The Magic of the Spanish Coast

IMG_8769.JPG

Last night around 8 pm, we could see the continents of both Africa and Europe. To me, it was completely surreal. Two totally different continents that are so close yet have such different cultures, landscapes, economic statuses, races and religious practices. There was something very humbling about that view. They were both mountainous yet one side was full of lights and the other almost nothing.

 

Unfortunately we went through the narrowest part of the strait and past the Rock of Gibraltar when it was night time so I wasn’t able to see that beauty this time. This will not be the last time I do a crossing so it’s better that I don’t see all of the magic the first time.

 IMG_8803

I had been doing yoga on the sofas upstairs in the cockpit, but this morning I pulled out my yoga mat and did yoga on the deck as the sea was calm and there was hardly any breeze. I could feel the energy and power of the sea and the mountainous Spanish coast seep into my lungs as I inhaled deeply. I exhaled out all of the negative energy I was holding and let it go into the sea. Spain and the Spanish people have always taken care of me, they will do it again. There is no reason to worry or stress, I am in a beautiful place with beautiful people. I will be taken care of and there is something great waiting for me here, I know it. I don’t know what it is, I will be patient and just breath until it comes my way.

 

When I was on my 2-6 a.m. night watch, I suddenly realised that we would be passing the coast of Nerja. Nerja is a place where I holidayed for four years when I was with one of my ex-boyfriend’s. It’s a very very special place to me and my stomach got butterflies thinking that I would see it again after an eight year break. However I would be seeing it from a different view, with a different perspective on life and with different company. I estimated about when we would arrive and I set my alarm perfectly.

 IMG_8820

I woke up at 9.10 and I jumped up to look out my cabin window. I could feel it, Nerja was right there. I got dressed and popped upstairs to look at the GPS chart. Sure enough, we were just coming to the edge of it. I ran up to the cockpit with excitement and shared why I was so excited with the crew members that were up there. As we slowly passed it, all of the memories came back. The days lying on the same beach chair owned by the same guy who always remembered our names. The yummy paella and pasta that we had at the beach restaurant served by a waiter who never forgot my ex-boyfriend because he had been going there for 10 years. The run to the shops to buy vodka and orange Fanta for the beach. The romantic walks in the city along the cobblestone streets. The tapas and beer we had after a day on the beach and a nap.  I remembered his friend’s villa where we always stayed. Perhaps the fondest memory I have of Nerja is when my parents came with us. I had never seen them so happy and carefree, so in love and enjoying all of the new experiences we were showing them. It was the first time I had the opportunity to show them a new place, to take care of them (I speak Spanish, they don’t) and to show them a part of my world. They looked so beautiful and alive and I was so happy to be able to bring them this joy.

 

I sat in the cockpit by myself away from the others just reminiscing about those times, how good they were, how good all of my life has been. As we passed Nerja, I continued to think about life and how good Spain has been to me. It’s not just Nerja that has a piece of my heart, it’s also Toledo where I spent three weeks on a University course studying archaeology. In those three short weeks, I made friends with some of the locals and felt like I was a part of their community. Then there was Madrid and Barcelona, where I had to smoothly talk a Police Officer out of arresting my boyfriend (same one as discussed above) for mooning cars while we were going across a crosswalk. I had forgotten how many special memories Spain holds for me.

 IMG_8796

I couldn’t stop admiring the view, I was totally mesmerised by the breathtaking view in front of me. Sailing along the Spanish coast was the absolute perfect way to end the sail of a lifetime. The sunshine was shining brightly, the water was calm with sparkles of sunlight dancing on the surface. I was sitting up top with the sun warmly kissing my windburned smiling face. I was in pure meditation mode, I didn’t notice who was around me, I was so involved in the scenery. The Spanish coast is gorgeous. The Sierra Nevada is similar to the Colombian Sierra Nevada. It’s peaks jagged and rough reaching up to gather the energy of the sun and towering over the sea. Some of the peaks look like crinkled suede or  intricate woodwork carvings. There are hills upon hills within each peak creating tiny valleys for rivers to flow. They are full of different shades of brown and green.

 

A bit further down are many towns and farms. The farms are polytunnel farms so they can grow food throughout the year and faster. This requires a canvas, quite often white or light green which is spread out in sections over the sides of the mountains, close to the coast. One of the crew said it was an eyesore and maybe it is, but I could feel the energy of the nutrient earth. All of those vegetables that are (controversially) grown to give nourishment for bodies to function in this chaotic world.

