(This is the first in a series of posts about my Share the Adventure cruise with Holland America Line and O, The Oprah Magazine. Disclosures:  1) I was not asked to write about the cruise, but so many amazing things happened on this trip I must tell you about them. 2) I paid for this cruise myself. However, the cocktail dress and jewelry you’ll see me wearing in the photos below is sponsored by Chico’s.)

Year of Adventure

Sometimes we have to travel a bit first on the inside to explore the thoughts, secrets and beliefs we’ve been holding. Once we have a map to them, we’re better prepared to chart new territories and open ourselves up to new experiences. I’m not typically one who says Sure, I’ll book a cruise – by myself – room with someone I’ve never met before and hang out with nine other strangers for a week.

But when Oprah declared 2017 her year of adventure, I wanted in on that, too. I applied to become an O, The Oprah Magazine Insider in February and got the news in March I was one of just 50 people selected nationwide! So when I heard about the cruise to Alaska in July, I said yes. I will continue to say yes to anything the O team asks me to do, although I might draw the line at tattoos and body piercings. 🙂 Other than that, bring it on.

Meeting My Roommate

Prior to even discussing the cruise, I had placed the O-shaped cabin window image from O magazine on my vision board.  As a handful of the Insiders were deciding whether we could go on the cruise,  Chris and I kept talking about manifesting it and making it happen.  I put my feelers out for some freelance writing and editing gigs to help fund my cruise, and it worked. I also got two refund checks in the mail from my health insurance company (an insurance company refunding?!), which also helped fund the cruise.

Chris and I got to know each other via social media before we met at the dock in Seattle. Once I found her at the pier, I knew I didn’t have to worry about rooming with her. She is pure, unadulterated joy.

Chris Lowe PowerHoopz

Chris, my beautiful, joyful roommate for the Alaskan cruise with Holland America and O, The Oprah Magazine

As someone with hyperhidrosis, a slew of random thoughts had been running through my head about being her roommate:

  • What if the room didn’t have carpet? Would I leave a trail of sweaty footprints?
  • What if Chris liked the room temperature hotter than I did? Would I be a sweaty mess?
  • How am I supposed to get ready in front of her when I constantly have to stop to wipe off my sweaty hands amidst blow drying my hair and doing my makeup?

Thankfully, Chris asked me some questions ahead of time because she took the time to understand my condition. I am grateful for this. Chris is from Florida, so we solved the problem of room temperature a couple of ways: I turned the thermostat down just when we were getting ready so I wouldn’t sweat as much, and I wore summer pajamas to bed. Meanwhile, she wore a sweatshirt and pants to bed. Wuss. 😉

OMagInsiders Cruise to Alaska with Holland America Line

OMagInsiders meeting for the first time on our Alaskan cruise with O, The Oprah Magazine and Holland America. (L to R: Me (Maria), Shelley, Chris, Amy, Allison, Tonya, Sarah, Lisa; Megan and Christine in front row)

Chico’s Cocktail Party

Since it was our first night on board, Chico’s hosted a cocktail party so that we could meet and mingle with some of our fellow cruisers. As Chris and I were walking down the hall on the way to the party, her shoe broke! There was no way she could keep walking on it, so we returned to our room where she MacGyvered a solution – hula hoop tape!

I said to Chris, “Hurry up! You’re going to make me late for the most important night of my life!” I started to freak out because being late makes me sweat, and I didn’t want to arrive with sweaty hands as my first impression when meeting all these new people. But before I could go into full freak out mode, Chris had me laughing so hard it didn’t matter anymore. She taught me that you always have a choice in the energy you bring to a space, and this first night on board is one of just many examples where she helped me be a better version of myself and place my hyperhidrosis on the back seat.

Chris Lowe PowerHoopz

Broken shoe? Just fix it with hula hoop tape!

I got a chance to meet the O Magazine team, including Editor at Large and Oprah’s BFF Gayle King. Gayle was very busy talking to everyone, and she carried a notepad during the entire cruise to interview people . She got some really great stories that she later shared on stage.

I came prepared with two handwritten cards – one for her and one for Oprah, as I didn’t think I’d be able to meet Oprah since her schedule was completely booked for the days she was on board. When I got my turn to meet Gayle, she said she couldn’t accept anything but to give the cards to her assistant, Joseph. I found Joseph, and he graciously placed my cards in his backpack. I’m hoping Gayle and Oprah received the cards and were able to read them. They contained my Denver Woman’s Press Club winning essay, a way for them to get to know me as a writer and one of their OMagInsiders, plus a thank you message for all of the work they’ve done to help me shape myself as a woman.

Maria Thomas and Gayle King

Waiting patiently for my turn with Gayle King,
handwritten cards in hand.

Put Down What You Carry

Poet Mark Nepo says,

We must put down what we carry in order to let more of ourselves enter.

I’m so glad I left my baggage on the curb that day to board that ship. Stay tuned for more stories about the O-mazing experiences I had on this cruise. I’m still astounded by what happened. This cruise allowed me to chart new territories and explore just how far I can go despite my hyperhidrosis.

Oprah journal My Life as a Puddle

My new Oprah journal that was waiting for me on my bed at the end of the first night on board.