The author at the recent Telling Stories, Creating Connections storytelling workshop organized by Seafarer Asia. 

Mess halls and coffee breaks on board amuse me. One afternoon, while sipping my 3 o’clock brew, our chief officer happily shared that his daughter finally made it to a medical school in Australia. I had heard a lot about her and her sister; how they brought their father out of the country and how he enjoyed picking apples in the Land Down Under. The mess hall is also where we used to watch videos of our shower parties, laughing at every beer belly we see on screen. Seeing ourselves getting soaked in seawater, holding ice-cold beers and sticks of pork barbeque–we relive the fun that we never get on a day-to-day basis.

The mess hall Is not only for holding meals and gatherings. Its four walls hold something more special–the stories told by every seaman who has shared part of his life.

Stories are part of our daily lives. It’s as old as humanity. It has evolved to different forms: from the drawings on the caves to the dawn of printing press and film; from the shaman passing on legends from his ancestors to the posts we see on our news feeds, stories never leave us. And if you ask me if I have met great storytellers, I did – the seafarers. In a room of experienced sailors, dead air doesn’t exist.

But how do we take advantage of the stories we create as we sail? How do we share them effectively? What are the different platforms we could use? Here are some ways to share our stories on board:

Journaling

One of our misconceptions in telling a story is that we need other people to listen to it. Onboard, we may not get a lot of that. So why don’t we take advantage of the solitude and tell amazing stories to ourselves?

Journaling may come in different forms: straightforward, art, list, scrapbook, photos, and whatnot. But whatever it may be, it’s helpful. It makes us express ourselves and celebrate life. It helps us understand our emotions and track how we feel. For example, a graphic journal which has different emotions assigned to every color. Every day, we plot how we feel by putting a color in a box and at the end of the month, we may see what emotions we mostly had. It’s a great way to gain deeper understanding of ourselves.

Keeping a journal exercises our creativity, too. The act of pouring out our art and emotions on a sheet of paper can also be a gateway for ideas. As we journal, as our brain is drawn to work, we may find answers to the problems we have for the next day or so.

Journaling helps us remember. It’s because our brain recalls better when we write. So, let’s get a pen and write a few lines of what made us happy today or what are we grateful for. In that way, we may never forget the bliss of life.

Journaling can be therapeutic, relieving stress, providing a way to make sense of what’s happening in our world. 

One Creative Journaling participant shares what he created in the workshop. 

Digital Storytelling

We may not notice it, but the things we usually enjoy daily–watching vlogs, reading posts, sharing ‘Stories’ and ‘My Days’ – all these are forms of storytelling, only digital.

There are 72 million Filipinos are on social media, so digital storytelling becomes convenient and it has the widest range. From Facebook which features pseudo-blogging, to Twitter which tells stories through hashtags, to Instagram which houses our hero shots, and YouTube which is a platform for vlogs, telling, hearing, and sharing stories is at our fingertips.

So when we are out there on the open sea or in foreign countries, we can instantly type a sentence about how peaceful it is to be in New Zealand, use a hashtag which says #ImInNewYork, capture a picture of a taco in Mexico, or upload a short clip while we chill in Spain, and our stories are already shared.

Reaching our audiences is already that easy.

Mil Matienzo talks about the best practices for creating content for your blogs and vlogs. 

Mobile Photography

Another tool for effective storytelling is the use of images. “A picture is worth a thousand words” they say.

Seafaring generously brings us wonderful places. And what better way to keep memories than to capture it with a mobile camera?

Photographer Chase Jarvis wrote a book entitled The Best Camera Is the One with You. And that rings true for this generation where smartphones dominate. As we go around the world, let us capture stories of a sunrise in Japan, or a Mardi Gras in Colombia, just by snapping a picture on our phones.

So compose a good photo and take a shot. Then, you may want to enhance the pictures through handy photo-editing applications such as Lightroom, Snapseed, VSCO among others. Curate the best ones and go ahead and post it on social media. That way, our family, friends, and followers can see the stories captured by our tiny lenses. Both stories and storytelling tool fit inside our pockets. Amazing!

Sometimes, to capture the perfect image to tell your story, you need to get down and dirty. 

We all loved bedtime stories when we were kids. We still do, we still love stories. As we circumnavigate the world, let us not forget to appreciate the moments we create, and the ones we witness.

This time, we are the storytellers. These are our stories. Let’s open the pages of our lives, and let our stories sail as we do.

We are all storytellers. Have you told yours? 

Photos by Harvey Tapan of Third Eye Visual. Shot during the Telling Stories, Creating Connections storytelling workshop held at the PICC last February 29, 2020. Organized by Seafarer Asia. 

Elijah Jose Barrios

Elijah Jose Barrios is a 24-year old Third Officer, Teacher, and Course Developer. He advocates for child literacy and youth empowerment through his involvement in different organizations.  He considers himself an appreciator of any form of art and usually puts all his realizations into writing.