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Setting Sail with Family: Meet the Bergs

Lewis Berg with his granddaughter Heather in Tymitz Square on the MV Explorer. Photo by Krista Rossow.

When Heather Berg moved to Charlottesville, Va. to study public policy at the University of Virginia, she was far from her southern Florida family and home. So when her grandfather, Lewis Berg, discovered that Heather would soon be sailing around the world on Semester at Sea’s 50th Anniversary Spring voyage, he just couldn’t stay home and let her have all the fun.

Lewis, a retired businessman and one of 65 Lifelong Learners this spring, was thrilled to hear that Heather would be sailing on the current voyage. “I always dreamed about traveling the world with my kids, but I never got around to doing it,” Lewis said. “Then Heather mentioned this and I thought, what an opportunity.”

From experience, Lewis understood the power of travel and knew that Semester at Sea would allow Heather to explore an incredible amount of the world in a short amount of time. “I had been encouraging her for a couple of years, thinking that it’s a life changer, or at least an eye-opener. She had planned it at least once before but finally she said, ‘This time I’m going.’”

Despite being much younger than her grandfather, Heather has already done a considerable amount of travel herself. Since she first set foot outside the U.S. to work as a crew member for the show Survivor in Palau, she has pursued many other opportunities to explore different parts of the world. Throughout her collegiate career, Heather has taken classes in the Caribbean, visited Colombia with her aunt and grandfather, and spent eight weeks on a development project in rural South Africa.

Yet with all of her adventures abroad, Heather admitted that this voyage is a step out of her comfort zone. “Most of my travel experience has been as a tourist,” she explained, “but I want to take a different angle on this trip.” She intends to approach each new place with an open mind. “I want to go in without expectations and let this trip take me rather than me take this trip.”

Heather’s excitement for the next four months certainly goes beyond a list of destinations. “The one thing I keep hearing is that you remember the people before the places, and I’m already getting that. I’ve met so many amazing individuals.” Off the ship, Heather and her grandfather have a close relationship. “I call him every day, sometimes even more than once,” she said. Lewis chimes in, “There is no question that this experience is going to build our relationship. How many grandfathers get to go with their granddaughters on a voyage like this?”

When asked how they find time to spend together throughout the busyness of their days, the two exchanged a smirking glance. “I avoid her,” Lewis chuckled, “I really do. She needs to have her space; if you crowd people they can’t be themselves. I want this to be her own experience.”

Their answer is similar when asked what countries the two plan to travel in together. “I basically had to beg him to travel with me in China,” Heather teased. “He and I are both really independent, and that’s why it’s easy for us to do a trip like this. If either of us were too dependent on one another, it wouldn’t work out as well.”

Regardless of their separate plans, Heather and Lewis are both very excited to share this special experience with each other. “I have a lot of confidence in her,” Lewis said. “I know she can do whatever she wants to do.” Heather added, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. Just having him here makes it all the more unique.”

Topics
  • Life at Sea

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