Tag Archives: humour
It was never a guaranteed that I’d stay on board all the way to Australia, and with space for only one of us, either Matt or me had to make a move to a different boat or a different whatever. The rules of the world dictate, first on last off. I had no problems with that.
It was only as we got closer to Tahiti that we finally broached the subject and thrashed out the reality of the situation. As it turned out, Matt wanted to stay on board, so I was off. It gave me a few days thinking time. As far as I was concerned, I had three, no four, options:
1) Find another boat to crew for. The positives are that I might even find paid work, the negatives that most boats would want to do some exploring of the islands. Bora Bora? I heard it’s amazing, so why a negative? I wanted to get back to Oz sooner than August. I needed to go earn some money, catch up with friends and family.
2) Find a stout Tahitian man and get stuck into island life. A beautiful place, who wouldn’t want to settle in tropical paradise? Nah, my ideals say that something like this, should it happen, would be spontaneous and emotionally driven, and not a calculated decision. And honestly, my heart was a little too distracted to really consider this option.
3) Find a cheap flight to Oz. After nearly a year of being transient, I was ready to put down roots for at least a few months. My bank account suggested that it was a necessity to get some paid work quickly, particularly if I hoped to finally return to my family in the UK for Christmas.
4) See what turns up. This approach has worked well for me over the last year. I’ve freed myself of the need to plan and be overly prepared. It’s liberating. Only occasionally has it fallen flat, like when I turned up to New Zealand not having booked a hostel after taking three flights. Of course, everywhere was fully booked because the Foo Fighters were playing that night. But generally, adventures and interesting experiences have presented themselves when I’ve just been open to seeing what turns up.
So here in Tahiti, I started to pack up my bags and prepare for pastures new.
What would life have in store for me?
The logical thing as a free-spirited, solo traveller would be to continue the sailing adventure through French Polynesia. But something else was pulling me in a different direction, no, not just the one thing, some things.
As I sat in the sunshine sipping a fresh fruit juice, gazing out at a fleet of yachts, Pride told me to find another boat, to do the full Pacific crossing. What’s another two months? he asked, you’ve come so far, why give up now? Because, I replied, I’m actually quite ready to stop for a while. Tropical islands are all well and beautiful but I want to be with friends again, be part of a little community that doesn’t dissipate in a few days, get somewhere where I can talk to doctors in English and get these tropical sores treated.
I recalled a friend’s wise words about there always being more opportunities to do things in the future. If I want to sail around French Polynesia, if it’s really, really important to me, I’ll find a way to come back. I wouldn’t be giving up, I decided. None of my adventures had had definite start and end points so why force this one? No Pride, you don’t present a strong enough argument.
Adventure perked up. You like Tahiti, right? Imagine more of this, more remote, more beautiful, more Bora Bora. People would sell their souls to get to Bora Bora. And then there are the Cook Islands and Tonga and maybe Fiji. You could spend months sailing, not spending much money, maybe even earning some, months enjoying waters perfect for snorkelling and diving and splashing about. You would be in paradise, away from the responsibilities of real life, putting off your return to rent and taxes and all things boring.
In many respects, it sounded appealing. Adventure talked my language, romanticised escapism, abhorred conventionality. But how realistic was Adventure? Did she not realise the power that denial and stresses played on the mind? No, life in its conventional sense of salaries and so forth needed to be addressed.
Responsibility smiled. Finally! he said, you’re starting to be a bit more level headed. Level-headed? I cringed. Maybe you don’t want to return to teaching, but drifting along will soon become tired. Know that you have lots of options. If you really want to be a little less responsible, if you really want to be a writer, he paused and raised an eyebrow, then you’ll still need to find some other work to cover your living costs. You may actually feel quite good earning money again, – you’ll be able to treat people and be independent and, if you must, save for further travels.
I thought about it. Responsibility was right. My return to Australia could just be a stop-gap. If it happened to extend into something more long-term then fine, but if I approached it as just another step in my adventure it would panic me less, and be less of a reason to run for the hills. Or the sea, in this case.
Finally, when I was ready, Love added her two pence worth and told me what I already knew. You have a friend in Australia who is soon moving on to pastures new, you have a cousin arriving into the country before too long and you have someone there who is so looking forward to your return.