 IMG_8795

Those nourished bodies were in the cars I could see driving along the highway snaking around the mountainside. In between the hills there are bridges for them to pass over quickly. I saw lorries, cars, buses and trucks speeding along carrying people to work, a holiday destination or vehicles bringing goods and products to another part of the country or continent. It was so much life to see after so much endlessness of the sea. It didn’t feel overwhelming this time, it felt like I was an observer to a beautiful system of living. A system I wouldn’t mind being in for a short time before setting sail again.

 

Further down the mountains were the beautiful coastal towns. Some authentic and original, others built up with hotels. There were lighthouses on the scattered capes that reach out into the ocean as though they are drinking in the purity and vitality of the ocean water. These points are the connection between sea and land. I always find these capes so beautiful in their raw ruggedness. Their ability to be connected to both land and sea at the same time. What a powerful energy to hold. From time to time a brown sandy beach would pop up, sometimes with visitors sunning themselves and others only with the crashing of the ocean waves.

 

I am looking forward to the new story that awaits me in Palma. I will accept whatever opportunities may arise, however positive or challenging they will be. For there is always beauty, there is always the memory of a beautiful life I have had to date. In fact, it’s been so incredible that it’s hard to remember all of the beautiful times until I am placed back there. Life has such an amazing way of bringing us to where we need to be at exactly the right moment.

 

Why I love the sea

IMG_4394

I am surrounded by absolute endless beauty. Beauty of the deep blue sea, beauty of the occasional bird that comes to play with our sails, beauty of the vast and enormous 360 degree view of the amazing sky, beauty of the soothing and sometimes violent movement of this giant catamaran, beauty of the people I am with and the beauty of my soul as it opens and relaxes into pure bliss. Due to my watch, I have two sleeps during a 24 hour period.  I go to bed after sunrise and then again a couple of hours after sunset. I wake up each time with a childlike excitement to see what the sea and sky have in store for me when I go up to the enormous flybridge cockpit that is my office.

 

Many people ask me why I would want to do a crossing. My favourite response was from my 6 year old niece, “All that time on a boat? You can’t get off? How boring!” I don’t find anything boring about this experience. In fact, we’re in day five and I’m already worried I’m not going to complete everything I want to. Which is reading, writing, yoga, meditation and soaking in every breath taking moment of this truly magical experience.

 IMG_8598

Sailing on the open sea is a form of meditation for me. A very deep and peaceful meditation. I find that everything in my surrounding is a metaphor for life and with this, I feel connected to the universe. It gives me a chance to clear my head and re-evaluate life. I feel privileged that I get paid to have this unique opportunity that every human being could benefit from. Maybe not in the form of the sea because not everyone is a sailor, but in whatever form makes you feel grounded.

 

All of the elements of this experience relate somehow to life. Let’s start with the boat. The boat is like our bodies that hold our souls as we walk through this life. The boat is carrying us to a new destination, just as the body does in daily life.  If we care for it, maintain it well and feed it properly, it will do all that it can to get us to the next destination safely. Love it we do! We are all happy with the comfort this boat provides. We are amazed and grateful for the capacity and strength it has to hold the sails that carry so much force. We all do our part to keep it clean and organised, the salt water is washed off every few days and she looks beautiful. I am honoured to be crew on this beautiful boat with such caring and loving people.

 IMG_8577

The wind is like our energy. The speed fluctuates depending on the day and the hour. Much like our energy levels naturally fluctuate during the day. The wind also changes direction, like humans change their minds. There is nothing wrong or malicious about it. Sometimes the direction of the wind means that we have to change our course.  People in our lives change their minds and it means we have to alter our course. For example, the end of a relationship or a death of someone close to us. We have been going on one path and suddenly, the wind changes and we’re forced to make a new path. The beautiful thing is that we will always reach our destination, it may take a little longer than we thought. It will no doubt bring many beautiful experiences and people into our path we may not have met if the wind hadn’t changed direction.

 

With the wind changes, sailors have to adjust the sails. Much like we have to adjust our attitudes to what’s happening around us. Often times we don’t have control over the actual events, but we have every bit of control over how we perceive them. Sometimes we have to reduce the sails or take them down all together before putting them back up. This is true for life too. Sometimes we have to hit rock bottom before we can climb the mountain again. Then we are on top of the mountain and we may have to trim our sails to the wind so we can live life to our fullest ability.  One thing is for sure, the wind is always changing in some sense and we must always be aware of how the sails are and what we can do to prevent damage or losing them altogether. To be a healthy human being, it is important to be aware of how we are feeling, thinking, behaving towards others and towards ourselves. A content peaceful human being is constantly performing these checks and adjusting when necessary, in order to prevent harming others or themselves. It doesn’t mean to say we won’t hit rock bottom from time to time, it’s only to say that we accept this will happen and know what we need to do to lift up the sails again.

