The Big Question

It’s time to tackle the BIG QUESTION. No, not the one of “the answer to life, the universe and everything” but the smaller one most people ask themselves when faced with us and our big adventure – “WHY?” and of course, “HOW.”

The “WHY” began in Thailand. Sitting in the office of our traditionally-styled Thai house, overlooking Pattaya and the Bay of Thailand, we read testimonials from the San Diego Sailing Academy. We had wanted to learn how to sail for a long time, but had been thwarted in our attempts by time constraints, other commitments and one really bad experience in St. Tropez with one very high and ineffectual teacher. Flicking through the testimonials I came upon one written by a middle-aged couple who, after having completed the same three certifications we were soon to complete, had outfitted a small sailboat and sailed around the world. Sailed around the world?! Who does that? Well, apparently this lofty goal was within the reach of your average person who had had little prior sailing experience. The ‘newbie’ couple had practiced for six months while they made the necessary preparations to cross oceans, and then they took off. Simple as that.  Their testimonial explained how they had learned the basics at sailing school and picked up the rest along the way. They were now free and loving every minute of their adventure. I wanted some of that. Ferg wanted some of that. Hell, we felt like we’d been working really hard lately and certain life lessons urged us on to something wild and unknown, where we could test out mettle and have some time to sort out our priorities. We signed up for the course, with minimal wincing from me, the frugal one of the pair, as the course was priced quite reasonably and I had one glass too many down the hatch. (An aside to those would-be adventurers who just can never seem to make it to far away places: get together with some friends of similar mind, drink some fine wine and book the plane tickets. It’s really quite easy to go through with your daring plan and stop excusing your dreams once the tickets are booked).

The day after having booked the sailing school, Ferg found a website hosted by Captain John. Captain John explained that this strange and shifting little community of “cruisers” was a very real and livable lifestyle. He broke down the costs, the routes to follow, when to be where and the boats that were suitable. Ferg immediately began searching for boats on ‘the list’ and at least five times a day I’d get a “baby, come here, I found our boat!” from that little five year old inside my thirty year old husband. During the month before our sailing course we really had no idea about anything. Just grasping in the dark, reading obscure websites and bashfully mentioning our crazy plan to friends in Thailand. All that changed when we hit San Diego and found The Pardeys in a West Marine just off Shelter Island. I had picked out their three DVDs in the book section, while Ferg was busy looking at some more practical boating gear. I put the DVDs back but returned the next day to buy them at Ferg’s urging that they were an ‘investment’. The bill stung a little but I was soon a convert, cursing myself and my frugality. “Imagine if we had never bought those DVDs,” I’d say to Ferg repeatedly. “We’d be completely lost.” A very scary prospect considering the dearth of knowledge the Pardeys have now imparted to us through their books and DVDs. Their thirty-eight years of cruising as a couple have earned them considerable esteem in the cruising community.

I guess that sums up the ‘little WHY’, but the ‘big WHY’ begs a more personal answer, from a deeper place. When we’re in a casual setting and someone asks why, the cliche answer trotted out is “why not,” but the real reason for us conjures up one word, “freedom.” I hear that word and I think of the wild west of early America full of pioneers, cowboys, barroom brawls, lawlessness and never-ending prairies unstirred and unclaimed. Every inch of land is now owned by governments and private individuals, every horse penned-in and tamed (well most anyway). The sea is owned out to a certain barrier but past that it’s wild, unending, and free down to it’s frightful depths.

My deepest, darkest fear is unfulfilled dreams. I’ve seen how that turns out and want none of it. So now, whenever I read a line or two about following your dreams, finding yourself and finding freedom I cry a little (sometimes a lot, but always through a smile). I cry half to mourn all the unrequited dreams out there, whether known to me through friends and family, or imagined by me and described in books, but the other half of those tears are out of happiness that I’m on a different road. And if we just don’t let ourselves get sidetracked out of fear, or fool ourselves into finding something else more important, we’ll actually get there. Maybe this is your modern-day pathological syndrome of never feeling satisfied but something tells me this will go a long way towards being at peace, having “had a go at it.”

I want those dreams now before they slip away and what better way to have them than now and within my means? Harnessing the wind and using that fuel to take you where you want to go?

So that’s the ‘whole WHY.’  Now we have to figure out ‘HOW’ to do it. The last four months of our lives have been dedicated to the first leg of the ‘HOW,’ with numerous mishaps and a sprinkling of practical knowledge:)


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