Friday, January 28, 2011

Reflections: 10 Months of Changing Courses

Windward Islands, Caribbean---When I started this journey, I had in my head how it would go. I knew the challenges that I would face and prepared my mind for them. What a joke. Just like life, nothing really prepares you for things unknown and nothing goes perfectly according to plan. After 25 years of a fairly routine life, I have learned to be more agile. To expect the unexpected. It was a very hard lesson for me to learn.

I look back and I’m thankful for the family that took me in on their sailboat and showed me amazing parts of the world. I look inside myself and I’m ashamed of my own behavior because I am 100% accountable for me, no matter what is being thrown at me. I should have left after the second day but I was too scared of having no options. Fear is ridiculous. It holds us back. I have learned there is always an option. Always.

I thought I was an independent person when I left. But no, true independence (and true freedom) comes when you face fear head on. I had led a very “safe” life surrounded by my friends, my career and my things. Being alone in a country where the only way forward is what you create out of nothing, that’s independence. It didn’t come without stepping out on faith, tears and many chats with God.

After successfully finding another boat to finish my journey I knew I was doing the right thing, even though pressing issues with my dog and home started to haunt me.

I remember returning on the ferry from Tobago back to Trinidad after a day trip to that resort island. The sun had set by 6:30pm and it was dark. Walking away from the port in the center of reputed crime area of Port of Spain, I was bombarded by taxi drivers offering to drive me the 10 miles to the marina where I was staying. The price was $200 EC (about $35). But without a glance their way, I walked with determined confidence as the only white person in a crowd of about 50. Across the highway and to the Maxi Taxi stand catching a ride in a crowded van that stopped numerous times to let people off and on. Soon I was at my marina and paid the $5EC (about 85 cents US) without giving it a second thought. I walked away suddenly feeling very empowered. Nothing about what I had done was risky, but it was something I had been uncomfortable with and wouldn’t think of doing when I saw it in South Africa. But it started with educating myself on how the system worked. Once I understood I never felt nervous, I felt more like a local. I found the ride-share system full of kind and helpful people as well as MUCH more interesting ride and cheap!

Now I look forward to the future month on the OceansWatch boat. I have laughed more in the last 10 days then I have all year. I am really, really happy. The team is serious about our mission but they take fun as seriously as I do. Last night they confessed that they had dreaded my arrival, fearing I would be too serious. They had read my Trinidad research and reports on my findings. It didn’t take long for them to get it, and get me.

I absolutely love being able to experience these island now with a purpose that not only means something, but allows me to meet government officials, business owners and approach sailors with our information leading to great discussions about their views, experiences and travel. I love hearing people's stories. So I am in heaven, especially hearing so many stories about changing their life for a life at sea.

I talk to non-sailors and they think what I have done is amazing. I talk to sailors and find them shaking their heads in acknowledgement. My story among sailors is not unusual or unique, it’s just another person who came to a point in the life that said there has to be more to life than this office or did a life review only to find they were not doing what they really had in their heart and the only thing holding them back was fear.

Yes, I’m lucky being single with no children but I had excuses that held me back and the decision to do this evolved, it did not come overnight. With every life comes excuses, but that did not stop my cousin Jason who closed his safe doctors office in Kansas and moved a wife and 5 children to a life overseas in US Embassies. Was it easy? No. Was it painful? Yes. Did it positively impact the children and his wife? A huge yes, as I watch one child fluent now in Arabic, working for the US state department in Tanzania, another a Navy Seal, another with Habitat for Humanity in Washington, DC, another giving artistic ideas to women in Ethiopia resulting in many jobs, another working with children and his wife, my cousin, with more confidence and grace than she knew she was capable of.

For every decision, there is a path. For every path, there is a direction. For every direction you have to stop every once and a while and ask: Am I happy? If you accidentally got on the wrong path, it will take everything you have to face the fear and find another course. But I am hearing from others who have done this and time and time again the feedback is, “it was worth it.”

The end of my journey is now in sight. I have no job, no prospects and no fortune awaiting me. I pray now, that I can heed my own words, face the fear and choose the right course.


Crew of the Solstice said...

Good luck, Edee!

Jane O'Brien said...

If u can run my butt ragged for 26.2 miles -- I have no doubt u will b able to start another chapter in ur life. Can't wait to hear the stories :)