 IMG_8564

Then there is the sea. The waves are like events that happen in our lives. Sometimes we can predict them and prepare for them, other times a squall comes from nowhere and knocks us out.  During certain periods of our lives, the sea is calm and we gently sail over the waves comfortable and happy. Then the seas become rough and we start to move out of our comfort zone, maybe into panic, anxiety, fear, anger or depression. When the seas and wind get really rough on a sailboat, the best thing to do is to lower the sails and wait it out. Putting more sails up or turning the engines on to barrel through the storm will only lead to disaster. I think this is what us as human beings have forgotten. Life will always throw us challenges and we can’t change it. The best thing to do is accept it and ride the waves.  Somehow we have developed this mentality to get aggressive, to change it, to storm through it until we get the results that we want. Results that often don’t come when we are in this mind frame.  Stay on your boat in the storm and accept it.  Fill your boat with people who bring you comfort and joy and offer you support. Yes life is hard sometimes, but there is always something beautiful, no matter how small and for how short or long it happens. I can’t tell you the amount of times a stranger has smiled at me when I most needed it and that 5 seconds brought me enough comfort to lift my head.     

 IMG_4398

I look out all around me and see this vast endless beautifully unique blue sea.  Then I look up at the sky and admire it’s beauty and always changing endlessness.  The clouds represent opportunities that present themselves to us. They will pass with the wind if we don’t grab them.  The never ending sea reminds me that we never know what is around the corner. It’s easy to forget there is land. I haven’t seen it for five days now! It’s easy to forget I have another life where there are other people who’s dynamics I have to manage with my own. Yet at the same time, it reminds me that there is so much opportunity in land life and that with open eyes and the right attitude, I can call whatever I choose. Yes, life can be a challenge sometimes, but if it wasn’t, we would never appreciate the beautiful times.

 IMG_8649

All in all, it’s about acceptance. I am completely powerless on the open sea and I find it completely invigorating.  I am powerless to the weather, the waves, to when we arrive, to stopping and getting a food or drink that I am craving. It’s a beautiful way to learn acceptance and patience and to truly learn to appreciate what is in front of me at this given moment. What I see is incredibly beautiful and I know that it has to end one day, but I’m just going to focus on the beautiful moments of each second I am here. Now if I can accomplish this in my land life, I will be exactly where I want to be and hopefully help other people reach it too.  

 

 

My incredible journey

IMG_8815.JPG

Let me start from the end before I continue with the beginning.  I’m writing this from the upper cockpit of a 93 foot catamaran as we’re sailing past Ibiza at 20.30.  It’s our last day on sea of the most incredibly peaceful amazing Atlantic crossing. The third attempt was my lucky attempt and it was certainly worth the wait. The first time I was supposed to cross two years ago, something told me not to go. I was lucky and sadly the crew and boat were not, as they never made it to Europe and have never been found. Last year, well if you’ve been following my blog for a while, it was the story of the man with no toothbrush. This year, I was fortunate enough to score a delivery job on a mega catamaran with six epic people. I’m so glad I quickly got over my previous two attempts by believing that I will go on a crossing, but when the time is right. It certainly was this time.

 

It took us 21.5 beautiful days to cross, with a two day stop in the Azores for provisions. Every day was different, I never tired of the beautiful scenery. Some people may think it’s the same because it’s open sea, but it’s not. Every day the sea has a new mood, sometimes various moods in one day, the sea life comes out to welcome us to their paradise, the wind blows at a different pace and direction, and the sky is a moving slideshow. The days absolutely flew by. I was often so busy observing and contemplating the beauty around me that I didn’t have time to do all of the reading, writing, yoga and movie watching I thought I would do. The only time I watched films was when the weather was bad or my face was burned from strong winds.

 IMG_8677.JPG

I had the privilege of being on a boat with six people who I know were meant to be doing this crossing together. The Captain and Engineer have been friends for years.  As two guys nearing 50, they decided that they needed a crew of five women, which is what they got! We are from various countries (three from South Africa, one from Australia, one Czech Republic, one France and me US/UK), with various stories of what we did before coming into the yachtie world. Everyone had a beautiful energy to them, even when there was some tension or bad moods on the boat. It was easy for me to enjoy my time on this boat because I could just be relaxed and not have to deal with overpowering negative energy. I started and finished each day with gratitude for life and in particular for this journey that words will never truly describe.

