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  • Writer's pictureGina Greenlee, Author


Ocean Water Waves

The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson. Tom Bodett

In April 2000, I boarded the MV Riviera, a 300-passenger cruise ship, in Cadiz, Spain, to begin my dream trip around the world. The ship was scheduled to sail for four months. On day 40, the cruise line declared bankruptcy when the ship was in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, shortly after we’d set sail from Easter Island, Chile. All passengers were forced to disembark in Tahiti the next morning.

Whenever I tell the story of my bankrupt cruise, this is the part where everyone bursts into laughter and says, “Stranded in Tahiti. What a hardship!” Unfortunately, there was nothing funny about my having resigned a full-time job to travel for four months only to learn that one month in, my $13,000 trip was over.

Also, I was writing a paid, weekly column about my travels called Journey with Gina for The Hartford Courant – Connecticut’s largest newspaper. I’d pitched the online column to the paper as a way to jumpstart another long-held dream: to become a professional writer. Four months of bylines in a two-time, Pulitzer prize-winning newspaper was a great platform for launching that career. But if the trip ended, so would my column. I would return home, out of work and burdened by the grief of unfulfilled dreams.

Cruise Ship in the Night

It was nighttime when the news of bankruptcy rolled across the ship like a wave. The passengers’ anxiety level was palpable. Some people were in denial, refusing to prepare for disembarkation. They told those of us who, like me, expressed concern over refunds, that we lacked a sense of adventure and the ability to go with the flow.

Though I’d made acquaintances on the ship who knew my story, the significant sacrifices I had undertaken to be on that cruise were inexplicable to these relative strangers. I couldn’t get anyone to understand that my life had just blown up.

So, I purchased an overpriced bottle of cream sherry at the bar and swigged half of it as I sobbed. Fully crocked, I returned to my cabin and packed.

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The study book for life’s tests is the whole of our experience.

Though we may feel unprepared,

tests appear only when we are truly ready to ace them.

◊ ◊ ◊

Life Lessons from Solo Moments on the Road


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