Pride tried to butt in but Love was having none of it. She continued. Your family would be so, so happy to see you at Christmas, and I know how much you want to catch up with friends back in the UK. So lightly listen to Responsibility – he makes a few good points – and realise that the journey is never over. To continue your adventure in a meaningful way, you know what you need to do. And the stout Tahitian man that you mentioned? He’s not for you, dear. Leave him be.
Three hours later I had a flight booked to land in Brisbane, Australia. But first, another two weeks in paradise.
I’m sitting up at the helm, rocking and rolling around on a slightly choppy sea and studying the spinnaker – the big front sail – for the two holes that I spotted yesterday. They seem to have disappeared. Fair weather clouds clutter the sky, moments of beautiful sunshine breaking through and warming my bare feet.
We’re heading towards a dark lined horizon, maintaining a steady speed of between 6 to 7 knots but it feels slow after a great yesterday averaging 8.4kts. Tahiti is still over 2,500nm away, at least another two weeks on this empty ocean. It seems both a short while and an eternity.
Occasionally I contemplate how vulnerable we are: four somebodies floating along in a carbon fibre frame, trying to employ and mix ancient sailing wisdom with modern technology.
My skipper is relaxed and knowledgeable. I wonder if he ever wonders just how he ended up crossing the Pacific with three newbies. Too late to switch things up now. What we lack in experience and knowledge, we make up for in interest and enthusiasm. He keeps the lads busy changing sheets on the genoa and unfurling the spinnaker. Other than watch duty, I’ve put myself forward as cook. I’m keeping busy.
With four of us on board, we can develop a routine. Every six hours, for two hours it’s my watch time, during which I look out for potential collisions or obstructions, keep an eye on wind direction and speed, check the sails, make minor adjustments to our course and, where necessary, trim the sails (or rather, I help to trim the sails, because although I have a good idea of what needs doing I lack the experience and therefore the confidence to make any bigger decisions).
And I try not to hit the track button on the captain’s main computer. It resets everything. But then someone does hit the track button and our whole mapped course disappears. Uh oh.
Honestly, it wasn’t me.
Far out in the South Pacific and unsure of where we’re going or where we’ve been? Nah, it isn’t quite that drastic. A tech savvy captain and we are back on track with only a little gap in the mapped route to show for the mistake.
And I am reassured that even in the event of a full on technological failure, night sky navigation isn’t something unfamiliar to my skipper, Alan . I put my trust in him and my crewmate Matt, who starts to read up on celestial navigation.
- But now, back to my watch and that oncoming moody horizon.
I met Adele* whilst she was beating a bug out of her system in Sucre, stole her friend when she left for Cochabamba and met back up with her in La Paz for some partying. Like me, she’d left behind her entire life to throw caution to the wind and see what life and travelling had to offer.
Unlike me, though, she was having a little panic about her upcoming birthday. And she wasn’t the first person I’d met who was worrying about the big 3-0.
For me, being 30 has been an incredible year, a real rollercoaster of emotions and experiences that have let me reconnect with what matters to me. My philosophy is that every year I get older, the happier I get.
How so? I am more comfortable in myself, I know myself better, I’m more confident to say no to things, I’m more open to life.
And I care a whole lot less about what people think about me. Too much of my life I’ve tried to adapt to be how I think other people want me to be; so much effort gone into appeasing others and losing myself into a falsity. So yeah, I’m not scared. Bring on the ageing process.
But! Not at the expense of immaturity and silliness!
Travelling has taught me to reconnect a bit with my inner child. Not necessarily in some intense hippy way but more just reminding me: don’t take things too seriously.
During my travels in the last year I’ve helped out and hung out with toddlers in Sucre, volunteered at a school literacy fair, stayed with a young family in Australia, taken bus journeys with teenagers in Bolivia and sat in amongst a smiley school group on their way to Galapagos. These are some of the times where kids have reminded me how to live. Untouched by the trials and tribulations of life, they cut through all of the bulls***t and live life openly and honestly.
When you feel some adult heaviness creeping in, I invite you to try one or more of the following:
- When with a group of friends, chatter and giggle and whatever you do, don’t stop. Occasionally stick out your tongue or pull the other person’s hair or ear. They won’t be annoyed (if they too are subscribing to this childish therapy, or are indeed a child).
- Lie on the floor and just stare at the ceiling. Maybe hum to yourself, if you feel like it.
- Be affectionate with friends. If you like someone, hold hands and cuddle them. Simple.
