My semester at sea: first stop in Hawaii

Martha Bawn/Courtesy

This semester, I am traveling aboard a small cruise ship, the MV Explorer, to 13 different countries around the world with the Semester at Sea study abroad program. Including my flight back from London, I will travel completely around the globe. And I’m doing it with more than 500 other students from all over the country and the world, taking a full course load as we go.

The MV Explorer

The MV Explorer

It only took six-and-a-half days, but the ship finally made it from San Diego to Hilo, Hawaii, on the morning of Jan. 17. We only had one day there, so there was no way we could see everything. I went with a couple friends to rent bikes from a local hostel, and we biked around the city, stopping at beautiful black-sand beaches. We also stopped to taste exotic fruit at the local farmers market. It was a nice combination of the laid-back atmosphere that I associate with Hawaii, without the overbearing crowds of tourists that you might expect. The locals in Hilo were some of the friendliest people I’ve met while traveling, and everybody has interesting stories to tell.

Flowers at the farmers market

In the afternoon, I went on an organized trip into Volcanoes National Park. We got to see beautiful jungles and wild orchids, right alongside a huge crater that had filled with lava only recently (in geological terms). At the end of the day, we hiked about two miles along the top of the crater to an overlook, where we watched the sunset over the top of Mount Kilauea, the most active volcano in the world. As it got dark, the steam coming out of the crater started to glow bright red from the lava. I was sad to leave when we had to get back to the ship. I had never seen real jungle like that before, and seeing the contrast with the completely barren, almost extraterrestrial wasteland of the volcanic areas was amazing.

Halemaumau crater

Halemaumau crater

Even though life on the ship is wonderful and relaxing, I’m hoping the 11-day crossing to Japan goes by fast. When you have virtually no Internet access, the same bland food every day and hours of free time, the time can pass pretty slowly. Luckily, we’re all in the same boat (pun intended), and we can put all of our time into making new friendships and getting the most out of our once-in-a-lifetime adventure.