A ship approaching port near the Strait of Gibraltar
Being a seafarer allows you to go places, absolutely for free. Though the next question would be something like this: Have you enjoyed your trip to those places you have been to as a seafarer? Even it is a fact that we, as seafarers are able to go from on place to another, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have all the leisure we can get out of those places. It might be somewhere like Brazil, where anyone would have an automatic picture of Rio de Janeiro in the mind; Barcelona, where, perhaps one might imagine the famous Sagrada Famiglia Cathedral or Singapore where Sentosa, Marina Bay and its well-known trademark, the Merlion are all real places that one might be pondering about once all those places are heard. It is called association. Association in such sense that we tend to associate words with pictures. We heard or read a particular word, a name of a place for instance, then we picture out something associated with that place.
At this point, a seafarer’s stereotyping-induced dilemma takes place. He posted on a social networking site his location (there are internet connections on vessels nowadays), or maybe a photo of a certain place or port from other country, then his friends as well as his family would definitely post a thread of comments in awe.Maybe they were thinking that when a seafarer is in a port who happen to be granted with shore leave, he is now free to travel on that country. Perhaps he would go to bars, drink some booze, make some acquaintance with foreign women and roam around the city. Little did they know that being on other land as a seafarer doesn’t guarantee a full-time getaway or total sight-seeing.
I’ve been to different ports, but I can’t say that I truly enjoyed all those places outside the country. I guess it takes a profound sense of appreciation and keen observation before one can say that he enjoyed a place so much, even if it’s for a short period of time. If I am going to count the number of times a ship berths to a port, it would be an average of twice a month depending on the origin of the vessel to its point of destination. Considering that number, I can go to 18 different countries or places based on the number of months as per my contract which is nine months. With that, I can boast to my friends back on the Philippines that I’ve been here and there, did this and that, saw this and that, so on and so forth. Unfortunately, that idea is something that is very unlikely to happen.
A seafarer is specifically hired on board a vessel to work. Nothing more, nothing less. The good thing is that he has the opportunity to go to different countries or places since it is included in his line of work. But looking at the other way, even though he is able to go to those places, he cannot spend his time there like a common tourist or a backpacker. He will, go out of the ship, take some few hours unwinding on an environment devoid of work, then go back to the ship. Sometimes he is actually deprived of this opportunity because he is expected to perform his duties during port operations.
Seeing this situation every now and then, I realized that I can make the most out of my time once I happen to go on shore leave, or even on a short transit to a certain area, say, the Suez Canal. Going to places would be fun, even if it would be on a short period of time. All I need to do is widen my perspective, invite new ideas and look at everything on various point of view. Through that I can learn and become knowledgeable about different people and places. I can also obtain enjoyment as well as peace of mind by simply admiring those things I see and new to me and then I can tell stories (the good ones) to my family and friends once I finish my contract and return back home.
Opportunities like shore leave allows a seafarer to enjoy life away from his tiring job on board. He can choose to enjoy his short-term stay on foreign land or be depressed due to overspending. Whatever his choice is, it would definitely affect his own well-being. Anyone would say that there is no easy job in the world out there and seafaring is not an exception. Hence, chances are given to unburden people of their toxic routines. We will always work to suffice our needs but it is not even a reason for us to stop enjoying life. We can be too tired of our job and all we can do is rest. But one thing is for sure. We always have a choice.