It’s been almost two years, and I miss it every single day (VIDEO)

oosterschelde-337-b-kopie

Dutch TV has now aired four different video installments of the Oosterschelde’s round-the-world voyage of 2014, which I’ve been watching with awe and a little trepidation. I’ve seen most of the videos, so I figured it wouldn’t be that earth-shattering. But I was a delighted to see that a lot of this astonishing footage–of dolphin pods, of hauling lines in gales, of the beautiful sun-hardened faces of the crew–was new to me, too.

In particular, I recommend watching the last one. Not all of these people I met in person–my leg of the voyage unfortunately isn’t featured at all, because two months straight at sea proved too much for even the most intrepid documentarian. The focus here is on the shorter Antarctic  journeys and the Cape Horn voyage that took place before I boarded, as well as the trip from the Azores (where I got off) to Rotterdam. However you will see many of the crew members who were onboard my leg.

It’s also a chance for you to see some extremely familiar faces to me (without naming any names of course).

But I’m just going to say it–going back can be painful. The other day, the longing to go back was almost unbearable. Images flit through my brain: as if I were back sitting on the wooden deck box, the rain pattering on my face on midnight watch. Watching the sun rise out of the gray mist, the drowned world reformed anew each day.  Unfiltered sunlight on weathered rope. The flip of the tail of an Ascension blackfish. The drunken ecstasy of dancing in the middle of the world with people who, for that moment, at least, are beautiful, inside and out , and who think you are beautiful, too. I felt…blessed. And even though some of those good feelings eventually crumbled, as they always do, our community of pirates has dispersed and moved on, our connections broken or lost, their etchings remain on me, unerasable.

csm_oosterschelde-s-odyssee-boeg_c95997c8a3

What I’ve written on this blog and elsewhere has only scratched the surface of what it was really like. So few people get a chance to experience something that is so far removed from everday existence that it’s like almost literally traveling to another universe. I look around my house now and I have to pinch myself to remind me that it was actually real. How do you ever move on after that? How do you engage yourself in the normal rhythms of 21st century life? Honestly, I still haven’t quite figured it out. I’m not the same person as I was before that trip, and I don’t know if I ever will be.

This isn’t “an oh, wasn’t that a great trip.” It’s so far beyond that it scares me–the fact that it’s almost two years later and this longing is as powerful as ever. And the knowledge that I will never get that feeling back–and I may never do anything in my life that makes me feel that way again– sometimes scares me.  I can try to recreate it (I have tried to recreate it) but it would never be the same. I don’t want it to be the same.

All I can hope is that someday I’ll be able to do something again that will mean as much to me as this trip did, that I’ll be embraced by a group of people in the same way I was embraced by them. I had hopes that it would continue, that this could somehow be the new normal. But I was naive. But if it’s possible for anyone to simply run away to sea forever and never come back, I’ve yet to meet them. There are always obligations, always yokes, always links to land.

As 2015 comes to a close, I’m feeling reflective. The readers of this blog have helped me along the journey, and I am thankful for you, too! The chance to share my adventures with you is a true gift. I hope there are lot more adventures ahead of me, no matter what they may be, and I hope you’re along to experience them, too.

1898658_422352317867302_473377379_o

In the New Year, I have big plans for this blog. The number one question I get when I tell people about my adventures is, how? How did you sail on a tall ship? And how can I do it too?

In 2016, I hope to do a post, or series of posts, that answers that question.

And still I keep dreaming.

Advertisements

4 ways spending Thanksgiving in Rome taught me how to travel

It was November of 2005, and I was spending my fall semester of my junior year studying at in Belfast, Northern Ireland, when four fellow students and I decided to be daring and have a continental adventure before we went home for Christmas. Ryanair direct to Fiumicino, here we come!72772880_89029e1777_z

It seemed clever and brave. But the truth was, I had never before visited a non-English speaking country. I had never spent a holiday abroad. I was still terrified of speaking Italian, and I carried my own personalized phrasebook with me–printed on paper–at the very top was “No parliamo italiano.” In other words, for the love of god, please don’t talk to me. Please don’t make me humiliate myself. Above all, I was terrified of doing something wrong.