 

This trip was absolute luxury. I had my favourite watch 2-6 am and pm, which yes, did take it’s toll on me when we had rough seas and I couldn’t sleep between watches. During those days, it was usually calm during my watch meaning I missed the opportune sleep! The upside is that it’s hard for me to be in a bad mood when I’m on the sea. I’m completely in my element and get totally lost in the environment. I have so many ways of staying awake during night watches so it’s not an issue. We had a chef who cooked excellent food so I gained those few pounds that friends and family have been telling me I needed.  The stewardess did my laundry for me and I was in a guest cabin with a waterfall shower to wash off all the salt at the end of my shifts. Not my usual way of sailing, but hey, it’s work 😉 It will be just as beautiful when I have to cook, can’t do my laundry and don’t have the luxury of daily showers. The sea is my happy place in no matter what form I ride her.

 

Today, as I laid in my cabin with ice on my face after falling flat on it getting too cocky and doing crow pose during my yoga practice (turns out catamarans aren’t THAT stable!), I couldn’t help but lie in awe of life. On this journey I made it a priority to read more of my yoga scriptures and could really absorb the material and start to incorporate it into my life. One message was how we have absolute total control over our lives because we make our own reality. Nothing exists and everything exists. That line is repeated over and over in the scriptures and makes no sense, but total sense. I am creating this reality for myself. A reality which is full of adventure, opportunity, fun, interesting people and life lessons.

 IMG_8819

I reflected on this whole journey which seems so short and long at the same time.  For once in my life, words and thoughts escaped me. All I felt was a radiating energy of gratitude, humbleness, peace and pure joy. Perhaps that’s a sign that this surely was the most incredible journey life has ever presented to me.

 

Many people think of nothing worse than being on a boat that you can’t leave for nearly 21 days. They would feel trapped. To me, it is pure freedom. Freedom from the energy of the chaotic world we live in, freedom from the good and bad influence of other people, freedom from the norm. The journey can sometimes be way more interesting and exciting than the arrival (like my Colombia to Florida crossing). There are no rules other than the ones that the crew on the boat make up. The journey can start and end wherever we or the weather decides.  To me, that’s liberation.

 IMG_4433

I have written twelve blogs about my newest story from the plane ride from London until my arrival in Palma. If you don’t want to miss out on the reasons behind the crazy person who thinks being stuck on a little boat in the vast ocean with strangers is so incredible, scroll all the way to the bottom of this blog and select follow to sign up for email notifications. As far as I know, none of my followers have ever received spam so don’t be shy! Thank you for reading.         

So long motor yachts…


As I was lying on the aft deck watching the stars turn on, I couldn’t help but wonder what on earth happened. Six weeks ago, I was in London in such a peaceful place even though I had no idea what was going to happen with my life and now I seemed to have turned 180 degrees. Sure I still know that everything will be ok eventually, but I have been neglecting my yoga and spiritual practices for parties and I feel empty, lonely and lost.    

I was in a fragile state that night after a ‘good’ night and morning out.  I turned my thoughts of panic and self-disappointment into kindness, acceptance and forgiveness of myself. One helpful trait I have is that I am a social chameleon so it’s easy for me to thrive in whatever environment I am thrown into. The bad thing about that is when it’s not such a healthy environment. I was strong the first couple of weeks saying no to drinks. Then I started getting really lonely and when everyone else was drinking, I thought, “Ok, why not? That’s just what people do.” Then I started seeing the person I was in my early 20’s come out and I thought, “Oh goodness. I really didn’t like her, I thought she had left…” So what did I do? Continued to delve deeper to try and throw away the disappointed feelings I felt about myself. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t gone totally off the rails, this job is physically demanding and I wanted to keep it, so I had to be responsible. It was just that losing my connection with yoga meant I was no longer being true to myself.   

 

I didn’t really tell any of my supportive and good friends how I was feeling or what I was doing. Why worry people unnecessarily? Then I realised that actually, I was worried about me and some support would do me the world of good. So I turned to Captain Cool, the anchor of my life for two years. It all went well until the phone calls after I had a bit too much to drink. As I was feeling insecure, it didn’t take much to misinterpret or become over sensitive to certain comments. One morning I woke up to a stern text message that spoke a lot of truths I didn’t want to hear but needed to. I asked if I could visit him and just get some grounding. I didn’t know for how long because I handed in my notice for this job and just wanted some time to figure things out. He agreed. There was either miscommunication or him not really wanting to see a me that he didn’t know, but he told me with his work schedule I could only stay three days. It wasn’t worth the money and I had nowhere to go after that, so it didn’t make sense to go. I was very disappointed and he sent me an apologetic text saying that he was standing behind me and giving me strength. I rolled my eyes, left my phone at home and went out with my new friends to forget about the harm I have caused him and myself.

