A science teacher at a boys’ private school in New York City, Janet Lien has studied and taught about glaciers and Alaskan wildlife. But she wanted to see the real thing in person.
“It’s a lot different to see it for yourself than it is to read about it in a book,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska… I have never spoken to anyone who has ever been here and didn’t like it.”
Deciding that a small ship would provide the best experience for her, Janet did some research and chose the Wilderness Explorer from InnerSea Discoveries. Although some of her friends were interested in taking the cruise with her, problems with their scheduling and finances soon made that unlikely.
“My friends couldn’t get off work or didn’t have the money,” she said. “I quickly saw that if I wanted to go, I was going to have to go by myself.”
Born in Singapore and an avid traveler, Janet is accustomed to seeing the world by herself. Although she enjoys being with friends, Janet said she also likes the chance to be alone as a solo traveler.
“I like a little solitude, the chance to be reflective,” she said. “The cost is much more to have a cabin by myself but I decided to do it anyway.”
And she’s glad she did. A stranger when she walked on the ship, Janet quickly made friends. “I thought I would find like-minded people on a small ship,” she said. “The other passengers and the crew are very friendly.”
With a wealth of outdoor activities to choose from, Janet decided she wanted to try them all. “This is the perfect place to do that,” she said. “If you’re not going to try them when you have a chance, you might as well be sitting at home.”
Learning how to stand-up paddleboard and kayak were her favorites, Janet said. “I had done kayaking before but this was bonafide sea kayaking.”
Today’s challenge? Snorkeling. “I never thought of snorkeling in Alaska but I think it will be great.”
Seeing the ship almost surrounded by whales was an unexpected gift, Janet added. “I’ve seen whales before but nothing like this,” she said. “They were so close and you could see how huge they are and how small we are. It was very humbling.”
Calling the cruise “the jewel in the crown of my summer,” Janet said she will return home with an even greater appreciation for the connection shared by the environment and the living beings that inhabit the world.
She also will be able to share first-hand photos and stories with her students. “I teach a unit on glaciers and now I will be able to show the boys my real photos which mean so much more than stock photos,” she said. “The boys get really animated when we talk about wildlife so I know they are going to be so excited to see all the whales and other animals that we saw on this cruise.”
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch