How do you explain one of the most unique trips you'll take in life. It is not an uncommon journey - crossing from Panama to Colombia via the San Blas islands; yet I can't help but feel that none could be as great as ours was. We had the most varied cast of characters, but all complimented each other and were instant friends. Even the crew became part of us misfits, but by the end, if we're being honest, probably were ready to get a break from us and our constant energy. I mean, when guests from neighbouring yachts come to crash your party bearing gifts of champagne, you know you're doing something right! So where do I start? I think this might be best done in parts. Enjoy.
The Experience (feelings and other stuff I'm not good at expressing):
There is no WIFI, no technological input, no connection at all to your routine. When you spend your days with absolutely nothing on the agenda, something interesting happens. You wake up, sit and stare at the horizon while waves crash against the hull and the sun warms your skin. (The wind would be blowing in your hair, except after days of not showering that rats nest isn't moving!) With nothing but silence on your mind, you begin to learn about yourself. You can clearly evaluate where you've been, why you're here, and where it is you really want to go. These are such important things we are usually 'too busy' to ask ourselves. Even better, once you have answered those questions for yourself, you can begin to see around you much clearer. It was at this point that for the first time in my life, I appreciated myself. I appreciated how little I could live with and still be happy, how good something as simple as a bite of toast can be, how easy it is to be nice and kind to everyone, how capable of understanding we all are and how the tiniest moments can make you smile months later. And then I fell in love. I fell in love with the beauty of our planet, the stories of strangers, the joy of a midnight swim, and the people whose paths I would have never otherwise crossed. But mostly our planet... I became a serious stage 5 clinger to mother nature.
I have never in my life gotten sea sick. All the emails warned that even people like myself should bring some Dramamine. Sure, why not. Well, I learned a very important lesson here. Dramamine is magic and as much as you think you'll be fine, there is something about that constant rocking no one is used to. I ended up being one of only 3 from our group that didn't throw up...and believe me, if you're going to venture across an open ocean, you better get used to people throwing up. We joked about it the first night, even making bets on who would vomit first. Karma is a bitch since the guy making the bets was the first to puke. By the end we brought each other crackers and didn't mind when someone was throwing up right next to us as we ate our dinner. We just kept eating with one hand and patting them on the back with the other.
With 12 people on a 42 ft sail boat that only has 4 cabins, you have to forget the concept of privacy. More likely than not you will be sharing a room, possibly a bed, with someone you've just met. Oh and have I mentioned that your poop gets jetted out the side of the boat? Better make sure you only go number 2 when the boat is moving and no one is swimming next to it! Although it does make for a fun game of 'whose poop is floating by?' Also, with 12 people in such a confined space, you will likely never find a quiet corner for some alone time. A pair of headphones and roasting in the sun when everyone else is seeking shade is probably the closest you will get. Side note: perhaps this was unique to our group, but after a couple of days a lot of nudity ensued; from skinny dipping to random acts of streaking. I saw a lot of wieners.
I was prepared to have this crossing be the solution to my vacation weight gain. Surely, between possible seasickness and the limited supplies on board I would eat little and get fed up with Spam or whatever tinned food they would feed us. On the contrary, I now want to marry Cesar, our chef. We ate so well and so much for those 5 days! Rolling waves or anchored, Cesar whipped up everything from Lobster to pancakes to Barracuda Ceviche in that tiny kitchen! Bottom line, I feel bad for those that got sick because that food was some of the best and most unexpected I've had. Although, maybe they win since they got to taste it twice.
Never going to happen! If it hadn't been for the drowsiness caused by the (non-drowsy!) Dramamine, I'm not sure I would have slept more than 4-5 hours each night. The first night, I couldn't go to sleep at all - but this was mainly because we had just set sail and the thrill of it all kept me awake. I truly began to understand the saying that 'If you can't sleep it's because real life has become better than your dreams'. In my wildest dreams, I couldn't have imagined what it was like, standing there on the bow, wind in the sails, setting off into darkness using a method of transport that has been around for thousands of years. Eventually though, you go to bed. And man, that first night is rough. Your stomach is just sloshing around and you're not quite sure if facing bow or stern is less horrible. For the rest of the trip you tend to sleep wherever and whenever you can, day or night. And if you think I'm exaggerating, believe me when I say that I slept on top of a Yeti cooler next to the designated barf ledge.
The Expected versus the Unexpected:
Nothing I can write about this trip will ever do it justice. The people I met will stay with me and the things I saw and felt have changed me forever. Each journey will be as unique as the people you're with, but there were so many unexpected things that came out of this, I decided to make it the final section of this blog.
I expected to see incredible night skies - I never expected to see the milky way from one end of the horizon to the other, Jupiter, Neptune, the ISS and satellites above while bio luminescent plankton was sparkling in the water below (all within the same 15 minute window)
I expected to make new friends - I never expected to miss people that 5 days ago weren't even a part of my life
I expected to be slightly uncomfortable - I never expected a cooler to be one of the most sought after sleeping spots
I expected to possibly get bored - I never expected 5 days to be filled with so many fantastic moments that it almost wasn't long enough
I expected to feel dirty - I never expected to get so used to being filthy that 5 days without a shower didn't seem like a big deal
I expected it would change my life - I had no idea in how many ways it actually did.