The duties of everyday life and family relationships can leave my attention thin at times for individual time with my kids even as a full-time RV traveler. My friend contacted me about a Fathom cruise heading to the Dominican Republic she was booked on which focused on impact travel – travel with a purpose that transforms lives. The invitation from Fathom Travel to spend a week away from life’s demands would be a space where my teenage daughter Grace and I could strengthen our relationship while making a difference.
Fathom – a unit equal to six feet used to measure the depth of water. The measurement was originally based on the distance between a man’s outstretched arms.
To fathom is to contemplate.
Fathom Travel is about going beneath the surface with arms outstretched and creating meaningful change as a traveler.
After being welcomed aboard and unloading our luggage in our room we followed the music to the pool area. We found a spot on the upper deck to sip drinks and wave goodbye to the beachgoers soaking in the sun of South Miami. The breeze tousled my hair as I breathed in the sea. There I was setting sail with my daughter of fourteen, our first adventure together. A brief moment in my time with her to show her how I view the world with wonder. A moment to share in the lives of another culture and to see beneath the differences of food, dress, or homes, that we are really all the same in our essence.
The staff gathered in lines before the stage announcing their very own dance, the Fathom Shuffle. A few rounds and passengers were invited to join in. Why not, Grace and I thought, we came to have fun. Grace and I took our place in the dance area and together invited the week to begin with silly steps and open arms.
The first morning I woke with the whisper of sun beams through cracks in the shades. I felt tempted to open them wide and sit in the cubby area of my ocean view room. The bed shifted and my daughter rolled over reminding me of her teen sleep schedule. I grabbed a notepad and circled the 9:30am Cohort Group optional activity of “Being a Fathom Traveler” so she knew where to find me.
Setting my coffee on the table I found my seat in the Crow’s Nest. It was my first introduction to my small group that I would choose to meet with a total of three times during the week. We would learn about the people and history of the Dominican Republic. We would learn about alongsideness and empathy. We would reflect on how our volunteering impacted the communities we served. The result of our sharing with the group also created our own community on the boat. It was not unusual to know the person you shared eye contact with in the elevator.
Besides the Cohort Groups, some of the other classes offered throughout the week were on self-care, self-discovery, storytelling, and making a change. There were Spanish classes, fitness classes, painting, dance lessons, game nights, book club, and scavenger hunts to name some of the other opportunities. Every class we attended we met someone new with an openness to share.
Outside deck of the Conservatory Buffet. This is where I spent my first waking moments of the day.
In the beginning of the week Grace and I experienced our Fathom cruise ship, the Adonia, together. We took in meals at the Conservatory Buffet throughout the day. Of course, there was always food available!
One evening we slipped on our fancy dresses and sipped mocktails/cocktails together on our special night at the Ocean Grille. For an extra $25 per person we tasted the spices and cuisine of the Dominican Republic. I desired the chocolate mousse desert to be bottomless after my first spoonful. The chocolate served was made by the Women’s Chocolate Cooperative with the volunteer efforts of Adonia travelers, an example of the relationship created between the Dominican Republic and Fathom Travel.
Treated like royalty our chairs were tucked in and napkins laid upon our lap. Clinking glasses I felt our spirits reveling in our evening.
As the week went on, Grace spent more and more time with a group of friends she met on the ship. They played board games in the library, went on scavenger hunts, enjoyed late night swims in the pool, and asked for their own table at the Pacific Restaurant. The staff treated them with the utmost respect – helping the girls navigate new and complicated social interactions. The staff brought them Ginger Ales during sailing days, and shared smiles from the reception desk.
On Bandioke night, Grace’s shyness was replaced by confidence to request a song for her and I to sing. Soon I was confessing to her that after a failed karoake attempt years ago I had never had the courage to pick up the mic again. I didn’t want to face that fear, and yet here was my daughter exploding out of her chrysalis. It was a moment I could let her lead. And with sweaty palms, we stood side by side encouraging one another to be free. I will never forget looking over at my daughter’s smile illuminated by the heat of the lights as we sang “when I saw her standing there.” With clapping from the audience and a cue from the live band behind us, we bowed in unison at our accomplishment.
On Wednesday, we woke at 6am to prepare for our impact excursion of Concrete Floors in Community Homes. I admired Grace’s determination to wake as she only had small doses of sleep. I was exhausted from planting trees in the reforestation project the day before, but excitement to be working in a local community was fuel to rise.
The day before I planted Cedar trees in the rain forest to help with erosion and provide shade for animals and fruit trees.
Melissa works for the IDDI organization which provides socioeconomic change in the Dominican Republic by helping individuals, families, and communities. Fathom chose to work with organizations that had already been established. Travelers provide extra hands until local organizations can build to the point of providing full time job positions for the local community.
A fellow traveler, Lisa, holds a Cedar tree while in the background stakes are brought up the mountain to mark measurements of newly pick axed holes. After planting, the plastic bag is left on the stake to indicate the presence of a tree.
This was my first time working in a third world country and seeing the reality and beauty of the people who lived there. It was an honor to be working alongside my daughter as we hauled pails of cement into the family’s home. In the homes they can only drink bottled water because of the contamination, the toilet leads to a hole in the ground, and the health of a family is jeopardized by a dirt floor which cultivates bad bacteria.
Mentored by a local mason, Grace has the opportunity to trowel the new cement floor. The family has chosen the floor colors.
Watch Our Fathom Cruise Impact Travel Week
(P.S. Grace made this.)
Ten Reasons to Bring Your Kids on a Fathom Cruise:
- The Adonia is a Fathom cruise ship which offers a safe space for young adults to engage in learning opportunities, fun activities, and areas to meet new friends.
- The staff treats children with respect and listens to their concerns while providing kids activities and food menus.
- Spend time away from the outside pressures of life to have fun and talk with your child. The trip creates a neutral space to have dialogue about a new shared experience and opens up communication.
- Show your child that your words “you are special to me” has meaning by carving out a week to spend with them away from work, emails, and social media.
- Provide an opportunity for your child to see another perspective of the world and the people in it.
- Educate your child on the culture, history, people of the Dominican Republic and third world countries through hands-on activities.
- Provide your child an opportunity for leadership as they teach English while learning some Spanish.
- Create your own story together of fun and adventure through impact activities, events onboard, or island excursions.
- Show your child how they can impact the world and make a change through engaging in a variety of impact activities.
- Empower your child to embrace who they are through creating meaningful change today.
Having the opportunity to show my daughter another reality of living was a gift as a parent. No amount of schooling, reading, or YouTube videos could provide the depth of the experience we were enveloped in. The moment changed something in us both, and was an adventure that strengthened our relationship as a mother and a daughter.