On Saturday, a Semester at Sea student died in a boating accident in Dominica. Her name was Casey and she was, from what I’ve read and seen, a beautiful, smart, and curious person. And aside from being one of us, and by one of us, I mean, a member of the expansive, tightly knit, deeply personal family that is Semester at Sea, she was one of us – she was a traveler.
And my heart breaks, it breaks to think about all on that ship right now mourning their friend (for there is no truer friend than the travel partner). And my heart it breaks, it breaks to think about her family who will not be welcoming her return home in Florida on Friday (for Friday is the last day of the Semester, that is how close she was to the end). And my heart breaks, it breaks to think about how they will think, forever until the end of time, that she should not have gone on that trip. That she should not have traveled. That she should have stayed at home. I know they will think this because their daughter, their sister, their friend was lost to the world.
I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t consider the possibility of my own death each and every time I embark on a new trip, because the danger is inherent. But what I hadn’t considered before was the people we leave behind. “This is just something I’ve got to do,” we tell them. And sometimes they don’t understand. And then we go to places. We go to Mexico even though the news says “No! Don’t do it! There is a drug battle and you will be on the losing end of it all!” And we go to Vietnam even though our mothers say “I just can’t imagine why you’d want to. That is a place we tried to avoid, not tried to visit.” And we go to Turkey, even though our neighbors say “But the proximity to Iraq!” And we go to Paris, even though our grandmothers ask us “Have you seen the movie Taken?” We go, because it is while we travel that we feel the most alive.
It is while we travel that we feel the most alive, we travelers on this Earth of ours. It might kill us to go, but it would definitely kill us to stay, a slow death of the soul. I could argue that our travels open us up to not only the life to which we were born, but a thousand other lives, a thousand other possibilities. This is what drives us. This is why we go.
To the people we leave behind, I wish to say, thank you for letting us go. Please do not regret letting us go, even if your loss of us is more permanent than temporary. We know the world is dangerous, but we go anyway. We go because the world is worth it. We go because we must. We travel; we are travelers. We love you, but we will go anyway.
Rest peacefully, Casey.