1) When I think about my upcoming adventures, all I can think of is how I’m going to end up lying in a pool of my own blood.
2) When I think about my upcoming adventures, I start to think I might die in the Southern Ocean.
3) When I think about my upcoming adventures, I’m filled with serenity — I’m so relaxed that I feel like I’m being soothed to sleep in a warm bubble bath.
One of these sentences is a lie. Can you guess which one?
I used to play this game – two truths and a lie – with my English language students at the start of class to get them conversing and practicing their English in a relaxed environment. We call these little games “warmers,” since they help students warm up to speaking a foreign language using phrases they know already before challenging them to try out more difficult language constructions.
I’m not sure what made me think of this, but I suppose I’m feeling like I could use a “warmer,” an activity that eases me into the intense experience I’ve just jumped into. The experience that’s about to take me on a seven-month rollercoaster ride as I circumnavigate the world by planes, trains, yachts, cars, buses, tuk-tuks, motorcycles and god-knows-what-else.
Ryan and I have just completed a 10-month sailing journey from New York to the Caribbean. And now, our boat Hideaway is resting peacefully on dry land in Luperon, Dominican Republic, awaiting our return next year.
Which means a new adventure is now officially underway. We’ve challenged ourselves to take on a full round-the-world trip using as many modes of transport as possible along the way. It all started a week ago in New York, where we flew with our two cats, Charlie and Celia, and handed them over to my parents, who will spoil them rotten with fresh fish and solid ground until we return.
When I say this trip is already underway, I mean before we even boarded our flight to London for our Clipper Round the World Race training, we’d already hitched a ride with friends to Albany (✔car), rode Amtrak to New York City (✔train), stayed with friends on their sailboat (✔dinghy) and toured the Big Apple doing business and visiting friends (✔subway). So, I’d say we’re off to a healthy start.
This is our ambitious itinerary for the next seven months as we travel around the world:
- Complete our Level 2 and 3 Training for the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race without injury. (If you followed along for Level 1, you know about me lying in a pool of my own blood.)
- Race 70-foot yachts from London, UK to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
- Fly to Cape Town, South Africa. Swim with some sharks.
- Anxiously await the arrival of the Clipper Race yachts’ from Rio.
- Take on Leg 3 of Clipper Round the World, which means racing from Cape Town to Western Australia across the angry Southern Ocean.
- Travel around Australia. See some kangaroos. Cuddle some koalas.
- Fly to Southeast Asia for some more traveling. Hit Thailand for a full-moon party.
- Work our way back to New York via the western U.S. states.
- Spoil our cats with love and cuddles before taking them on a plane with us back to the Dominican Republic.
I’m not going to lie: this travel outline has me pretty excited. And also pretty stressed. I mean, what we’re about to do is no joke.
So, while I’m practically skipping from city to city (and by skipping, I mean schlepping heavy ocean racing gear), I’m also suffering sleepless nights as my brain wanders to places I can’t even fathom. Like the Southern Ocean.
If you’re a landlubber, you’ve probably never even heard of the Southern Ocean, since it’s not one of the seven seas taught in grade-school geography. But if you’ve ever sailed, you know this beast by name.
Dare to look it up on Wikipedia, and you’ll get charming tidbits like this:
Cyclonic storms travel eastward around the continent and frequently become intense because of the temperature contrast between ice and open ocean.
Sailors know latitudes from 40 to 70 degrees south as the “Roaring Forties”, “Furious Fifties” and “Shrieking Sixties” due to high winds and large waves that form as winds blow around the entire globe unimpeded by any land-mass.
Ice and open ocean. Large waves. That’s the stuff legends are made of.
So, when travel writer Mike Sowden (the talent behind the blog Fevered Mutterings) wrote in an email, “I’m totally jealous of your itinerary. But I’m hiding it really well. *stabs self in thigh with pen a number of times* I’M TOTALLY FINE DAMMIT.”
I felt compelled to reply with this warning:
Keep in mind, I COULD DIE. IN THE SOUTHERN OCEAN. I’m sort of kidding, but then again I’m not.
Most people don’t sail the Southern Ocean because, well, they know better. But my husband? My husband says, “I totally want to sail the Southern Ocean because there’s no way in hell I would ever do that on my own boat.” And here I naively thought he’d signed us up for the two MOST FUN legs of the race. London to Rio! Yay! Cape Town to Perth! What?! What do you mean two boats were dis-masted, a Skipper broke his leg, and they had a man overboard in the last race?! WHAT DO YOU MEAN?!
So, you may be jealous, but do remember that it is very stressful to be me. I’m always getting myself into stuff that sounds like a terrible idea to everyone else, but makes me want to do it even more. And then sometimes I break myself and people worry about me, and still I come out of it feeling like it was totally worth it. And I just keep chasing that feeling all over the world. Doing that to yourself all the time is REALLY stressful. And fun. You still want my itinerary?
Before I left New York, I spent a day with my parents, who seem utterly baffled by me and the challenges I pursue. “What makes you want to do this?” my dad asked.
I didn’t really know how to answer at the time, so instead I described the exhilarating experience of learning to race a yacht in harsh elements with a crew of strangers who I depend on for safety and support. I could tell from the pained looks on my parents’ faces that what I was describing with a grin sounded to them like the kind of hell that saner people would go to great lengths to avoid. And, despite myself, I understood what they were feeling.
As I lie awake at night, thinking about the Southern Ocean and the vast unknown that I will inevitably face, I feel a seed of panic rise in my gut. It’s an intense and familiar feeling, and one that I’ve learned to acknowledge and face like a worthy challenger. Because, ultimately, I have faith in my experiences, which have shown me both the terror and joy of ski racing, mountain climbing, learning a new language, playing roller derby, falling in love, running marathons, starting a business, riding a motorcycle, traveling alone, sailing to the Caribbean and countless life-changing occurrences.
And, time and again, those experiences have taught me that on the other side of fear lies freedom. Which is exactly what makes me want to do this.