My love of stories drives me to write. My love of adrenaline drives me to chase adventures. These two things, stirred together, have dished up this travel and sailing blog aimed at bringing you tales spun from dusty roads and unforgiving seas.
I started this little blog in September 2012, just before Ryan and I decided to test what we had learned in the five years since we started fumbling around on our first boat, a 1986 Catalina 34 called Hideaway. Our plan was to sail out of New York City and see just how far we could get while also balancing our working lives on the move. As owners of our own companies in the U.S., we were not exactly free to sail away from all our obligations, though we sure as hell tried.
This blog became an outlet for me to tell the stories of our travels on a boat and to connect with sailors, travelers, dreamers and a tribe of wanderers, like us, who were working their way around the world seeking out adventures and shunning stability.
But, before I tell you all those stories, let me introduce myself…
My name is Tasha, which is not short for Natasha, but is, in fact, the 5th most popular name for female dogs in the United States.
My first solo jaunt abroad took me to London, England for a college semester, and I can’t be sure if it was the constant rain, the knee-weakening accents or the thrill of being out on my own, but the experience lit a flame under me, and a life-long obsession with travel was born.
As soon as I graduated from college in upstate New York (St. Lawrence University), I joined the U.S. Peace Corps to teach English in the Russian Far East. In case you aren’t clear on where that is, you’ll see I’ve circled the turd-like landmass that hangs off the ass-end of Russia somewhere between Japan, China and North Korea. Somewhere roughly in that circle is a town called Nakhodka (“a little find” in Russian), which I called home for two amazing years (amazingly cold, amazingly educational).
Once I was released from the iron grip of the former Soviet Union with my Peace Corps readjustment allowance in hand, I was encouraged to ease back into “normal” life in the U.S. and go about finding myself a “real” job. But my life had changed so indescribably that the only thing I knew for sure was I didn’t want to go home and I definitely didn’t want to work in a cubicle. So I spent the next several months traveling around Siberia wondering where all the other travelers were (Thailand, it turns out).
After Siberia, traveling just got easier, so I kept moving and hoping I’d never have to stop. With a sturdy backpack and $6,000 in cash, I found myself trekking through the Baltics, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Turkey, living cheap, camping in the woods and bouncing between hostels.
Upon realizing my money wouldn’t last forever, I returned to England (still raining), worked on a fish farm (hey, it wasn’t a cubicle), got my CELTA TEFL certification and started looking for teaching jobs abroad. Which, it turns out, there are plenty of.
Using the time between teaching posts to continue traveling, I jetted around the Middle East, drove through the villages of Southern Spain and Portugal, hung out on the beaches of South Asia, snorkeled in the Red Sea, backpacked through Central America and drank a few too many caipirinhas in Brazil.
Before long, I started to realize teaching wasn’t just a means to travel. It had become a passion in its own right. And it had the phenomenal perk of taking me anywhere in the world I wanted to go. So I rode that wave to the deserts of Qatar, where I met Ryan, to sleepy Andalucia in southern Spain and to New York City to study English education at Columbia University. Which, for all the hard work it required, felt more like a hobby alongside my day job teaching immigrant kids at a rough international school in the Bronx. Literally, anything was easy after that, so Ryan and I co-founded a company called Teaching House to help people like us fulfill their dreams of traveling abroad and supporting themselves teaching English. Which then led to me opening my own English language schools, International House New York and International House Boston, for foreign students looking to study English in NYC and Boston.
As fabulous as New York is, I knew it wasn’t going to hold my interest forever, so I kept a look-out for the next adventure on the horizon. As such, I’ve learned to sail (and sailed from New York to the Caribbean), tried my hand (and body) at kiteboarding, signed on to crew for a major ocean race, rode boat waves while wakeboarding and would think nothing of running up the nearest mountain, if only someone would come with me so I wouldn’t get lost.
Eventually, the adventure of building and running our own companies started to be overshadowed by the feeling that we were permanently tethered to New York City and the United States, no matter what we wanted to do next with our lives. And after a few years of sailing and living aboard a boat, we decided it was time for a new adventure and a new mission.