- When you get up off the floor, put your hands in front of you, lean a little forward and lift your bum up first. Your hands and feet should both stay in contact with the ground. This doubles up as yoga practise.
- Put on some silly music and dance around, flailing your arms, bouncing on your legs, waving your hands and shaking your head. Don’t think about it, just feel it and let go. Completely.
- When on public transport, really enjoy it. Whoop and scream if you hit a turbulent spot in an airplane. Similarly, when taking off and landing, let your excitement spill out. Verbally and physically. When on a bus, clamber over the person next to you to look out of the window at the moon. Be fascinated by the little streaks of water slithering across the pane and follow them with your fingers, leaving smudges on the glass.
- Smell everything, including the clouds and sky. When people ask you what it actually smells like, come up with something obscure or silly. ‘Poo’ normally hits the mark.
- Stamp your feet and stick out your lip when you’re annoyed. Forget why you stamped your feet when you’re easily distracted by a passing airplane.
- Run to the window and wave frantically at airplanes.
- Be brutally honest. If, for example, someone makes silly voices in an effort to make you laugh, just go for it and say ‘Finola, you’re really funny… and weird’.
- If you don’t get your own way, lie face down and bash the floor with clenched fists. Check someone is watching you and if not, move to a spot and repeat where someone can take note.
- Blow raspberries and pull silly faces. At strangers is usually more fun.
- Finally, melt an adult with tired openness and affection. ‘Nola?’ ‘Yep?’ ‘Nola, I love you’.
*name changed to protect identity
It’s not a secret that I have had a bit of a thing for South America. But this story isn’t about that, either. Or maybe it is a little, because this love story is about the attempted destruction of my love affair with South America.
I have always intended to keep romantic relationships out of my blog, but on this occasion I’ll break my own rules. And in any case, it’s not a particularly romantic story, just a slightly frustrating, sickening and one-sided love affair that could remain private but won’t do anyone any harm by revealing its sordid details.
We’ve been travelling companions now for how long now? On and off, for the last nine months? Something like that. You know I can’t say that they’ve been good times, don’t you? Yet still you keep coming back for more. Why? Why me?
To be fair, I’ve felt the twinges in my stomach many times over. In that respect this isn’t one-sided. But we’re not talking butterflies here, not that wonderful, crazy feeling when you fall in love. Nope, we are talking about twinges, and cramps, and gurgling and all things uncomfortable.
I tried the ignoring technique but your presence is undeniable. I tried to drink and dance to forget, but it was only a momentary distraction and once the hangover subsided you were well and truly back in my life. And I wish you weren’t.
I went to see someone. I needed professional help; it had got to that stage. Again. I tried to explain the impact that you’ve had on my life. I felt understood. It’s not just me that thinks you’re annoying, that enough is enough, you know?
And whilst the professionals figured out how to deal with you, friends told me to build myself up, to stay healthy. I drank carrot and orange juice at the market, despite one of the vendors telling me it’s an ugly drink. I took probiotic supplements. I cooked healthy food. I went to bed early.
But the fighting worsened. It was unbearable. Your final attempts doubled me over in coughing pain; misery accompanied by crying eyes and a running nose and a battle raging in my belly. You did a good job of making me hate you.
Then I heard the news. You’d changed; you were not who I thought you were. No longer parasitical, you tried on a new outfit. Does e-coli suit you? No, quite honestly, no. Maybe if it was only e-coli then I could have fought you better but you were in vicious mode, taking on board acute bronchitis and sickness and fever as your allies. I was outnumbered.
I didn’t want to do it, but I had to. I needed rid of you. Down went the Flucoxin 200g. You laughed at my attempts.
I tried again. Stronger this time. Cefixima 400g. And I didn’t stop there, oh no! Down my throat trickled the rank mix of codeine fosfato and pseudoephedrine chlor. and clorfenamina maleate. Desperate times. You think I’m being nasty? I had to be. No choice. It was on the advice of the professionals. It’s out of my hands now.
So this is where we’re at. I don’t want to see you again. Shouldn’t each partner in a relationship feel strengthened by their connection? All you ever did was weaken me, make me tired.
Time to get out of my life. I’m not in love with you, I’m in love with South America. Please give our relationship a chance. And I’m sure, much as I hate to say it, that you’ll quickly find someone else.
Not yours (and never wanted to be),