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Cross-Generational Learnings From a Trip to Alaska

On our recent trip through the Alaskan southeast islands, given my inclinations, I was equally as interested in the people as the fantastic sea and wildlife and scenery and loved hearing stories about the indigenous clans from the storytellers who came on board our small ship.

They are Millennials who had grown to revere and preserve their culture and returned to live with their clans while functioning in the outside world and interacting comfortably with tourists. The ones we met had self-learned to hone their speaking skills, overcoming their fears and trying out different presentation approaches. They are excellent!

For those of you who, like me, are intrigued by demographics, I’ll share some.

Overall the ship, taking into account passengers, crew, staff, guides and management, were a multi-generational mix. The passengers were attracted through college alumni associations and were mostly Boomers and a sprinkling of Traditionalists along with a few Gen X couples and two Peruvian women employees of the travel company enjoying their travel perk. I would guess they are older-end Millennials. The staff are Millennials and a few Gen Xers except for the Boomer department heads. The very experienced Australian captain is an Xer; deckhands, both Alaskan and from the mainland U.S., are Millennials, as are the fun and fascinating guides.

Related: Analyzing Why Millennials Think Differently About Money

Counteracting the myth that Millennials are lazy, this group works for three months straight without a day off – and for long hours. The service was outstanding, all very caring and cheerfully demonstrating, even at early hours, that they are there to serve.

Here are my takeaways from this experience:

  • All ages were appreciated and looking to learn from each other.
  • There was palpable energy from the group--sharing, naturally helping.
  • Many of the Boomer passengers continue to be driven by social responsibility, contribution, and ongoing learning.
  • Both passengers and workers all got along splendidly with each other. With the exception of a few Canadians and the two Peruvians, they were from every part of the U.S. --blue and red states. No heated political discussions were observed, though opinions were often expressed, but civilly.

  • [Note: Admittedly, well-educated passengers and guides and carefully vetted staff, given the setting, were primed to be relaxed and enjoying ourselves. They were not a representative cross-section of the country in several respects: educational, curiosity level, or extremes of income level.]

    Congenital optimist that I am, this experience demonstrates to me again in today’s divisive world that great cross-generational conversations, sharing, civil discourse and kindness to strangers are very possible – in fact, people of all ages want that. And they will act on that desire if situated in a conducive, environment. We all need to try daily to create such an environment.