 

As I marvelled at the beauty of the day changing into night on this boat that has given me so many life lessons, I took the advice of a good friend and didn’t beat myself up. Then I started thinking about the yoga philosophy and how they say that too. Sure, the monkey in my brain went a little crazy and took over, but it doesn’t mean that all is lost. I mean, how many years have I not been the person that is coming out now? How many years have I been working on improving myself and succeeded? It’s just a little slip, I’m stronger than this. I’m not in a good environment for many reasons I won’t share, but the things I will share is because I don’t like my actual job role as a stewardess, nor do I like being on a motor yacht. I thought a boat on the sea was a boat on the sea, but no, it’s not. Sailboats move differently, they carry a different energy and they connect and dance with nature. It’s more about enjoying the journey then going as fast as you can to get to the next place. Motor yachts tear through the waves scaring off all of the lovely fish and mammals, burning tons of fuel as they rush to get to the next destination. As I write this, I notice that perhaps this is why I have lost myself. I really connect with the energy around me and perhaps it was that motor yacht energy I connected with.

 

I am throwing off that energy. I have no idea what I will do on the 1st of May when I am free from this boat. I’m going to look for a sailboat job as a deckhand, but maybe that’s not what the universe has in mind for me either. Therefore I am going to spread out feelers to my yoga and massage connections as well and just see what happens. All I know is that contrary to what CC said, I am all alone. We all are. No one can make a decision for me on what’s best or what I should do next. I will of course accept words of support and encouragement, but that won’t ever give me the path that’s true to me. It will however, give me the strength to keep walking forward, especially when I have some falls and breaks. Now if you excuse me, there are five big sailboats here at the marina so I must puff my chest up, update my CV and re-connect with the Yogini Sailor.        

Finding peace in a different world

IMG_8171.JPG

Honestly, I don’t even know where to start. Well, maybe I do. The photo above was taken from Necker Island, Richard Branson’s island. Most people have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to visit it, I was there for free working.  These last two weeks have been like no other in my whole entire life.  The yachting world is very intense for so many reasons and I feel like I’ve been transported to another planet.  

IMG_8114.JPG

We’ve had our owners on board who are incredibly fun and nice. To work for owner’s like that apparently is rare so I’m grateful for that. The charter didn’t go without drama, both from the guest and crew side. There were some pretty intense moments and sometimes I didn’t really know if I was awake or having a bad dream. There were five crew, all who are supposed to help each other out, but instead, it was the Captain and Engineer working hard to figure out all of the things that were breaking (which was at least two things a day for the first few days), the chef being grumpy with me because apparently I’m supposed to be her personal assistant, which was difficult since the Deckhand was either drunk or sleeping off her hangover. I ended up literally running around all day being stewardess and deckhand while having some unpleasant conversations with the chef about how I just can’t do it because I’m so busy. Oh, and she was ordering me around when she was lying down on the sofa saying how tired she was. I wish that was a lie. She has now been fired, along with the drunk deckhand who didn’t want to stay anyway.

 IMG_8201.JPG

Not to mention it was my first charter with the owners and first charter ever on a motor yacht and as a stewardess. It was a steep learning curve and I spent most of the first five days convinced I would be fired after the charter. Then came the guest change when four people left and the owners invited new people with hours notice. Yep, on top of deckhand, stewardess and assistant chef, I had to wash and change three beds, clean three bathrooms and all with a smile on my face.  During meal times, the engineer, chef and I would generally eat together and despite the differences between the chef and myself, we were all so tired that we would have the most ridiculous conversations that made us laugh hysterically. It made the long hours worth it as I knew it would always be a good time.

 IMG_8194.JPG

There were some moments when the ‘empty’ crew were annoying me so badly I thought, “I don’t need this shit, I’ve had two years of working with one person with such little drama. Sure I made nothing, but this is just bullshit. Maybe I should go back.” Then I would stare out the window and see the sailboats, of which there are hundreds sailing around the USVI and BVI, and I would be taken to a different world. On one rare occasion, I was able to escape outside for 10 minutes and just soak up the view, which is absolutely breathtaking.  The horizon is surrounded by sailboats and I took a deep breath and thought to myself, “One day I will be on one of those sailboats looking at the motor yachts saying ‘Thank you so much, without your job, I wouldn’t be sat here living the life I dreamed of. Not only that, but I’m so grateful I never ever have to clean one of you again.” Then I straightened out my boy uniform (I really did wear men’s clothing the whole time), pulled my shoulder’s back with confidence and went back inside to dust off some fingerprints and fluff more pillows. The best things in life are earned through hard work and god only knows how badly I want my own sailboat to live in the way that suits me best. I will be patient and fluff lots of pillows!

