Hey, remember when my sister sailed around the world for four months and promised to blog about all her stops and adventures and never did because she’s a senior in college (actually, graduated Friday!), had grad schools to get into (starts her master’s in accountancy at UT this fall), jobs to apply for (got offers at all of the Big Four accounting firms), and had the rest of her college existence to tie up and close in one neat little bundle? (Yeah, I hate her, too.)
Well, seeing as she’d never get around to it, I stepped up to the plate instead. You see…
I’M GOING ON SEMESTER AT SEA.
image courtesy of Semester at Sea
I know, I know; I was officially hired on April 18, and it’s still sinking in for me, too! I’m not going as a student, of course, but as an employee of the University of Virginia. Which is so much better because not only do I get to sail around the world—-literally, we start in North America, sail east and end in North America four months later—but I get paid to do so. That, my friends, is what I believe some may call a dream job.
But let me rewind.
When my mom and I went to see Kari in South Africa last year, we met her at the ship and took a tour. When I had heard about Semester at Sea during my own college years, I had always envisioned a rickety sail boat where students had to muck the decks and do other ship-like chores (maybe I was confusing Semester at Sea with Pirates of the Caribbean…seems that way, doesn’t it?). This is not that. The ship is massive and luxurious (there’s even a spa!) and has about everything one could need to live. It was at that point I was kicking myself for not looking into this when I was in undergrad. (Then again, I wouldn’t have traded my semester in Edinburgh for the world.)
After we left the ship, we ran into the current dean of the trip, Dr. Crabtree, who was on his eighth voyage with SAS and, coincidentally, was the chancellor at UT during my years there. As I was an editor of the daily paper, I interviewed him frequently and stopped to chat. (It’s not every day you see someone from your university life years before at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.)
We caught up, I told him what I’d been up to these past six years, and he suggested I apply for a future voyage. Oh, I couldn’t do that…or could I? My job is flexible; SVV’s is, as well. We don’t have a mortgage or kids (other than an adorable fur baby) or anything else tying us down. Why not?
And so we both applied for positions this time last year (me for the PR & Communications Coordinator and Assistant Field Office Coordinator jobs; SVV for something techie) and heard nothing until December, when we got rejection letters from everything we applied for…or not. Then, just days before we left for Hawaii in April, I woke up to a voicemail from the ISE office at UVA saying I was a finalist for this fall. I couldn’t believe it. I also couldn’t believe the bad timing. SVV and I already had our August through December planned with some really big work changes; this threw a dent in my plan.
So I called my mom, who I talk to about 17 times a day, and she essentially said I’d be stupid not to accept. She was right. Only, I called UVA three times that week and never heard back again and thought I’d missed the boat (literally).
It turns out they moved offices and had no phone lines, so once that was all sorted out, I had two phone interviews (very early in the morning thanks to the six-hour time change from Hawaii to Virginia) with two very lovely ladies, both of whom will be my bosses and who I’ll be living on a boat with this fall, and two minutes into the second interview on April 18, I was hired on the spot.
I started crying. I kid you not. I was so shocked and overjoyed and just completely thrown off that this is my life for the next few months. Also, I had heard from fellow travel writers and editors who were SAS alums that they had applied for positions for years and never even gotten an interview, much less hired, so I honestly couldn’t believe with as competitive as SAS jobs are that they wanted me, and on the first round at that.
The job I did land is that of the assistant field office coordinator, meaning I’ll assist the coordinator, who is a full-time employee of UVA and ISE, with the planning and organizing of all the field trips for the students, staff and faculty. (Basically, a lot of spreadsheets and organization; basically, my favorite things ever.)
Even funnier is that the next day I got an email saying I was a finalist for the PR/Communications position for the spring 2012 voyage. (I’m not going. Two in a row is a bit much even for me. But maybe another year, as many staffers tend to sail multiple times over the course of their careers.)
SVV gets to go, of course; dependents sail for a nominal fee. (They pay for room and board, which is essentially a fourth of what he currently pays to live in San Francisco, so it’s not a bad deal at all.)
So where all are we going? Some pretty awesome places.
- Embark: Montreal, Canada
- South Africa
- Hong Kong/China
- Costa Rica*
- Panama Canal*
- Debark: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
(The starred places are the countries I’ve yet to visit.)
The only drawbacks to the gig are the obvious: Ella (insert huge ol’ frownie face here). Seeing as she gets carsick and vomits in my lap just driving from San Francisco to Berkeley, I can’t imagine taking her on a ship for four months. Not to mention the fact that it’s not allowed. Instead, she’ll go to live with my parents in Tennessee, where she’ll be spoiled rotten and have five other white, fluffy friends to play with all day, every day. The sad part is I doubt she’ll miss us one bit!
The second thing is the fact that I was signed up to run the Chicago Marathon in October and have already been doing training miles in the high teens. Another marathon attempt thwarted! Though I’d say it’s completely worth it. (If you missed the Chicago Marathon registration deadline and want to buy my bib, leave a comment or shoot me a message.)
And the third is Taylor Swift. Yeah, I said it. After getting up really early and sitting in front of the computer refreshing the screen for an hour on her Speak Now tour pre-sale, I snagged my mom, sis and me three good seats to her Nashville concert in September. Oh well, something tells me Ms. Swift will also be here when I get back. (For those who don’t know, it’s my life’s goal to figure out how to become her best friend. And I will, believe you me.)
This year is going to be absolutely nuts: first, the Great American Road Trip—we leave today! for just over six weeks!—then the cruise with my family and SVV’s parents, then we’re back in California for 17 days, then we drive across country to Tennessee over a 10-day period (taking it slow), then spend 10 days in Tennessee with my family and celebrate my granddad’s 90th birthday (I haven’t been back South since Christmas), then I fly to Boston (again) for staff training and then we set sail for 116 days.
The funny thing is that I haven’t used my passport since early October and I declared this the year I took it slow and kept international travel to a minimum. It’s funny how things never work out as planned. I’m still giddy even though I’ve had a full month to process what is going to be the next seven months of our lives.
Now to overcome my crippling seasickness. Yes, that’s a must-do in the coming months, I’d say.