt during those moments that required me to summon all the courage I had in me -- I realize that as humans, you really just do what you have to do to make the most out of the situations you find yourself in.
It's not necessarily bravery... I think it's just survival. 


No matter how big the fear - most of the time you have no choice but to plow through and keep going. Because otherwise... what's the point? That'st just life, isn't it? If you need to sleep in a basement full of cardboard boxes and dog food for the night to save some cash, or hitchhike instead of paying an exorbitant amount of money on a cab, or scrub toilets and make beds if it meant having a roof over your head and free food for a few weeks ---- You do it. You survive. Not because you want to... but because you have to.

This was my first Couchsurfing Experience. It looks bad but I met the BEST people!

It was my choice to put myself in those situations, and I knew those kinds of experiences were going to be inevitable because I had a small budget. I couldn't afford to be luxurious or picky. However what I didn't expect was how much I was going to gain, as a person, by going through all that. And I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Now - the question is... Would I do all of that again? Would I willfully put myself in those situations once more?

Ah... the answer is not so simple. Hahaha

LET ME TRY TO EXPLAIN

Reading about the things that I did made me nostalgic. I do miss the glorious RTW Backpacking days of yore. But as I get older - and as I find myself in a completely different personal situation than the past --- I realize that my preferences have changed.

Let me try to explain further.

Working for the cruise ship has afforded me the opportunity to work, earn money, and still keep traveling. I work for 4 months, and travel for 2 months. Remember when I gave up my worldly possessions? My car, my apartment, my stuff... Well, I still don't have any of that back... Still no bills to pay. And so I guess you can say - I work to travel! (Now isn't that just the dream??? Although my father would argue otherwise. Hehe)

Which means that when I do travel - I have a little bit more money at my disposal to NOT stay in a cardboard box, so to speak. And nowadays - I don't really travel by myself anymore (hint hint)... And so instead of staying at hostels, I find myself paying just a tiny bit more, to book accommodations at Airbnb... which is private, but still cheaper than staying at a hotel. 

This is one of my accommodations at AirBnB. Not too shabby, eh? :)

Because of skimping on basically everything when I did the RTW trip, having a little bit more cash now has allowed me to splurge JUST A LITTLE BIT MORE, on things like food, excursions here and there, or touristy things. And truthfully, when you're traveling with someone, those kinds of things are fun when experienced together. 

So now,  I am making brand new travel experiences! And I appreciate them as much as I did my old experiences... they are just different.


I am STILL cheap as hell though, just so you know. It's just now - I'm cheap by choice, not by default. If that makes sense.

NOW WHAT?

Now? I keep going. I'm going to do this until my body and mind and soul allows me to. I am still traveling. I am still in a pretty convenient situation where I can keep the lifestyle that I have chosen. I work, and I travel. I'm still in a position that is quite different from the norm - and for that, I am grateful. 

When the day comes that I go back "on land", I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. Life is continually evolving... Things change so constantly, that as human beings, we just do what we can to adapt and keep up with whatever is thrown at us.

But for now, Earth2eartha's story isn't over.  The Round The World Solo Traveling chapter may have come to an end  - but another chapter has been written. All I need to do now is tell it.


Thanks for sticking around... :)