 IMG_8138.JPG

The hours are long, sometimes 6.30 am until midnight and I don’t get a day off during the week, but there’s nowhere else I would rather be. I’m on the sea, making a very good salary that will really help me shave off those student loans and save for Suzie Q.  I’m with a good group of people. There weren’t always arguments and drama, we did have laughs too. Especially the engineer and I. He’s like my little brother and best friend and the only one I can truly trust on the boat.  As of today, it’s just the Captain, Engineer and I and we get along great. A Relief Captain/Engineer is coming on board in about three weeks and he’s super cool too. He’s been doing lots of work on the boat, so I’ve gotten to know him a bit and I think we will all have fun.  

 IMG_8140.JPG

I’m writing this as I listen to the waves crash along the shore on the aft deck on anchor in St John’s. Since the owners left on Sunday, I have been thinking about all that has happened in the last two weeks, it’s surreal. The owner’s live in a different world to what I have ever, or will ever, live in and it was so interesting to get a glimpse of that life. To not have a worry in the world, to have people around you to do whatever you want for you, to have all the money in the world to buy whatever you want or to dare the 22 year old engineer to jump off the top deck naked for $500 (I was so bummed I wasn’t male)! I was surrounded by drama, but still in a peaceful place. That was something new to me. There was one point when I just chose to go have a laugh with the Engineer instead of listen to the drama, and I realised that I’m actually practising what I’ve been studying so hard to do. To live a yogic lifestyle. I was truly Switzerland. I did at first get slightly swept up in the drama, but then quickly stepped back and realised what was going on and chose not to be a part of it. I wouldn’t make comments when the backstabbing was happening. I would either listen or just walk away, because I quickly learned trying to explain the other side would get me nowhere. I still managed to have a really good time despite all of the crazy drama unravelling around me. That was also something new for me and also very beautiful. How great to accomplish that goal of not being affected by how others are acting, especially as at times it was INCREDIBLY intense.

 IMG_8253.JPG

Now we are anchored in St John’s bay waiting to get some repairs done before we cruise back over to St Maarten to get some more repairs done. It’s just the boys and me and it feels like a great team. Without guests, our hours are 8-5ish and I look forward to the end of the day when I put my fins and snorkel mask on and jump into the crystal clear blue and turquoise sea to visit the colourful fauna that is all around us. I used to hate being on anchor because I felt stranded and as I still haven’t been taught how to drive this tender, I am literally stranded, but that’s ok. I love being on the water, I’m so busy during the day that there’s never enough hours in the evening to do everything I want to do (like write!!) and I love that we are outside the marina and next to a reef. I immediately returned to my nightly ritual of lying down to look up at the stars and being grateful for life before I go to bed. We have lots of comfortable cushions on deck so I’ve even been sleeping outside as my cabin is more like a coffin than sleeping quarters. As the Captain said, “Why did they buy a boat? Oh yeah, so we could have a good life!” Obviously that’s not why, but I’m so grateful there are people who are in a situation to give us a great life.

 IMG_8247.JPG

The one thing I realised is how truly in the moment I am. The days flew by and I remember seeing the date on the cameras as the 21st and before realising it, it was the 24th. Our Internet wasn’t working and I quickly forgot that there was a cyber world out there. As much as I love my family and friends, I didn’t really think about them much. I was very much here, soaking in all of the new experiences, learning as much as I could and breathing in the stunning environment. I was in the moment, I was observing and everything was what it was. I wasn’t thinking too much about the past (it’s hard not to compare sailing life with motor yacht life!) and I thought very little about the future. That is why it was so beautiful. That also tells me that I am in exactly the place where I am supposed to be right now. Ahhhhhhhh……… Life is amazing.  Time to look at that goregous night sky and see how many stars are falling tonight.

Trust the universe

IMG_7882.JPG

Wow. What a day! What a week really. I’m in London after all, it’s a city where there is a lot going on and things happen quickly!

 

I can officially declare that I have adjusted to the circumstances. I have stopped bursting into tears when people ask me how I am.  The band aid has been completely ripped off now and the soreness has almost disappeared. I have been doing lots of meditation and breathing exercises (until I got my first cold in over a year) which has helped me gather perspective on my current situation. I am looking at London from an outsider’s perspective and being in awe of what I observe.

