The Secret World of Ferries


Crete to Athens:

The idea that I could be adventurous is like the Pope being promiscuous. I guess it could happen in some parallel universe where Popes live in the Playboy mansion. But let’s get real. I do this for my husband.

In the past, I’ve been selfish in my relationships and I’ve reaped the consequences… divorce. I’ve decided, “failure is not an option”.  If that means clenching my teeth and belting myself into the roller coaster at Space Mountain when I’d rather float on a tiny boat singing “It’s a small world after all” then so be it.

When we got to the passenger terminal at McGuire AFB last week, I told Joe, “Let’s add faith to the no-plan travel philosophy. Let’s get on the first plane going overseas… anywhere, just the first plane. We’ll put it in God’s hands.” I figured we would trust that God will take us where we’re supposed to go. That way we have the adventure Joe wants with the peace of mind I need. We may not be on the Camino anymore, but I read a book a few months ago that says any trip can be a pilgrimage if done with reverence. We just listen to God, he’s always speaking to us… sometimes through messages from fellow travelers and sometimes through the beauty surrounding us. I think Joe was willing to do anything that would get me away from work for a while.

After leaving the military I’d gone into the world of private practice and discovered I could just as easily become consumed with this work as I did in the military. It’s the age-old battle; I work and start to develop this delusion that I’m indispensible. “I can’t leave on vacation, they need me.” I’ve learned how cancerous this approach can be, not only because of my own career, but seeing it in others. Managers think that they can’t leave. Then something happens, they get sick, they get divorced, they retire…that’s when the bullet hits them. The work continues on and before long, they’re forgotten. Worse yet, they regret losing the time they were healthy to climb a mountain. Don’t get me wrong, Labor is good for the soul, especially when it’s something meaningful.

Freud extolled the importance of a balanced life… work, love and play. Together, they allow us to appreciate the other. It’s just that it can be fatal to think we are indispensible in any job. The most successful bosses are the ones who start training their replacements the first day they sit at their desk. These are the bosses who take vacations while their businesses magically stay on track.

I said “the most successful bosses” did this. I was never one of them. Taking vacations made me feel guilty. During my military career, I conducted “Colors training.” It describes  4 different personality styles, each classified by a color: Blue, Green, Orange and Gold.

The Blues are the people lovers. They are motivated by their relationships. They love art and poetry. They enjoy being part of a community, and join causes. They hate conflict and try to create harmony between groups. You might call them the “Peace Makers.”

The Oranges are the thrill seekers. They are impulsive—act first, think later. They want to have fun. If it’s not fun, then it’s boring and who wants to do things that are boring? Oranges are great at parties. Not planning them, but making them come alive. They believe that rules are made to be broken. They are the competitors in search of the next challenge.

The Greens are the Visionaries. They question rules. In fact, they question everything. They are the entrepreneurs who start the company but soon grow bored with the mechanics of the work and go off to start something else. They don’t want to get bogged down in all the procedure and minutia of running the company. They leave that to the Golds. For Greens… work is play, play is work. If work isn’t enjoyable, then they will quickly pass it off in search of the theory… the Big Picture. They tend to be the Geeks who love exploring ideas… they are the inventors.

Golds are the rule makers and enforcers. They love the predictability of rules. It let’s them know how things are supposed to be. Of course this becomes an endless source of irritation when dealing with Greens who question the rules, or with Oranges who flagrantly break the rules just for the fun of it. The perfect joy for an Orange would be to write graffiti on the school wall. While the perfect joy for Golds is to punish the Oranges for breaking the rules because society would break down if people acted purely on impulse. They will also make sure the wall is restored. For Golds, the motto is: “Work first. Play later.” They are the rule enforcers.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, Joe is a Green/Orange and I’m a Gold. A Gold and Green/Orange marriage is a recipe for disaster. “What do you mean you want to take off work to explore the world? With all the things that need to get done around here? I say while frantically cleaning the kitchen counter. That’s irresponsible.”

Joe’s Orange says, “C’mon, let’s have fun… you know you want to!’

Joe’s Green says, “The work’s always going to be there, but how long will you be physically capable of climbing a mountain or stepping into a kayak?”

Elaine’s Gold says, “I can only enjoy it AFTER I’ve finished my work. Life is serious, it’s not just about doing what feels good, you know.” As soon as I say this, I feel guilty. Joe works hard too. He just doesn’t let himself get sucked into doing things he doesn’t enjoy. I know he’s right… there’s more to life then work. But when I’m in the thick of it, it just doesn’t feel like it’s ever the right time. Walking the pilgrimage two years ago has helped give me perspective. Nothing is more important than being thankful for all the blessings in my life and Joe is one of them. Maybe part of my resistance is based on the inexperience I have with the world outside of my work.

Use today for example.

I asked, “A ferry to Athens? How long does that take?

“About 9 hours, it’s overnight, that way you still have the day in Athens.” Joe said.

Oh great. 9 hours of sitting on a hard bench with some homeless person huddled up next to me from the cold, passed out with his head on my shoulder. That’s what I was thinking. But my words came out, “A ferry to Athens! What a great idea.” Truth be told, I have a lot of Blue in me.

As a a New Yorker, I pictured the crowded ferry from Ellis Island into Manhattan. But, hey, this is my chance to have faith, to put judgments aside and paint with some other colors.

On the way to the dock, we stopped at a gas station. I asked Joe if he wanted any snacks to take on the ferry. The idea of traveling for 9 hours with nothing to eat did not sound appealing even if it is night travel.

“Oh, I don’t think you’ll be needing any chips on this voyage.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think they’ll have a nice restaurant on this ship. Who knows, they might even have a casino.”

Casinos? Food? What does he think we’re doing…taking some kind of cruise? Boy, is he in for a rude awakening. Apparently, he’s never been on the Staten Island Ferry. Yes, there may be hot dogs and chips for sale, but a formal restaurant? Gambling?

When we pulled into the harbor’s parking lot in Souda, I looked around for the ferry. I spotted a small green boat and wondered if Greece’s idea of a ferry was just a cargo boat with extra passengers loaded on like sardines. Then I saw a larger cargo ship, then what looked like a pirate ship. I got more worried.




Smiling broadly, Joe said, “There it is.”

He was looking in a 90-degree direction from the other boats. I followed his gaze.

“No, that’s a cruise ship. We’re taking a ferry.”

“Elaine, that IS the ferry.”


It took a moment to register. This was the vessel for the huddled masses? No. This was an ocean liner for the people who were getting away from the huddled masses. When we walked up the gangway, a uniformed crew member met us and showed us directly to our own cabin. On the way, we passed two restaurants, several bars, a travel shop… there was even a swimming pool. There were beds in private cabins on this ferry and a private bathroom with a faucet and shower. The sink had running water and not with one of those knobs you push down to get a 3 second trickle. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I thought a ferry was just a ship that got you and possibly your car from point A to point B. Is everyone else in the entire world in on this secret world of cruise ship ferries but me? Am I really that out of touch with international transportation?




As the ship slices through the water and I type while lying on a mattress in my very own cabin, I thank God (and Joe) for letting me have this day of surprises.

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