There are two kinds of sailors. Sailing as a hobby and sailing as a lifestyle. There is a big difference between these 2 groups of sailors. I have chosen the route of sailing as a lifestyle. I have always liked to be on the move. In fact, as an adult, I moved every year (sometimes twice or more) for 14 years. It was only until I moved to London, England that I could stay in one place for 3 years. Probably because I was always on the move in the city and hardly ever home!
Recently I spent almost 3 months in my hometown helping out with family things. I hadn’t spent more than 2 weeks at “home” since my sophomore year of university. This was a huge challenge for me for various reasons. Firstly, I have not lived in the US for 11 years. The culture in England is very different to the US and also I had been travelling and living in Latin America for the last year. I grew up in a small, white, middle-upper class town. The values and views are very different to what I have been used to for the last 11 years. Please don’t think I am placing judgment on this, it’s simply different to what I’m used to, no culture is superior or inferior to another. If we were all the same, this world be so boring. However, I found myself feeling incredibly lonely and almost like an alien. I had a very extreme case of reverse culture shock. I am in my late 30’s and according to this society, I am supposed to have a successful career, a nice house, a car, a husband and children. My soul is shuddering just writing that. That kind of life isn’t for me and thank goodness that when I was trying to achieve those things I felt pressured to have, it all fell apart. With the exception of a few people who I only had brief contact with, I felt like a total alien for these 3 months. How do I join in a conversation about houses, children, husbands, schedules, cars, routine when I have none of that? To try and talk about my life didn’t always go so well either. I am sure they felt just as alien about my life as I did theirs. The only difference is at one time, I had some of those things and strived for the ones I didn’t have.
Which leads me to my second point, a weird internal conflict. I remember being with a group of people and not having anything to talk about and not really enjoying myself at all. I thought to myself, I used to talk like this too. I was born in this culture and now it seems so foreign to me. Is there something wrong with me because the last place I want to be is here? Is there something wrong with me because as a psychologist I am supposed to be interested in people and be able to engage in social interactions and the only place I want to be is on a deserted island away from people? It just seemed like so much more fun. I will admit it, I am not proud to be American, I travel on my British passport and usually tell people I am from England. I long ago detached myself from American culture only because I have worked hard to make it a point to experience and learn about other ways of life. If we were all the same, how boring life would be. Again, no one is superior, we are just all different. I remembered something an ex-boyfriend told me which I found so profound, especially at his young age. That he can always take something from every social interaction, even if he doesn’t agree or like the person. If nothing else, just how not to be. Now this group of people were very nice, I just had nothing in common with them. So I took the opportunity to realise how much I had grown and changed. Again, something I couldn’t even really share with others around me because a saying I remember strongly from my youth and young adulthood is “People don’t change, you just get to know them better.” I am happy I don’t believe this. People can change if they want to. It is a long and slow process, but totally in control of that individual. I found life more beautiful when I realised I had control to change my thoughts and attitude on life. This is why I am sat on a sailboat in a marina in Colombia writing a blog instead of continuing to live in London and waking up every day hating my life.
But I digress, living on a boat means constant motion. How great for someone like me!!! Falling asleep is a dream! I am rocked to sleep by the waves of the ocean. When I am having a down day, I can lie back close my eyes and be soothed by the motion of the boat. I am even in motion when I am cooking! I have learned to have the knife nearby before cutting a tomato because if you leave it on the counter while searching for the knife, you will soon be searching for the tomato! Not that it matters because there is no time pressure in this life, only when doing manoeuvres during sailing. Completing repairs, washing clothes, taking a shower, washing the dishes, cleaning, reading, all done in motion! A nightmare for some, heaven for me. I remember the first trip I took after “getting the job.” We went to a little lagoon a couple hours sail from the marina. The other sailor told me we were spending the night there and I was about to open my mouth and say, “but I didn’t bring my stuff!” when I realised it was with me on the boat. What a great concept! Travelling without having to pack or close up my house. That was the moment I realised I was to be the kind of sailor who lives the lifestyle. I can travel the world and never have to pack my (few) possessions!
Not only is it the motion I like, it’s the people I meet. What a wide variety of personalities! However, no matter how different, there is always a commonality, Sailing. These are the types of conversations I can relate to. We talk about sailing routes, weather patterns, adventures in storms, fish, food, boat repairs, types of boats, movies, books, sailing, peace, freedom and happiness. It doesn’t matter about children or possessions. I have finally found my place in the world without being judged!
As I write this, I remember that my life mission is to keep the peace that I found last year in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. I’m wondering if I am really doing this when I feel so foreign and lonely in other worlds. The thing is, I still have peace, I always know there is a place for me. Life will never always be perfect and I take comfort in knowing that at some moments it’s hard, but in the end it will always be ok. So I guess I do always keep my peace.
When my bed is too still, I feel claustrophobic. Not only from the lack of fresh air I am used to, but because there is no motion. My soul leaves my body waiting to return when I am in a place of freedom. When my bed is too still, I feel tied down because when I want to move, I have to carry all my baggage, both material and emotional. When my bed moves, my heart opens up, my soul dances, my lungs can expand once again and I am just living for the moment.