 

Last week, (at least I think it was, I’m still totally disoriented to time, just like I was on the sea…), I went into my old office to fill out paperwork in case I am so desperate my only options are prostitution or doing sessional work for them. I’m still not sure which one I would chose if I get to that point.  I’ll write a blog on the thought process if I find myself faced with that decision.  Anyway, I was sitting on hold with Human Resources, staring out the window and watching London go by and my mind started drifting. It started drifting to how I use to do this regularly and being on hold use to stress me out because I had a million things to do and probably other people to talk to. I would sit with my shoulder holding the phone and catching up with emails or the report I had to do or the holiday I was trying to book so that I could try to salvage my sanity. After 20 minutes, I would become increasingly angry and anxious that HR was wasting my precious time. How dare they! I would start swearing and complaining to my colleagues about how ridiculous it is and they would of course join in and offer sympathy.

 

I looked down the office room, which since I’ve been there, has been converted to hold more desks and people. I saw people on other teams sat at their desks typing away, making phone calls, sounding stressed, trying to get something done and getting impatient down the phone. No one was laughing or joking or having a regular conversation. It was all about getting stuff done, stuff that’s impossible, stuff that is so incredibly important because if they don’t do their jobs as well as they can and someone re-offends, they could lose their job. Not to mention the guilt if another victim is created. Of course it’s not their fault, but the system makes it out to be.

 

After 30 minutes on hold, I was lost in my peaceful thoughts and my colleague was getting mad for me. “Jesus! How long has it been?? That’s ridiculous!” I just looked at him and said, “Yeah, I don’t have anything else to do, it’s alright.” Then I stared out the window again and watched people literally rushing to and fro, looking stressed and dishelved. I looked back in the office and then I looked inside of myself and I smiled. I used to be one of these people rushing in the street and being stressed out in the office, but I escaped. After 53 minutes on hold, I put the phone down and just made up the answer to the question that I needed in order to complete the paperwork. I put the phone down knowing that I wouldn’t have to deal with this again and that since I have escaped, there is no turning back.  Not unless I want to kill my soul again and stop living life. I finally discovered how to live, no way am I going to give it up. Excuse the bad language, but it’s fucking awesome!

 

I have been busy catching up with friends. After two years of not having friends, it feels great. It’s amazing to know there are so many options of people I can call to have a laugh with and talk about nice things. Everyone has been so supportive of me, so giving, so loving, so encouraging. To be honest, I’m very surprised and feel so fortunate. On my bike today, I realised that these people were always here. Always. I just wanted to live life alone because “I am strong. I can do it. I am an independent woman. I don’t need anyone’s help.” All of that is true, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t need other people from time to time. Well, all the time to be honest. One thing sailing life has taught me is that life is about teamwork. Helping that stranger who is struggling is just as important as helping the ones closest to you because it really all does come back one day.  Trust me, it’s happening to me now.

 

After a lovely lunch catching up with a good colleague of mine, I couldn’t open my bike lock. I just bought the thing nine days ago. I had been having problems with it before, but normally I would take a deep breath, do some yogi magic and Voila!! It would open. Well, this time it wouldn’t. I was there for an hour and a half. I recruited the security guard to help me, while he went in to do his real job, a stranger came up to me and said, “You’ve been here for a while, can I help you?” What a kind kind man. He couldn’t help me either. Another ex-colleague found the maintenance man who came out to help me and he said it was a faulty lock that was poorly made and the best thing to do was cut off. Unfortunately he didn’t have the necessary tools. I was nearly in tears. I was so ill with my cold, so tired and just wanting to be out of the cold. I have no money to travel, so my friend gave me £10 to get home and to a training I need to go to in the morning. I was sitting on the bus wanting to cry and then thought, “Why? What is really the problem?” Ok, the problem is, where I’ve left it, I’ve left it before in broad daylight and parts were missing when I returned, but really what is there to cry about? Instead, I looked out from the top of the double decker bus and decided to enjoy London from a perspective I hadn’t seen before. I put in my headphones and listened to my Latina music and enjoyed the ride. I decided that it was all going to be ok whether or not I got my bike back. London truly is a beautiful city and I sat back and soaked it in. Why stress about my bike when I can’t control if someone is going to steal part of it or not? It’s not like I’m going to sleep next to it!

 

I got home, grabbed the spare flat bike that needs a lot of work to function and walked to the bike shop where I purchased the lock. I was expecting them to say something ridiculous and unhelpful, but after calmly describing the situation, the manager said, “Just get the lock cut off, get a receipt and bring it in. We’ll reimburse you for the locksmith and I’ll give you a new lock.” I then asked him if he could look over the bike I brought in and if he had a spare lock. He adjusted the bike so it was usable short term and gave me a spare lock.  You know why that happened? Because I trusted. Because I went in expecting nothing but to tell him that he should warn other purchasers about the lock so they don’t lose their bike too. Because I asked for help. Simply because, the world is a beautiful place when you can step back, remove the stress and discover what living really means to you.  

