From joining the Navy three years ago, I've always heard people coming in for travel. It may not be the motivating reason, but it's a mention for the many benefits provided. If one were to join for the sake of travel, we must ask ourselves a few questions.
Do you value your freedom?
Maybe you're different here, and don't. That's okay. But for those that do, this is a crucial look in determining how we wish to travel.
A sacrifice of opportunity. In the Navy, you're restricted to time slots. From when you may leave, and when you have to come back, everything is set in stone. This meant denying our liberty in foreign ports early in the mornings, never catching glimpse of the sunrise nor the underlying rustle of the community. A late start, everyday.
There is no remedy towards overcoming this rigid system, so one must in obligation, commit to the framework and make the best of what's available to you.
For the return, depending on your rank, it went from between 2100 to 0100 the next day. Staying beyond your time means suspension of liberty, and therefore must be followed. What would be the point of joining when unable to travel?
You're expected to be a sailor off the ship, too. Meaning that, an orderly appearance is to be maintained (preferably through the Navy's guidelines), limiting your clothing options and therefore expression. No white shirts or sandles for starters, but as a representation of our country and ship, we're overshadowed by more rules that distract us from the heart of traveling.
Suppressed to Convention
If one is allowed overnight liberty, you're forced to check into hotels and modern conveniences rather than alternative stays; no couchsurfing, airbnb, or camping. Having to check in at your hotel and call back by a certain time, we are void of our personal time. Unable to disembark from the Navy, it follows you everywhere.
On a leash
Cornered into certain areas by strict adherence to marked locations that are off limits, adventure is ran thin. You can only go so far, and in having to return on time, one's plans get altered for the Navy's agenda. With short supply of time, and pushed in their directions, you lose out on choice and freedom of will.
Is slow or fast travel important to you?
If you picked slow travel, you've hit a dead end. There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The Navy is fast travel.
Most post visits were roughly four days. With one of the days being a duty day-having to stay and work on the ship-you're left with three days for each destination. Now to imagine how this feels on your arrival, imagine the vastness of the United States. Is it possible to see it all in three days? Heavens no.
But that's precisely what the Navy sets you up for. You arrive with nothing, pale, and exhausted from months out to sea. And you have three days to see it all. Good luck.
A race against the clock
You're rushing to reach destinations before dusk. Getting off the ship takes time, standing in hour long waits to get on the next bus off the base, and to the next means of transport. Its go, go, go.
Skimping out on meals, sleep deprived, and the wind in your steaming ahead pull you away from true experience of traveling. Everything becomes a task to get done, losing its vitality and energy we so desire to connect with.
Where do you want to travel?
The Navy has big plans, and they have little to do with one humble sailor. While everyone has a wish list, you're not guaranteed anything. You could get stuck on a ship that will never hit a port or region you'd like to visit. And you're done for.
Is 4 to 5 years of your life in service worth the cost to travel?
For one, you lose out on your health. There is no fixing this once taken. Hearing loss from needle gunning, jets coming and going, incessant bells at every half hour, vehicle exhaust, knee pain from ladderwells, back pain from worn down mattresses, the list goes on.
What you're paying with is not money, but your life force. Something of invaluable proportions. Nothing could compare to the cost we must pay, and for the amount of time we get to travel, you're not traveling at all. It's Navy time, all the time.
Do you prefer traveling solo or by group?
There is no solo travel in the Navy.
The buddy system
You're enslaved to liberty buddies. You can't venture out alone, and must be kept hand in hand with your buddy from departure to return on the ship. This is all great and dandy when you're with your best friends, but when you differ in work schedule, we can't always go with whom we most desire.
A majority of sailors go out into town and drink their life away. If you're not down for that, there's no way you may separate from each other, and must suck it up, sacrificing your own travel time. That, or convincing them otherwise.
Liberty and travel become a time to push and pull on our social abilities, and not on the pursuit of the destination itself. You're stuck with co-workers months out to sea, only to remain on land together. Staying with co-workers in a novel place is adjusting to comfort and not living fully on the edge.
But you can't rid yourself of them! On a carrier of over 5000 people, you bring a floating city into the clash of another. The locals pick up on this, and spot you out. You're just another sailor, and whatever impression was set before you is returned. This can make it difficult to integrate when the collective breaks your experience.