January 26, 2010
Planning on spontaneity!
This trip thus far has been an attempt at the best of both worlds. Traveling via sailboat can be anything you want it to be. One can travel “fast”, sailing each day covering as much distance as the weather will permit or you can sail for one day and stop for a month. When you sail “fast” you see water, some flying fish and the coast line. Looking at the map of the region triggers little pangs of regret about missing the wonderful talked about places. The little voice in your head cheers you along, “you are sailing around the world!”, and your little heart says “you just missed Italy!”. When you sail “slow” you make friends, learn to cook local dishes, pick up new words and experience new little ideas about life. Then you leave, and you leave friends, places you got to know and routines you began to enjoy. Smelling the roses won’t put miles on your log, and miles on your log don’t necessarily give you memories or that personal transformation that we’ve come so far to discover.
For me when I have an agenda or an expectation, I tend to miss something special. When I can wake up, go for a run, meet some old lady on the street who ends up walking me around a maze of Arab markets for two hours unveiling the secrete shops and best places to bargain, I feel like I have just had a moment that was more magical than anything I could have planned, and couldn’t have been bought at a travel agency. How do you perpetuate spontaneous moments, and how do you explain to others and even your self what you are doing?
I am following one moment of inspiration to the next, lead by encounters with people, shifts in the weather etc. and the further I step down this path the more I trust in it and the less I know about what’s coming next. I meet someone who tells me about a special place and I go. I see a post card that I like and I go. I go to a beautiful city and never enter a museum, ride the Ferris wheel or see the famous statue because I got caught up with a local and ended up cooking, drinking wine and telling jokes for three days and never leaving their house. Some old salt tells me about a hidden cove with good fishing and I cut loose. I try to be as available as I can, and find the guide books distracting in this effort.
Travel moments are the magic moments and lessons learned from new worlds and people as they go by. You can’t explain your self in an elevator when someone asks you “what are you doing” and when the “American dream” inner mantra kicks in with the “almost 30” sound track “what are you doing with your life?”, it becomes hard. No plan? So the answer to my favorite question is…. “I am reserving this period in my life for complete spontaneity while following the trend of motion, but I am not stuck on the idea of moving, I could not travel if I were so inclined, intiendes?”
When we visited Palma I bought a flag for Morocco, rode the bus back to the boat, pulled anchor and took a left for Tunisia. One destination is to the right, one is to the left. The guys on the boat, just laughed. While Derek and I were sailing together, years ago now, we bought books on Panama, got a flag, then sailed east towards Europe. Both horizons had greatness in store. It doesn’t matter where you go. There is so much to see, not enough time and all of it is good. The people you meet, the experiences you have all manage to have their impact. The most amazing people and experiences I have had could have been on a bus after getting a flat tire when I was trying to get somewhere, or when you stumble upon on the edge of town and you follow the light around a corner, or a smell in the air or music from the distance. Setting off ready and willing to follow the moment, is a muscle that you have to exercise, and its like anything else…. Use it or loose it.
Everyday, waking up and following that day’s moment of inspiration can be difficult. There is no manual or book to read that out lines what you are supposed to do. So on my boat, with great pride, I printed out the biggest label my Wal-Mart labeler would print stating my mission statement for this adventure: “YOU ARE SAILING AROUND THE WORLD”. I posted it on the door step from my boat to the outside world. And this helps my mental health, because that question, “where are you going, what are you doing, what do you want to do with your life” is the freaking plague, and it should be outlawed. What brings you alive is the new question! And Thirty is the new Twenty. Having Kids doesn’t mean your life is over, you don’t have to stop traveling or living your dreams, in fact you must continue so that your life inspires that of your new little one. That is my rant, back to the blog.
Ludo and I sailed from the Balearic Islands to Tunisia as fast as we could. Of course we experienced the biggest waves and heaviest sustained winds I have ever seen in Noche. Have you ever surfed down the face of a wave while sailing up wind? That’s the Mediterranean in the winter for you. Little sea mountains race south generated from the intense northerly winds streaming from the French Alps into the Gulf of Lion and joining the north west bound warm African winds for a party.
One wave crashed over the boat, and a wall of water ripped in one side of the dodger and out the other side, breaking two windows and floating both pairs of Ludo’s shoes away and the coffee cup out of my hand. Water flowed in through the closed hatches and into the galley. My stove burners were full of water and the gimbaled action kept a nice pond in the kitchen as we hove to at the edge of physical exhaustion feed now by the refreshing blast of sea water and exhilarating sound of furious wind and the beauty of whirling sea foam.
We went to Sardinia, and covered half the coast of Tunisia, with out venturing more than a city block from the boat. What did we discover, what did we experience? I am not sure. We didn’t even get an Italian coffee while we were in Italy. We went to Sardinia, but I wouldn’t say that I have been there. We crawled into little ports completely exhausted and entirely drenched. Spent all our time there drying our selves out and sleeping. Same with Tunisia. A seed of intrigue was planted, a new place to explore is on the list. Ludo’s in his brilliant way of expressing life in a succinct powerful way, said “I am glad to have had that experience, I feel alive!”
The yellow sky above Africa with its sirocco winds and wispy clouds, the stars at night and the new angle of familiar constellations was what I noticed. You have time to make observations. It’s wonderful to have missed years of political news, but to be aware of how Orion’s belt and the big dipper are moving up and down on my horizon as I zig zag around the surface of the globe. You move the stars from one side of the sky to the other as you sail by night.
We crossed the Mediterranean in two 48 hour bursts, which was awesome, but we did not see the places we went to, if that makes any sense. The color of the water is slightly different, and it’s these things that you start to notice. We went to fast.
Our Christmas was Special. We arrived in Tunisia, and the Marina was full. The customs officer asked for a bribe, and I gave him a copy of “The Alchemist” by Paulo Cohelo that was written in French. Ahh I got a kick out of it, he was expecting whisky, and instead he got a book that might transform his life. They permitted us to get food (bars of chocolate, and three loafs of bread), water and fuel. The weather forecast was bad and two other boats were in the harbor waiting out the bad winds. Weary and feeling a little deflated about spending Christmas Eve beating into the weather eating Macaroni and Cheese, (that is what you cook, if you are cooking an authentic American meal for someone) we set off once again. We sailed a quarter mile off shore hugging a depth of 30 feet in 20 knots wind right off the beach. As it turns out we were gliding along in perfect sailing conditions, lots of wind and no chop.
The bad weather came, but first we caught a fish for dinner, toasted a glass of wine and smoked the last cigar from Noche’s Caribbean stores all while the wind vane steered and we rested.
Upon arrival in Monastir, we tied up the boat, dried her out again, packed our bags, took a bus across the country and a flight to Barcelona where we were to meet up with Rob and Erin, drive to Malaga then fly to the Canary Islands to meet Jon for New years and then sail his boat to the Cape Verdes. Voila.