 

I have very little money, I have no job and soon I will have no home other than the kind offers of numerous friends. The good thing is, I have everything else. I have love, support and a huge cheerleading team who want to see nothing more than for me to carry on living in a way that suits me.  What a wonderful world I have built myself. So really, if I lose that bike, I’ve actually lost nothing at all. There really is nothing to be stressed about for if I fall, I have a nice cushy landing of smiley, loving faces who will just push me back up again.

What’s the rush? Slow down 

It all started with a passenger telling me that golf was losing followers because it’s a boring and slow sport. Apparently biking, in particular mountain biking, is the new rage based on it’s speed and fast pace. I felt a little sad by this. As a society, when did we get too impatient with things?

This particular passenger was very high strung and just a few months ago would’ve driven me to fantasies of one of us going overboard. However, as of late I have been devoting most of my time to self-improvement and reflection and therefore took an interest in this passenger. A man who I’m sure irritates a lot of people and probably gets a lot of bad reactions. I’ve found a new soft spot for these sweetly grumpy lost souls, probably because I’ve gained more insight into myself. 

Anyway, he talked of his business which involves golf and very rich people who don’t allow for errors. This in turn causes significant stress in his life. He asked about wifi and I saw the panic disappear in his eyes when I said no we didn’t have it, but I would happily let him use my data package as I would never use it all. His endless and repeated questions about timing, schedules, the weather the “norm” with sailing and all the possible safety aspects of the boat were calmly answered as many times as he needed to hear it. He was always a bit stumped when I said there was absolutely no norm with how the weather and timing was on the crossing. He was so involved in schedules this other way of life seemed like a different world. I hope his silence meant he was contemplating other perspectives on how to live. 

He was scared. He felt safe enough to admit that so I’m not just making an analysis. He was scared of the movement and sound of the boat and of the vastness of the open sea. Hour by hour in the calm bits, he would become more brave and make longer appearances in the cockpit. Always with endless questions, but I smiled inside knowing that he was getting braver.

How does this relate to slowing down? Well, sometimes we are so afraid of what might happen (which is more than likely not going to happen), that we miss the unique blue of the open sea, the way the plankton lights up the sea at night or the kind smile from a stranger or friend. The modern day is too fast. Immediate results are the norm and when they don’t happen, frustration and impatience immediately appear. Remember the days of dial up Internet?? That’s not even accepted in “third world” countries these days (for “first worlders” anyway)! 

When I travelled, my favourite thing to do was go to bus stations early and wait. People thought I was crazy. Sometimes I was there for four or five hours and you know what? It seemed like an hour at most. I had no schedule, no deadline, no one to answer to and no pressure, so why not? It was a beautiful way to observe what communities are like. It was also the time when I had the best conversations with locals. I didn’t read, I didn’t tap my foot and look at my watch, I just enjoyed the moment and it was always eye opening. 

This is precisely one of the reasons why I love being at sea. There is no outside communication with anyone, there is no schedule to arrive because what’s the point? It would always be broken! I am at mercy to the waves, wind and sea. I am forced to slow down and enjoy the moment. Watching the movement of the waves, observing any birds that might be flying around, watching the flying fish, patiently waiting for the dolphins to arrive, observing the night sky, giving my full attention to the conversation I’m having or the book I’m reading. It’s truly a gift to be given so much time to be in the moment and not have any distraction to take me out of it. 

As a result, I look healthier, younger and happier. I have patience for those who have yet to find this path of stillness in life, or who may never find it. I feel more at peace and I’m starting to forget what I call “pointless stress” feels like. The kind of stress that is brought about by pressure that we ourselves bring to this life because of technology and a fast paced way of life. 

Slow down. Find your open sea. Maybe it’s in a forest, a desert, the jungle, country fields, a river or the look in your child’s eyes. Just find it and enjoy the moment. Then take that feeling and bring it to the rest of your life. When I’m at sea, I’m utterly and completely vulnerable. I have so little control. I am at mercy to the boat, the wind, the waves, the weather, debris in the water and big cargo ships. One little thing can go wrong and that’s it, life is over. I don’t let it scare me, I simply appreciate the value of my life on and off the sea, each moment, that much more. Maybe it makes me a “slow” person living on the outside of a fast paced life I no longer have a desire to live in. And never have I been more satisfied with life or more grateful to be alive.