‚ÄúI forgot my camera.” As I reached into my bag as we landed in Freeport, Bahamas, this cruel realization was the first thought that came into my mind. I had forgotten my brand new camera, which I had not only purchased with Semester at Sea in mind, but I had even cut off a little out of my semester‚Äôs budget for the purpose of recording my trip. And yet, I had forgotten it.
At our first pre-port meeting, Dean Gaither, the executive dean for the Summer 2012 voyage, advised us all to ‚Äúlook through your eyes before your lens.” ¬†Little did I know that this would contribute to one of the greatest lessons I would learn from Semester at Sea: the importance of living in the moment. This did not just come from the inability to take pictures with my own camera, but rather my separation from technology as a whole.
I had never realized how truly unnecessary my attachment to technology was until I was forced to live without it. I was not posing at every corner, giving my attention to my camera‚Äôs lens without even knowing what I was posing with. ¬†Instead, I was observing the world around me. I did not walk down the streets of a country with my eyes glued to a phone screen. ¬†Instead, I was actively engaged with each country’s culture. I did not truly understand all of this until I reached the sand dunes of the Sahara. I do not believe there was a single moment while in the desert that I would have wanted to take my eyes off of my surroundings to focus on my camera or any other technology. I was not concerned with looking good in a picture or even posing for one. ¬†It was not about who I needed to text or some preoccupation with trying to record my presence instead of actually being present. It was about fully immersing myself in the place I was in.
As I journeyed out into different parts of the world, Semester at Sea pushed me out of my technological comfort sphere. At first, this was jarring and I was not sure how to react. However, because of this separation from technology, my experience became my own, not Facebook‚Äôs. The world was observed by me, not my camera. ¬†Semester at Sea taught me many things and widened my perspective in ways I cannot begin to explain. Even though we were constantly prepared for culture shocks in different countries, I was not ready for the shock to my own culture’s dependence on technology once I got back. ¬†During my voyage, I learned to distinguish observing from seeing, listening from hearing, and actually being somewhere versus drifting through a place while immersed in technology. Above all else, I learned to be present.