There was quite a bit of time in my life that I was Julie McCoy from The Love Boat, (minus the perfectly feathered hair). I used to try so hard but I could never get my hair to do that.
Right after college, I was going through some yuck. I was living with my parents and I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. After a chance meeting at a party, a brother of a friend told me that he worked on a cruise ship running kids programs and he could get me a fax number if I was interested. Yes, this was before email.
I sat there with that fax number in my hands for weeks.
I was excited by the prospect.
I was curious about the possibilities.
I was freaked out by the complete unknown.
Could a girl from a small town in Wisconsin, who had only seen a cruise ship on TV actually go work on one? Would I get seasick all the time? I mean I didn’t do so great in the backseats of cars, how could I walk, let alone work on a constantly moving vessel. Plus, the “balance issues” I have had my whole life that has left me on my ass in more places than I can count.
After about two months of hemming and hawing I finally sent in my resume having zero confidence that I would ever get a call back.
Well, I did and in less than two weeks I was on an airplane to one of the most fun and life-changing adventures of my life. The beginning was not easy and there was many, MANY times I lost my footing or made a complete idiot out of myself, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Working on a cruise ship is like nothing else on earth. Making decent money, traveling for free and living a pretty glamorous life is highly addicting. It seems like the dream job that everyone thinks it is. However, it is also completely weird. Your needs are always set aside for the passengers, you have wackadoo rules because you are on actually living on a naval vessel and OH the drama! Nothing creates more drama than a bunch of 20-somethings from around the world, who work and live together and are also consistently drunk and sleeping with each other. We made Jersey Shore look like whiney babies with bad hair. (And THIS was the 90s! Where bad hair was born!)
Besides making out with (mostly) great guys from around the world, I realized a few years ago when I started coaching singles that during the five years I worked on ships I learned a lot of great skills that have served me well in the dating world. They have become some of backbone of what I do with my clients. I shit you not. Who would’ve thunk it?
Just for you. Four things I learned from working on a cruise ship that have made me a better dater.
There was many times in my years on ships that “socializing” was part of my job. That meant for a full hour I would plaster on a pageant-worthy smile and walk around the ship talking to strangers. Most of the time in a formal dress and heels. The first couple of times I wondered who I had pissed off to have to reach this level of hell. I had never been shy, but walking up to strangers who aren’t necessarily wanting to talk to you, was mind-blowingly scary.
The first couple of times I had butterflies the whole time and felt slightly nauseated. But after a glass of champagne and some practice, it just wasn’t that hard. I realized with a couple of quality questions in my pocket and the ability to listen that people didn’t mind me coming up and talking to them. In fact, most of them liked it!
The best part was, once I got out of my head about it, I heard the most wonderful stories from people around the world. They had been through wars, epic romances and every great story ever told. This was the beginning of my story collecting and I have been doing it ever since.
Why this is great for dating: Though I loathed it with every fiber of my being at the beginning, developing this skill has served me in so many ways. It took out the fear of talking to anyone, no matter the circumstances. Whether it is in an airport, a martini bar or first date, I just sit back, collect stories and listen. Deciding later whether or not I want to go out on another date. It allows me to be present in the moment and let go of the expectations that make us nervous and a little weird anyways:)
2. You can do this
I remember walking around Puerto Rico. One of the first ports I got off at. I didn’t really have any friends yet and I needed to get to Walgreens to buy stuff that I didn’t bring with me. I had gotten some really questionable directions from a fellow crew member and just started walking the streets of Old San Juan to find it. I very quickly got lost and was winding through the streets knowing zero Spanish. I remember holding my bag tightly; almost wanting to cry and thinking over and over in my head “You can do this. You can do this. You can do this.”
I did finally find Walgreens and my way back to the ship, but what I really took away from that day and many other just like it, was the confidence that I could put myself in scary situations and safely get through it.
How this is great for dating: I don’t care how outgoing I am, sometimes I don’t feel like going to a party, event or meeting new people. Depending on the circumstance I can even get nervous. I have walked into many new places and events with a “you can do this” chant on replay in my head.
You know what? I can. So can you.
3. Smile and Hello
In the wacky world of working on ships we could actually be “written up” for poor workmanship or naughty behavior. This scary notion kept us mostly inline and where we were supposed to be passed curfew.
Yes, we were adults with a curfew. Dream job, right?
One of the things that was crammed down our throats we learned was that no matter where we were, we smiled and said hello to guests. Walking down the hallways or even washing our hands in the bathroom, we were expected to look at the person, put on a smile and say hello. Good days or bad. Hangover or not. When you were in passenger area that was not an option.
Sounds a little Stepford Wives, right?
How this is great for dating: I don’t care where I am, walking down the street or in line for coffee, even years later, I still instinctually smile and say hello. Sometimes people are caught off guard (because we have stopped doing this!?), but it has struck up some of the best conversations, made people smile and just overall helped me feel more connected to people. Something that can feel missing in this technology filled world.
Ever feel like you want a super easy way to be more approachable or just meet people? Put down that phone, smile and say hello. It is the number one easiest thing you can do TODAY to change your dating life. Seriously.
4. This too shall pass
There was a not-so-awesome moment on ships where I found myself pretty tipsy, in a floor length formal, being shouted at by a guy I had been making out with, in our officers bar. Honestly, young Kira made many shitty decisions and I am grown up enough to admit pretty much deserved it. It was very upsetting at the time and when I ran to my cabin crying and a bit heartbroken, I swore I was done with men for good.
If I had a quarter for every time I said I was done with men in my 20s and early 30s we would all be going on vacation! Santorini, anyone?
As I mentioned before, the drama ran deep on ships and I put myself in the middle of it many, many times. Each time, feeling devastated and not sure how I was going to get through it. This time, my life was surely going to end.
But it didn’t.
I always made it through. A little battered, but stronger (and we only hope smarter), from the experience.
How this is great for dating: There have been times where I thought I was done. At the end. So heartbroken I couldn’t go on. The thought of trying again made me want to puke. However, I made it through.
We can get into the mindset that there is only one person for us and if it doesn’t work out there are no other options. There are always options and when you give yourself some time to heal, you can start seeing the options open up in front of you.