It was on this day, 365 days ago, that we left Ventura and headed south, down Southern California, Mexico, Galapagos, and the Marquesas where we’ve been since June 25 and plan to stay until May, before heading off to the Tuamotus, Tahiti, and Raiatea. Based on our original plan, had we left in September and had we held to the itinerary I established years prior, today we should be in India, having crossed the Pacific, through Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Instead, we find ourselves staying nearly one year in Nuku Hiva and likely a second year in Raiatea. In the extended and expensive process of preparing Kandu and overcoming a series of unexpected problems, having experienced weeks of sailing through unpleasant conditions, we changed the focus of our adventure, altering our purpose, which remains fluid. Rather than visit as many countries as possible in five years as originally planned, we’re immersing ourselves profoundly within selected cultures: contributing within our host communities, learning new perspectives and lessons from our varied interactions, growing closer as a family, while hoping to experience as many other cultures as circumstance and desire allow. Based on our financial resources, we don’t know how long we can maintain our life afloat. We’re still shooting for 5 years; one year spent, four to go. Where we wind up, we cannot know. But what for now seems nearly certain, unless something changes significantly for us, we’re not likely to complete a circumnavigation. Instead, we try to make a positive difference in the small corners of the world we’re blessed to touch, while our sons hopefully gain perspectives and capabilities beyond their years. Ultimately, more than the sights and adventures, it’s life lessons learned that have been some of the greatest gifts so far. Here are a few learned this past year:
ERIC: “Sail the wind you have, not the wind you want” was a big one. Not that a person should feel trapped by their circumstance, but rather use wisely all (legal and morally correct) opportunities available to get yourself from where you are to where you think you would like to be, fulfilling one’s life promise/passion/purpose, or adapt your goals accordingly. We usually get what we wish for, so wish responsibly. Acting slowly, with greater deliberation, often results in a speedier resolution. Convenience is seductive but can bring a person further from simplicity. Living a simple life isn’t simple, or easy. Excessive convenience and entertainment numb us from experiences that might otherwise help us grow. Helping a remote community, especially causes that support its youth, is a fast way to become enveloped within its culture. Doing so, you are offered a seat at the community table, meeting the extraordinary and resourceful people who make a difference. Working with these people brings great joy and happiness.
LESLIE: My birthday is today. The year was spent traveling. Reflecting back, I appreciate more than ever that it is the journey, beyond its motivating force, that leaves the most lasting imprint on life and learning. As anticipated, this year has been full of surprises, mostly of an agreeable nature. I envision parallel journeys to some day present themselves. A big question that the boys may start to ponder is: “What is my purpose?” I have asked this several times over my life. In high school, it was to excel in academics and music: violin, piano and singing. In college, my purpose was to learn the ways of the French: to speak and write French fluently. It was an overwhelming passion. Once I started working, however, I discerned that speaking French in the business world wasn’t my purpose. My purpose then transformed into the business of becoming an opera singer. Now, after growing our family and working in opera for years, I have embraced the reality of journeying and seeing the world via a sailboat with my family. Still I find myself asking, what is the purpose of this sailing-across-oceans goal: to encourage Bryce and Trent to study other languages, to embrace foreign cultures, to learn how to sail, to spread my love for music and language to other peoples, to learn to manage with less, or is it something else? Probably it’s all of the above and yet, I’ve come to truly internalize that it is life’s journeys that carry us in the end, and only after the luxury of hindsight and reflection, will I truly discern what their real purposes were. Thus for now, this past year’s lesson learned is to let go and appreciate the journey, enjoy the ride, allowing purpose to reveal itself some other day, if ever.
BRYCE: Bryce says he’s learned three things: 1) a person’s attitudes and behaviors are largely dictated by their cultural upbringing, but do not have to be; 2) American kids are blessed to have so many occupational options, tens of thousands, and don’t know how fortunate they are. In the Marquesas, young people have limited opportunities; farming, fishing, hunting, sculpting, tourism, or a governmental functionary. And 3), to forgive young Marquesans for being mean because they’ll probably grow up to be kind and generous like their parents.
TRENT: Trent says California kids don’t realize how lucky they are that most every one speaks the same language, that they have a car and can go where they want, quickly, and get what they want. The stores here don’t have a lot of things. Here, he’s noticed that Marquesans have to work a lot harder to get what they want because they don’t earn as much. And things costs more and take longer to get shipped over here. Independent of Bryce, Trent too notes that there aren’t a lot of job options here. He says many have to go to Tahiti for jobs, but there’s no guarantee there either. In California, he recalls there are more things to do; activities, entertainment, sports, shopping, etc. Here, there’s only a few sports: soccer, volleyball, basketball, and paddling, and that’s it. No movie theaters, Wi-Fi is hard to get, and there’s not many places to go except the ocean, where there are no-no’s, or the mountains, where there are mosquitos. “I’ve learned a lot about living on a boat. It’s a lot of work,” he says, stating we have to make our own utilities; water, power, sanitation, and get propane for cooking. Fortunately everything is closer here, he remarks. “You can bike to anywhere you need to go.”
I’m pleased with the lessons and perspectives we’ve gained. The first year didn’t go as planned; it went even better. Apparently it’s a blessing to not get everything you wish for . . . oops, another lesson.