 

  1. How to make friends–no, family!–out of anyone. The truth was, I didn’t know any of my traveling companions that well. One was a softspoken boy from Alabama who liked tacos; another was an angelic Catholic girl from eastern Pennsylvania who just wanted a souvenir rosary from the Vatican “‘Bring me something holy, Angela!” my mom said. ‘Just bring me something holy!’” Another was a tall, dark-skinned girl from Indiana I’d never even met. “I never thought I’d be traveling to Rome at age 19,” she gushed. I was skeptical.

These weren’t exactly the cool, glamorous traveling companions I’d dreamed of. They were as naive as I was, if not moreso. But as it turned out, they were right for me. We helped each other read maps, puzzle out signages and agree to skip the overpriced tour of the Colosseum. We listened to our shoes tap on the polished floors of ancient churches, and had our pictures taken with some guys dressed up in cheesy gladiator costumes. I was the best at languages, so when a woman asked about the book I was reading on the train, I spoke for all of us. No parliamo italiano, I said with an abashed grin. My friends thanked me. And I didn’t die.

 

  1. How to travel cheaply. Of course, as tourists, none of us had planned to eat anyplace except a restaurant. Certainly our parents never did while traveling. Except this was Thanksgiving, so if we wanted anything close to a traditional American turkey day, we quickly realized we’d have no choice but to –gulp–shop locally. I’d never been so terrified. What if I didn’t understand what something was? Would I have to ask?. For someone clinging to her sweaty phrasebook like a deflating raft, and with crippling shyness around people I didn’t know, this was genuinely terrifying.

Tiptoeing into the store, we didn’t find a big frozen Butterball–none of us knew how to cook it anyway, but we did find some turkey breasts at the deli, and my friend said she thought the Italians eat potatoes. (Gnocchi, right? Right?) And pasta was just as starchy as pumpkin and sweet potatoes, so that was a good stand-in. Cranberry was out of the question, and we didn’t have the first clue about how to make stuffing. All in all, we only had maybe one or two of the Thanksgiving trappings. My stomach started to sink. Homesickness was creeping in. But I stuck my chin out.

 

  1. How to feel at home anywhere. We were all ready to leave the store, when I turned around and realized my companions weren’t with me. Then I heard sweet little Angela’s voice behind me at the deli counter. She spoke clearly, loudly enough for the entire store to hear. “Formaggio?” Silence, for two, three seconds. Then the guy laughed and handed her a huge hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and we skedaddled back to the hostel. Alive.

Back at our crowded hostel near Termini Station, we Americans took over the kitchen and whipped up our sad little turkey breasts–which, warmed up and coated with, what else, tomato sauce–didn’t look so sad anymore. We forgot the butter, so our potatoes weren’t exactly creamy, and the utensils seemed to date to Tiberius’ reign.  And of course we made pasta, because Italy! Angela and Cody, of course, insisted on holding hands and saying grace. The kitchen started to feel a little warmer; the city not so dark and foreign. These people–these strange, stupid American kids–started to look, well, nice.

 

  1. How to be thankful. We rejoined all 12 or so of the rest of our hostel companions–two backpacking Serbians, a group of English chavs, and that one Irish guy who shows up hammered at every hostel on Earth—-and instead of trying to dazzle each other by naming all the exotic locales to which we’d traveled, we played parlor games. And then we actually talked. To strangers. Who didn’t hate us, even though we’d appropriated the entire kitchen for the past three hours and probably didn’t clean it all that well. This seemed to be the biggest miracle at all.

Up till then, all I’d wanted was to get out of this alive. But that Thanksgiving, something changed. I was thankful. After all, not everybody gets to go to Rome at 19. Not everyone gets to travel at all. Not everyone has a family waiting for them across the ocean when they’re broke and weary and ready to go home for Christmas. Not everyone has that moment where they realize for the first time that this isn’t a fluke. That I didn’t have to be a terrified tourist. That I could be smart, That I could be brave, that I could be wise. That I could be a traveler.