Respond briefly to the idea that opening our heart to someone outside our comfort zone can be a real catalyst for personal growth and awakening. Base this on your own experience.

Everyone feels the need to escape or to relax, these needs are nonspecific to a particular type of person, combined with the lack of destination that could provide travelers with grouping distinctions makes for a very mixed atmosphere of people. Last year I embarked on an island cruise with three friends. I have always hoped to be opened to everyone I encounter. As a result I have met many new people, of varied; ages, social circles, cultures and religions. There is no greater melting pot than a cruise ship.
My friends, who I have known for much of my life, were as used to seeing me as I was them, over extended periods of time for many years. However cabin fever struck three days in, living literally on top of each other I slowly felt a little claustrophobic toward my friends. At this point I decided I needed to meet others and I quickly became more open to the people around me. Now people on cruises are both generally and genuinely friendly, which meant that you wouldn’t be able to get onto an elevator or sit on a deck chair or a bar stool without receiving friendly greetings from other travelers or staff. This made for easy beginnings to conversations with people you definitely didn’t know. Over twelve days of interaction I learnt many things about others on the boat. Specific examples include our head waiter, a girl close to my age who was travelling with a larger group of family and friends with their parents in tow and one of my friend’s great aunt and uncle.
Our waiter was currently serving out a successive contract with the boat we were dining on, as each cruise contract locked an employee down for a certain amount of months. He was working to support his family back home and was looking forward to seeing them again. The waiter was incredibly friendly and open, sharing many personal details with my table of six. By the end of the cruise however he knew each of our names as well as small details about ourselves that we had shared in return. From our waiter I had learned to listen to others more intently, to pay attention and respond in kind when they were willing to listen to me.
The girl I met, purposefully on one of the nights the cruise held a night party on deck. I had personally made it my mission to involve everyone in celebrations. Instead of bumping uselessly and deliberately ignoring strangers on the dance floor, I would introduce myself, including them in a larger circle. Thanks to everyone’s willingness, by then end of that night groups were no longer segregated and those brave enough would show off their moves in the middle of a giant circle made up of everyone who was on deck. The girl was part of a larger group that I had met that night and she called out to me the next morning; I was getting my breakfast from the buffet when they invited me to sit with them. From that moment on, even if I did struggle with remembering all their names for some time, we became good friends. A person I had never met before would suddenly be comfortable sitting opposite me in a comfortable silence, or showing me how to play a new card game or happily doing a group shots, which I had shouted on account of her 21st birthday. Stepping out of my comfort zone I had met this great person among many other equally great people and made a new friend. To me it was an awakening to the friendliness of others, who had surprised me with their willingness to participate in something fun and joyous. The party got bigger and incredibly more enjoyable as more people were added into the mix, something I never would’ve thought about if I had just stuck to enjoying myself with just my close friends.
The third example is in the form of my friend’s Great Aunt and Great Uncle. During dinner they would often regale us with stories from their youth, or give us advice gained from their past cruising experiences or more generally sharing wisdom from their life experiences. Her Great Aunt was marvelous, often cheekily asking use if anyone handsome had caught our eye that day or inquiring into how our island visits were. I had a healthy respect for both elders, growing used to their kindness and the sense that they had become like surrogate family for those twelve days. I saw them a couple of months later and both showed equal amounts of kindness despite the time created distance that had separated us. Both similarly interested in what each of us girls had done in the months since the cruise, whilst responding with their own adventures and plans of future cruises. To feel so familiar with someone else’s family is outside of any regular person’s comfort zone and yet I have learnt to appreciate the little things I have experience every day in hopes that I too one day can share the wisdom of my experiences with other as my friend’s Great Aunt and Uncle had so generously supplied.

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