I'm back. What did I learn? Not what I thought I might.
After I returned, people naturally asked about the trip. It's not clear exactly what they wanted to know; the question was usually phrased thus: "so, how was your trip?"
This phrase had different parameters for different people. Close family, accustomed to seeing pictures and hearing fairly extended accounts, expected much the same. Co-workers, otoh, might be content with "it was really great" or brief expansions thereon. Even when people ask to see photos, the scope of the request depends on the requestor. Few want to see all 1500 pictures!
Then it struck me that I was being asked to write history. There was the event qua event: on such and such a date a cruise ship called at such and such port. There was the experience of the trip, which differed among the four individuals who went. Even among the four there were subgroups: two couples, so there were the individual experiences and the couples' experiences. Already we have a complexity that is rapidly being lost to memory as the days roll by.
Then there are the reports of these experiences (let us assume all are somehow written down). Each of the four of us have reported variously to various audiences by now. In addition, I'm writing a sort of "official" history that I'll publish as an e-book, complete with photos and perhaps video, of our trip. As the other reportings vanish, the e-book will tend to become the only surviving artifact, although it's possible that references to it might show up in someone's memoirs. And of course there will be the document trail of purchases made, passenger manifests and the like that some future historian could use.
So, what did I learn? I learned -- let us say I experienced -- how history gets made. It's a mundane sort of lesson, but it carries more impact for me personally because I stumbled upon it myself, rather like a tourist who stumbles upon some statue or cafe and is delighted with his discovery. Well, the locals would say, so what? That's been there for years!