If you really want to travel and see the world, do it! The classic excuse like: I don’t have enough money to do it is just a lie to yourself. Let me introduce you to my new friend Thofan Meninao, I know him from Backpacker Dunia group and finally had a chance to meet him at a Backpacker Dunia gathering in this January. I guessed that he is a nice guy before I met him, and apparently I am not wrong! He is the kind of person who always-put-a-smile-on-your-face, is cheerful and a very friendly guy (I can say that all the people at Backpacker Dunia – meet the founder here – are mostly friendly).
Thofan worked on a cruise ship for five years and he managed to travel around. He saw the mighty Glacier Bay in Alaska and even visited the famous (and expensive) Bora-bora. Isn’t it so great? He got to see the world (almost for free) and even was paid to do it. Curious about it? Spare some time to check out my interview with Thofan below. He also published his first book: “Traveler@sea: Kontrak Pertama di Kapal Pesiar” on February 15, 2013 independently. You can contact him directly to get the book (Book in Indonesian language) through twitter @meninaoville or @traveleratsea. In the book he talks about his experience working on a cruise ship.
1. How did it all started? Did you ever think that you would work on a cruise ship?
It all started with a dream to go overseas. I get an advice from a friend of mine to work in a cruise ship in order to achieve my dream. Right after that I always search information about working in a cruise ship.
2. How many cruise ships did you work on over those five years? Oh, did you work for the same Cruising company for the entire five years?
I worked for the same cruising company for 5 years, in 4 contracts. One contract period is minimum 10 months with a ship that could probably have different itineraries. It all depends on which cruise ship that needed crew. I always asked for longer holiday in Indonesia, so I can be relax and free.
3. Can you swim? Is it scary to be (most of the time) at sea for so long (well.. I just remember Titanic and the Poseidon movie)?
If you are talking about swimming in a swimming pool, for 100 metres distance, yes I can. Swim in the ocean with all the currents? Forget it! Though I am not that good in swimming (and easily to get panic), but I love the ocean very much. I was struggling to get my open water dive license so that I can enjoy and taste the beauty of Indonesian underwater world..
4. What were you doing on the cruise ship? Is it a hard job to do?
I guess where ever you work or what ever you are, there always be unpleasant part isn’t it? We called it the journey of life, there is up and down and being too emotional and etc. My job is at the restaurant handling for services, to be honest it is kind of job that drain the power of my emotion and mind a lot.
5. Were there lots of people from different nationalities working on the cruise ships?
Most of the crew on board are Indonesian, other than that the majority of the crew are Philippines, Indian, American, Dutch, British, Bosnia, Serbia, Ukraine, Australian.. ah probably come from all over the world.
6. Were there lots of power games between the crew? Like people from different nationalities bossing each other around? Were there lots of Indonesians working on the cruise ships you were on?
There are always annoying people wherever we live, including in our work environment. We can’t really generalize from the nationality, a boss who comes from my own country, Indonesia, sometimes are far worse than others. Those people has been blind by power, become the slave of property, money, etc. A cruise ship, although it is posh and grandiose, there applied the jungle law: who is strong or have more power, he who wins.
7. What language did you work in all of the time? Was it English?
We are required to speak English in public places, due to direct contact with English-speaking guests. But beyond that, we always speak Indonesian with each other (Indonesian crew).
8. What was the coolest thing about working on a cruise ship?
Can see the world. My dream comes true! 🙂
9. Did you ever have a bad experience while working on a cruise ship? How did you deal with it?
I got too many bad experiences. Hahaha… Especially at the beginning when I was totally such an idealistic person. The best way to deal with it is by find the core problem. Other than that, just ignore it… the less I know the better I’ll be. On a cruise ship you do not need jump in to other people business or doing silly things by get involved other people problems.
10. What was the schedule like working on a cruise ship? Was it shift work (24 hours)? How many days did you get off a week/ month?
I was contracted to work at least 10 months without a holiday. The working hours in the contract is 11 hours per day and overtime should be calculated, but in fact it is often forgotten and ignored by the management. I’m still pretty lucky though, I always had a good boss so I work pretty relaxed during the 4 contracts. Sometimes, there are up to 13-15 hours a day but it was not a problem… I loved it!
11. Where did travel while you were working on a cruise ship?
Do you mean places that I ever visited, right? Hahahaha .. allow me to be a little bit arrogant, for a cruise ship crew who likes to travel, you should reverse the question. Where are places that you haven’t visited yet? : p hahaha.. Joking! There are so many places that I’ve been traveling yet, but I’ve set my foot on every continent and sailed all oceans including Antarctica and the North Pole.
12. What was your best travel experience?
I like to travel with any kind of ways as long it is fun. On the cruise ship, though very hectic, but eventually I could manipulate it and travel here and there in between. The feeling of being able to visit the world tourist attractions with very limited time and when people laugh at those possibilities, it is priceless. I love to enjoy the sights. I also enjoy backpacking and interacting with local people. Learn about their culture and customs of their daily lives, exchange ideas and experiences with other travelers in the whole world, so much fun!
13. I read that you said “Trust no one!” when you are working in a cruise ship! Why did you say this? Do you have any tips for a person who has just started their contract working on a cruise ship so they can work comfortably?
Hahaha.. I can say that you can find more answer in my indie book “Traveler @Sea”. That book is like a sort of journal of my trip dedicated to all my friends who want to know the conditions of the work on a cruise ship. It can be a consideration and inspiration as well for those who are interested in working for a cruise ship. You can be more prepared to deal with the new world there. Another term of a cruise ship is prison on the sea. And since you are in jail, rule number one is trust no one …;)
14. Do you have any tips or tricks to share with other Indonesians that want to work abroad like you did?
My tips would be you should really mentally well prepared to work in a cruise ship. Work on a cruise ship sometimes like a mental torture because you will be dealing with a lot of people with various background of life for a long time/ a while. Not forget to mention that you will be away with your family and your home. Must have a lot of sincere with all the possibilities that might happen during your work…
15. Do you mind to share life lessons you gained from working as part of the crew on a cruise ship?
The lesson of life is to realize and try your best to make your dream come true! I believe in the power of the mind. Where there is a will there is a way. My life journey on a cruise ship started from a dream of travel the world. Get out from your comfort zone and life like a bamboo tree. When the storm hits, the bamboo tree never against it. Instead the bamboo tree danced with it, with the strong wind. That made a bamboo tree able to standing still strong and not easily to be broken..
Like Thofan said in his Traveler@sea Facebook page; where there is a will there is a way. If you really want to see the world then do something to achieve it. There are so many ways to do it, either by getting a scholarship overseas, work and savings your money or working abroad like Thofan and a bit that I’ve been shared before; working as an Au pair and become a Stewardess.
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. – Lao Tzu.
So, what are you waiting for? 😉