Fathom’s Adonia departed Miami for Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic on New Year’s Day during the early evening while golden light of the warm sun reflected off the condo towers. The view from our spot on the top deck was beautiful, and we enjoyed the sail-away before joining in on the first activity.
It was then we discovered this would be nothing like a typical party cruise. Waiters weren’t hawking expensive cocktails, and the poolside activities were much different than I had ever seen before.
For those who chose to participate, we were given a “passport” and instructed to look for five stations that were scattered around the two poolside decks. At each station, we did the required activity and earned a stamp in our passport. One station was posted at the railing of the upper deck. The end of a string was tied to the railing, and the other end was tied to the pool railing across the deck below. We were instructed to take an index card, and write an inspiring message to a random passenger below. We were given a metal bell to attach to our card and asked to tie it in a loop around the string. A good push sent the bell and message down the string to the waiting hands of another Impact Staff member below who untied the message and gave it to a random sunbather on the pool deck. Smiles and laughs spread throughout the pool area.
At another station, questions were posted on glass window panels, and we were instructed to respond to any or all of them. “What are you grateful for?” and “What is your passion?” were two questions that I liked, as was “What is your favorite inspirational quote?” I chose to answer that one with, “Believing in your dreams can be far more rewarding than living by your limitations.” I previously wrote a blog post about the origin of that quote.
The final station was clever. We were photographed and given a Polaroid mini photo and asked to write our name and city on the picture. We then placed the photo (with a magnet attached to the back) on the huge map located on the metal wall of the pool deck. Mine joined several others from the state of Georgia where we live now. (Georgia ultimately won over my beloved home state of California where I instinctively went to place my photo.)
As the photos collected, it was interesting to see where other passengers were from. Many had traveled from faraway states and countries!
All of these details are to say this wasn’t shaping up to be your typical Caribbean party cruise!
During the following full day at sea, many workshops were offered to prepare us for upcoming Impact Travel activities. We were assigned to small “cohort” groups where we would meet with the same passengers and facilitator for two preparation workshops and one wrap-up session, and there were several optional workshops we could attend as well. For those who would be teaching English, there was an additional required session.
We were fortunate to have Colin as our “cohort” leader. A former professional football player with the Cincinatti Bengals, he didn’t look the stereotype of someone who deeply cared about other people and making a difference in the world. This environmentally conscious, Whole Foods-loving do-gooder had the looks of the Mr. Clean Man! He was hilarious, though, and I’m sure our cohort group laughed far more than any other.
The purpose of the “Getting to Know the Dominican Republic” workshop was to orient us to the customs and culture of the “the DR,” learn about its history, and build a community with our fellow travelers as we prepare for our on-ground impact experience.
The workshop entitled, “Being a Fathom Traveler” is described on Fathom’s website as, “Fathom Travel is about transformative experiences through connecting to locality and place with an open heart and mind. Being a Fathom Traveler sets you up with valuable insights, tools and knowledge that will help you get the most out of your experience.”
Colin’s final cohort workshop, “Fathom What’s Next,” will be detailed in a later post.
I also attended a couple of “Social Innovation” workshops that helped prepare us for our on-ground experience by learning skills for authentic interactions with others. These workshops were designed by Ashoka and Ashoka Fellows (www.ashoka.org), and they were quite interesting!
The ultimate goal of these workshops was to help us integrate the week’s experience into our lives going forward.
Coming up next:
CHOCAL: MAKING A DIFFERENCE AT THE WOMEN’S CHOCOLATE COOPERATIVE NURSERY