Amber and I are in Annapolis looking at sailboats. When we met nearly 13 years ago, I was living and working on boats. She domesticated me under the condition that we would get back on a boat one day and sail around the world. We’re still years away from departure, but perhaps only two or three years from selling the house and moving onto a boat.
I fell in love with sailing when I was very young. The beach house we went to every year had a small sunfish sailboat. Really just a dinghy with a triangle of fabric. But the thing would scoot, and at ten years old, it was like having your own car. The sensation of freedom, quietude, awareness, and constant striving were intense.
In college, I bought a 27′ Watkins to live on. It saved me a lot of money and filled my weekends with mini-adventures. After my junior year, I sailed south with plans to see how far I could make it. Not far, it turns out. The Bahamas were too nice; I was having too much fun; and then a couple hurricanes wiped me out.
The year I spent in the islands was largely afforded by doing odd jobs on other boats. This ballooned into a career as a yacht captain. I started delivering boats anywhere from Chicago to Barbados. I worked full-time on several boats for a while, living on them, caring for them, and taking the owners and their guests wherever they liked. One of these owners introduced me to Amber. Which brings us to our search for our next home.
The part of our looming trip that I look forward to the most is the immersion in literature. I already read a lot and write a fair bit, but spending five to six years circling the globe will give me the chance to do a lot more. One of my projects will be to write about our adventures, our travels, our observations. Maybe each month will be its own little story. Some might be about relationships, some about the environment, some about the people we meet along the way. The best part of such a trip is not having a definite plan. Perhaps we never escape the pull of the Caribbean.
I used to think that living simply (small house, few possessions, low expenditures) would make this trip possible. A lot of people take off on sailboats with very little means. Hell, I did it for a year when I was college-broke. But it isn’t living simply that makes a trip like this possible, it’s having a goal like this trip that makes living simply possible. It’s easy to forgo distractions and to not accumulate things when you have a larger goal on the horizon. Many of the decisions we make are based on our eventual departure. It makes me wonder what life would be like without a long term goal like this.
There are parallels with writing. Putting words on paper every single day is motivated by having a larger goal in mind: writing a novel. But more importantly, the goal serves as the impetus for doing what’s truly important, and that’s the habit of daily writing. It doesn’t matter if you finish the book, if you publish it, how many copies you sell. What matters is the daily routine of escaping into your imagination, crafting sentences that please and scenes that excite, getting away from the noise and enjoying the soft sigh of sail, wind, and sea.
The goal is the thing only because it affects our daily routine. I’ve wanted to sail around the world since I was a young man who read Joshua Slocum’s account of doing just this back around the turn of the 20th century. But even if I never complete the journey, it won’t matter. I’ve applied myself daily to get there, and that’s made all the difference.