Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chicken? Or egg?

Just peeking through the tropical vegetation, Cinderella at anchor in the Bahamas. Is it all about the travel?
En route to Oxford, MD on a light air day, Dan wonders if he can tweak and extra tenth of a knot  by adjusting the sail trim.  Is it all about the sailing?

Some people we know who are currently cruising got their start because they love to sail, and the travel was just a side note.  Others love to travel, and getting there by sail was a practical solution.  Are you a sailor or a traveler?  There’s a bloghop on this topic this month, a dozen or so of us cruising bloggers (or blogging cruisers) are posting on the same topic so you can see the range of their various viewpoints.

For me, the question of whether the sailing or the traveling came first is exactly equivalent to whether the chicken came first or the egg; or whether it’s about the journey or the destination.   You just can't know; its both and neither. I’ve written before about “how” we got into sailing.  How Dan used to have a kitchen & bath remodel business, and a client asked him to redo the countertops in his sailboat galley (just another kitchen, right?) and then after the job was complete the client took us for a short afternoon sail that got the Kansas farmboy totally hooked, sailing for the first time ever in his life in his late 40s.  That led to a one-week liveaboard/learn-to-sail charter in the Virgin Islands, which led to us buying our own first sailboat a year later.  (I refer to this as the single most expensive – for us (!!) – kitchen remodel job Dan ever did.)    And about how the love of wide open spaces, and patience, and self-reliance, and being in touch with nature, isn’t really all that different whether it's framed by a Kansas wheatfield horizon or blue ocean horizon.  And how, when we were transferred from Michigan to agency headquarters near Washington, D.C., we decided to move aboard the boat at least partly for financial reasons – the monthly mortgage payment that let us have a 3 bedroom waterfront house near Lansing would barely pay the rent on a studio apartment near my new office.  I’ve talked about the semi-accidental nature of “how” we got where we are, but never about the “why.”  So.  Chicken?  Or egg?

The chicken came first:  When we were first married, we lived in Colorado and spent nearly all our weekends enjoying the great Rocky Mountain outdoors – backpacking and canoeing, (inefficiently, we alternated these activities so that every Thursday evening was spent unpacking and repacking gear).  Winter weekends were spent cross-country skiing.  Weekday evenings were spent planning our next trip.  There is of course a common theme to these activities: they’re all about quiet transportation in its various forms, as opposed to, say, hobbies like organized sports or arts and crafts.  And they are all about a love of nature and relative solitude.  So sailing seems to be just one more kind of transportation for us to play with, an obvious extension of what we like to do.   And from there, the progression to living aboard full time and cruising seems equally obvious. 

The egg came first:  Long before we met, we were travelers.  First with our families, as kids and young adults.  Then, in Dan’s case, courtesy of Uncle Sam in the Army.  In mine, jaunts to Singapore, Jerusalem, Thailand, Venezuela.  Sleeping on the beach, using my backpack for a pillow.  After we were married, whenever either of us had a business trip, the other would try to come along.  We’d tack a day or two onto the trip for side excursions to big cities (Seattle, Phoenix, Albuquerque) but also small towns and quirky parts of the US (Billings, MT? Centennial, WY? )  

The boat aspect enhances the traveling:  Despite their vacation trips and Army stints, all 4 of our parents lived their lives within 50 miles of the places they were born.  We, on the other hand, counted 23 moves between us after graduating from college.  Maybe it’s generational, maybe it’s restlessness, maybe it’s just the nature of our careers.  What we learned from those moves is that we like to visit fewer places, more deeply.  Stay long enough to really understand what makes a place special, what unique solutions the people who live there have discovered to ease the problems of everyday living.  Traveling by boat gives us the platform for that travel in a way no other kind of transportation could offer.  It lets us visit places literally “without leaving the comforts of home” because our home, turtle-like, comes with us.  It lets us visit these places on a budget.  And, when we’re tired of cities and civilization and people, it lets us get away and recharge close to nature.  (Sometimes, during storms, a little too close, as “nature” splashes over the deck or whistles in the rigging!) My absolutely favorite benefit of boat travel, though, was completely unexpected.  Explaining that we live this quirky life is a never-fail conversation starter with just about everyone we meet, whether they’re other cruisers or total landlubbers, travelers by more conventional means or homebodies. 

The travel aspect enhances the boating:  Sometimes it’s fantastically mind-clearing to just take the boat away from the dock and dance on the breeze above the sparkling blue water, then come back home a few hours later.  At the same time, I can be pretty goal-oriented in life.  (This characteristic can be referred to as “determined” or “stubborn” depending on whether I’m being agreeable or grumpy about it.)  But I’d probably not sail in uncomfortable conditions, or lose sleep sailing at night, if I didn’t have a destination to get to.  Having a destination and the constraints of tides and currents and other factors, has forced us to push our comfort zone, which in turn has made us better sailors, which therefore makes the sailing more fun, which allows us to consider bolder destinations, and round and round.  What’s the opposite of a vicious circle that spirals down and self-perpetuates? An expanding circle, that grows and improves and self-perpetuates? Kinda like chickens and eggs.  We’re not really sure which came first, but now that we have both, they just keep on circling.
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Click on the monkey's fist to read others bloggers on this topic.
The Monkey's Fist

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