Luxury Cruising in the Wake of Refugees
At home in the States I help displaced immigrants start anew. But it took a Mediterranean sojourn through the very waters where thousands risk their lives before I realized just how desensitized the rest of us are.
Illustration by Janny Ji
Our bags were already on board, along with my in-laws. Someone in a cheesy naval outfit had whisked them all away as soon as we arrived at the cruise terminal in Barcelona. I’d insisted on bringing my backpack, not a roller suitcase, because I’m a backpacker at heart, skeptical and resistant to this other side of travel. The luxury of cruises makes me a little queasy, but that day in October I had an entirely different and less travel-snobby reason for my queasiness: Much of our Mediterranean itinerary would follow the same route as the mass migration of Syrian refugees. Our floating hotel would slice effortlessly through the same choppy waters as inflatable smuggler rafts. We could even literally cross paths, two very different ships in the night.
Back home, in my non-traveling life, I work at a nonprofit that helps newly-resettled refugees rebuild their lives. Every day I see single mothers, from Burma or Congo or Iraq, being trained to open daycare businesses…
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