We wanted to sail around the world and do a full circumnavigation. But that would require buying a different boat and selling the companies we spent eight years turning into a success. Which is exactly what we did. We said good-bye to Hideaway and hello to Cheeky Monkey, our round-the-world adventure-mobile. And with that, a new story began…
Ryan has been traveling for longer than I have, but only by virtue of being older. His first foray overseas from London, UK, was at age 17, when he backpacked around France with a friend and discovered along the way he wasn’t crazy about sleeping in a tent. By 19, he’d graduated to solo traveling and had landed with a thud (overweight bag with 5 pairs of shoes and no flip-flops) in Bangkok. It was hot, humid and completely and wonderfully foreign. And from there, he’s never looked back.
Loving life on the edge, Ryan made a sport out of arriving to new towns short on money, with no job and knowing no one. It’s led to some quirky employment opportunities, a few impromptu starvation diets and what my father would call a lot of character-building.
Not that my father would approve of such things. In fact, when my parents came to Spain to meet Ryan for the first time, my father tried to drag me back home on a plane. Ryan’s lack of a stable career coupled with his desire to marry me didn’t do much for his reputation with my family. Luckily, he is irresistibly charming.
As a traveling companion, Ryan brings a lot to the table. First and foremost, a willingness to sell the table. In fact, he’ll sell everything if it means he can move quicker, lighter and freer. With or without a plan, he’s happiest when standing on a train platform or marina dock, imagining the possibilities. Ryan’s laissez-faire attitude and blind confidence in himself makes him a great problem solver. He’d be a handy companion if we ever got stuck in a well — not only would he find a way out, but he’d find the shortest route to the nearest pub.
Ryan’s skills from his extensive job history (or scattered resume, depending on your view) has come in rather handy. We’ve not yet needed to build our own suspension bridge (which he assures me he can do), but his experience as a test driver, magazine writer, website architect and marketer have all contributed to building a successful business. And Ryan’s reputation and work in the field of English language education have led to us making great friends across the globe and have connected us to language schools worldwide. Lastly, his stints as a barman have given him the skills to mix a mean chocolate martini.
Ryan has been on the road now for over 20 years, and it doesn’t look like he’ll stop any time soon. He’s like a kid with ADD fidgeting in the corner of the classroom. Ryan has traveled extensively throughout Asia, Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East and would do it all again. Which he just might do now that he’s learned to sail and has found his partner in crime.
Ryan is the co-founder of Teaching House, an international organization dedicated to English language teacher training and helping people fulfill their dreams of teaching English abroad.
Cheeky Monkey is a 2015 Fountaine-Pajot Helia 44, which Ryan and I bought when we sold our companies in 2015 and decided it was time to leave North American shores and head off on a journey around the world. As you can see, Cheeky Monkey is quite an upgrade from our previous cruising boat Hideaway (see below) but the increase in liveaboard space was something we wanted not just for us.
We have dreamed of sharing our journey with friends, travelers and sailors, so we wanted the kind of liveaboard space that would allow us to spread out comfortably at anchor and also have guests on board without feeling like sardines packed into a floating can. After all, what’s the fun in keeping all this luxury to ourselves? Instead, we thought it would be fun to invite fun, talented, dynamic people on board to share in the adventure and the fun of doing something adventurous (like sailing across oceans) and creative (like making films for Chase the Story, our YouTube Channel).
This was taken our first night on board Cheeky Monkey in France.
One of the most commonly asked questions I get about our new boat purchase is “Why this boat? What is it you like about it?”
So I wrote this post Choosing the Right Boat for Us: The Fountaine-Pajot Helia 44 to offer a little insight into our thought process when shopping for our “dream” boat.
And if you’ve found this site because you are interested in buying a Fountaine-Pajot catamaran one day, you may have already read about the hardships and successes we’ve had with our purchasing process — it’s something I’m very open to sharing as there are pitfalls that I wish I’d known better to avoid.
Spoiler alert: We LOVE our Helia to the moon and back and wouldn’t trade it for any other boat. We just wish we had not done our post-factory outfitting in La Rochelle…and we wish we’d used a different broker.
Hideaway was our first boat and the boat we sailed on when this blog started.
She is a Catalina 34 coastal cruising sailboat named for what we used it as, as well as a bar in TriBeCa, New York, on the corner of Greenwich Street and Duane Street. This adorable neighborhood pub is where Ryan first got our friend Rich drunk and convinced him to buy a boat with us in 2007. The rest is, well, a story, which has resulted in a lot of blog posts.
For all you curious boat-lovers out there, here are a few photos of our former floating home: