Holy shit, we’re sailing around the world? (Thoughts on adventure and anxiety)

in Adventure Travel / France / Sailing the World
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tasha hacker turf to surf sailing around the world cheeky monkey

When our Coast Guard registration papers for Cheeky Monkey finally arrive by FedEx, Ryan and I pop open some beers and dance around the cockpit while flashing our blue lights on and off like we’re some kind of floating disco tied to the Fountaine-Pajot docks in La Rochelle.

Once that silliness is out of the way, we settle down to write a final list of everything we need to do to get off the docks. Which is when my gut starts to gurgle with a familiar feeling of acid anxiety, something that always hits me before a new challenge or a big journey.

And it starts to sink in: we’re really doing this. Holy shit, this is it. Our boat is registered and, officially, there is nothing keeping us here anymore. We can leave right now, right this minute.

 

fountaine pajot helia 44 sailing around the world cheeky monkeyThis is Cheeky Monkey, our Fountaine-Pajot Helia 44. She is rarin’ to go.

Yet I haven’t been thinking about this trip as a reality at all. It’s been a vague dream, a hazy concept, for so long that my brain seems to have accepted that this journey would always lie somewhere on the horizon just beyond our reach.

And yet, here we are. This is happening now. We’re going to sail around the world.

Every time I say these words out loud, I shake my head a little. Because when it’s said in response to a simple question like, “What are your plans?” it sounds ridiculous and dramatic and incomprehensible. And because the reaction I get from strangers is often a raised eyebrow followed by a long pause as they try to formulate the next question, which is often something like, “But…where do you go to the bathroom?”

 

tasha hacker cheeky monkey sailing around the world helia turf to surfMaybe once the side of the boat is branded, too, it will sink in?

It’s moments like these, when I’m on the cusp of an enormous experience, that I feel like I’ve been sucker-punched in the head. It’s like I never saw this coming, even though we have been dreaming about this day for years. We’ve read countless books and blogs about cruising around the world, we’ve taken charter vacations in the British Virgin Islands to see if we liked cruising, then we sailed our own boat to the BVIs from New York, and we talked endlessly about where we’d go if we had the chance to circumnavigate the world. And then we sold our companies so we could do exactly what we’d been dreaming of doing all these years. So, really, the fact that this day has arrived should be anything but a surprise.

But this is the pattern of my life, which is woven from the threads of both adventure and anxiety, resulting in five distinct stages in how I pursue and deal with adventure:

Stage 1: Inspiration – I hear or read about a crazy and exciting challenge, like sailing across the Southern Ocean, running from Miami to Key West, rowing around the Isle of Wight, or anything that sounds slightly mad and/or physically difficult, and my brain goes, “Whoa, that sounds amazing.”

Stage 2: Decision – My brain says, “Seriously. That sounds amazing. Don’t you want to do that? Go on, do it!” And before I know it, I’ve emailed someone, registered through a web site or made a plan with Ryan or an insane friend to do some crazy challenge in the far-off future.

Stage 3: Denial – I mark the event in my calendar and resume my normal, busy routine as my brain says, “So, you’re really doing this, huh? Well, let’s not panic already…just kick back and forget about it for a while. No sense getting worked up now.”

Stage 4: Panic – The big challenge is soon approaching and I suddenly remember I have to buy gear, pack bags and plan out how I’m actually going to get to the start of this thing, as well as how I’m going to tackle the challenge itself. And panic starts to set in. The last-minute realization of what I’m about to do causes my emotions to spike and my brain to scream, “What the hell were you thinking?! YOU HAVEN’T THOUGHT THIS THROUGH!”

Stage 5: Thrill – I am in the middle of doing whatever crazy thing I signed up for when I was possibly hungover and not at all in my right mind, and my brain is flooded with endorphins and screaming, “Holy shit, am I really doing this? THIS IS AWESOME! WHAT A GREAT IDEA!!!”

 

row around the isle of wight turf to surfRowing around the Isle of Wight for 12 hours with 7 women was, in fact, a great idea.

Though the result of these five stages is often positive (except when it ends with me in the hospital) and leaves me feeling inspired to pursue other challenges, there is a short, rather intense period surrounding Stage 3 and 4 (Denial and Panic) that typically turns me into an emotional lunatic.

I blame the defense mechanism in my brain that tries to decrease my anxiety about taking on scary challenges by putting those challenges out of my mind until the last possible minute, which has the unfortunate result of leaving me stranded in the eleventh hour with a severe lack of concrete plans. And that backfires on the whole let’s-not-get-too-stressed phase by sky-rocketing my anxiety when the big challenge arrives and I am nowhere near ready and I’m scrambling to research what the hell it is I’ve signed up for, what I need to buy and how the hell I’m going to get to where I’m going.

If you could have been in my London hotel room the night before the start of the Clipper Round the World Race in September 2013, you would have witnessed me in full-fledged Stage 4 panic. There were bags all over the floor and I was desperately weighing my gear and bursting into tears when I couldn’t figure out how to fit my computer and camera gear, as well as all my warm clothing, into the tight weight restrictions on board Henri Lloyd.

Meanwhile, Ryan was neatly packed, drinking a beer and saying things like, “What are you so worked up about? Everything’s going to be fine.” But his words had absolutely no effect on the tornado of thoughts spinning around in my head, accelerated by mental images of me falling overboard, the mast crashing down in a storm or me cracking my head open somewhere on the Southern Ocean. Nothing could stop my mind from escalating the danger of what I was about to do.

It wasn’t until my boat left St. Katharine’s Docks and I watched London fade into the distance that my stomach started to settle and I could breathe easier. After all, there was no going back, so there was no point in worrying now. I had no choice but to accept my fate, live in the moment and take this journey as it comes, day by day, hour by hour.

 

tasha hacker clipper round the world raceI have to survive the panic in order to get to this: the thrill.

This is the part of any adventure that I love the most; it is what happens when Stage 5 finally takes over. As soon as my body is busy and moving, I relax and settle into a place where anxiety falls away and I have only the tasks at hand to concentrate on. It is in these moments when I am fully present in my mind and body, and I am tingling with the thrill of being exactly where I want to be, doing exactly what I want to do in this very moment. I sweat and I smile and I forget all about the stress of the manic stage that came before it.

So, as I am running around Cheeky Monkey like a lunatic, washing, tidying and stowing things away, while also mumbling to myself that this boat isn’t ready yet, I am aware that the next stage is the one I really want to get to. I want to feel the thrill of this journey, not dwell in the panic.

And this has me thinking about the familiar pattern of anxiety that comes with every adventure for me, as it’s not just the beginning of our round-the-world sailing journey that’s sneaking up on me in less than twenty-four hours. (I know. Twenty-four freaking hours! I’m telling you, PANIC.) But also, in less than a month, I will be taking part in a 300-mile rowing race from Barcelona, Spain to Bosa, Sardinia. And yet my brain is in complete denial saying, “Chill! Relax! It’s a month away!” Which I know is a recipe for emotional mania as the race start date grows nearer and I have hardly put any thought into what gear I need to live in a rowboat for a solid week because I’ve been so busy working out what gear I need to live on a catamaran for the next five years.

The race is a pilot, the first of its kind run by Locura Adventures, which starts in Barcelona on September 23rd and will take five to seven days of non-stop rowing to complete in a five-man/woman boat. And as if that doesn’t sound hard enough, I’ve now managed to add another level to the challenge by attempting to get to Barcelona by sail power before the race start.

 

locura adventures tom saltLocura Adventures was recently founded by Tom Salt (right),  former Clipper Racer and 2014 winner of the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Rowing Race along with partner Mike Burton. Crazy, right?

But as Cheeky Monkey’s departure date has been pushed later and later, delayed by our faulty Garmin autopilot and a number of other electrical problems, it’s possible we won’t make it to Barcelona, or Ibiza, where Ryan would like to hang out while I scramble to get myself to Barcelona. Which means there will be panic and anxiety surrounding the last-minute logistics of getting to this rowing race start, not to mention all the things that could go wrong on the first leg of this journey sailing around the world.

I am also aware that preparation is the key to a safe and comfortable journey, so now that we have Cheeky Monkey’s registration papers in our hands, we are delving into the details of where we want to go, what the weather is doing and what our bail-out ports are in case we hit bad weather or we need to stop for repairs before we get to Ibiza.

I’m now fully immersed in Stage 4, where my mind is going, “Holy shit, this is happening?!”

It’s making my stomach flip-flop and it’s compelling me to frantically research spots on the coast of Spain and Portugal while trying to run through a list of people I need to call and inform that this is actually happening.

There’s no point in asking the question, “When will I learn and get all this done earlier?” because it’s very possible I’ll never learn. But I recognize that there is a balance to getting the most out of an adventure. It is the right combination of planning and spontaneity that makes for the best experiences, the former of which I am desperately lacking.

Ryan, however, is great at being grounded in plans and outlines, which helps to remove some of the stress of the unknown, both for him and for me. He is good at writing and implementing action plans so that large goals can be broken down into small, digestible stages and so the task of preparing isn’t one big anxiety-ridden shock to the system.

The truth is, we are as prepared as we ever will be to start this journey. We’ve been working on and prepping Cheeky Monkey nonstop for the last month. It’s just that somewhere in the process of running around, buying food, practicing docking and installing and re-installing all our electronics, I forgot that the goal was to actually leave. So now that we’re on the eve of leaving, it suddenly feels like a colossal surprise.

 

cheeky monkey food provisioning turf to surfWe’ve been stocking up and working hard on getting Cheeky Monkey ready for sea.

We have a vague idea of where we’d like to sail to next — generally, in the direction of Ibiza, Spain — but we also know that the destinations aren’t the most important part of this journey we’re about to embark on. We may never reach the destinations we set out to visit; we may end up changing course completely. And it wouldn’t be the first time to happen. But we know that whatever happens next, it will be an adventure.

As the wise Ernest Hemingway said, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

 

ryan cheeky monkey sailing around the worldNo one is more excited to get off the docks and get moving than Ryan.
24 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Tracy August 29, 2015, 3:08 pm

    So excited for you! We are looking fw to following and sharing your adventures.
    Cheers until our paths cross,
    Tracy and the team @TravelFit & APM

    • Tasha August 29, 2015, 4:07 pm

      Thanks so much, Tracy and thank you for sharing! I feel like we might end up on a rowing race together somewhere ;-). That would be great!

      • Tracy August 29, 2015, 5:16 pm

        It would!
        If you need a seat filler … You know who to call :).

  • rob August 29, 2015, 4:38 pm

    Didn’t see any mention of guns. There are a lot of pirates out there – someone I met years ago was about to sail round the world and they got recommendations from a number of people who should know to never be more than a step or two away from a firearm.

  • Ric August 29, 2015, 6:45 pm

    Excellent business writing. Textbook stuff. The people you studied writing with would be proud of you with the bullet points, and reference back to them in the body. Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them. There is nothing wrong with what you have written herein, and stated above. It is textbook writing. But; Hemmingway, himself would have told you, as he did in his writings the details of the journey are just filler to keep the reader interested in the understanding of the final destination, which isn’t a place on earth, but within the mind, heart, and soul of the reader. Your writing is very good, but it is missing the final display of understanding that everyone who reads it shares your epiphany. Of course I’m rambling, but after reading this post, I’m looking for the big picture in the words you have posted, and I cannot find it, perhaps others can. Ignore me, I live in another world. Sail on, stay healthy, and damn the torpedoes.

    • ric crees August 29, 2015, 9:39 pm

      Tasha – just to let you know this ain’t me – what a turd!

      • Tasha August 29, 2015, 10:37 pm

        And here I was about to banish all Rics who leave the ‘k’s out of their names…whew! 😉
        Tasha recently posted…Holy shit, we’re sailing around the world? (Thoughts on adventure and anxiety)My Profile

        • Ric September 5, 2015, 8:57 pm

          WOW, I hadn’t meant to be a turd. I thought it was a kindly critique, or at least not turd-worthy. I certainly didn’t mean to offend you (I don’t care what others think). I really do like what you write, and I enjoy following your adventures. I guess I have to hope you didn’t actually ban me before I submit this. Sail on.

          • Tasha Hacker September 8, 2015, 10:33 am

            Hi Ric,
            I’m glad you commented to say you weren’t meaning any offense because I have to admit your comments so far seemed unnecessarily antagonistic, from diminishing the writing workshop I attended in Greece, which I enjoyed immensely, as nothing more than an experience of paying great writers to tell me I’m great, to your latest comment that I had learned business writing well, what with my bullet points and repeating the point ad nauseam.

            I certainly feel better knowing you weren’t trying to be mean. But the reactions of some of my readers to the tone of your comments might be something to note.

            I love writing and reading, as well as blogging, which is a whole other genre to, say, novels, short stories, essays or even articles and includes an interactive community, which is also something I love. So I certainly am not one to ban someone from commenting with a little critique. I expect people to disagree with some things I feel, and not always connect with things I write. I have thought about deleting comments that were unnecessarily mean, particularly if they were aimed at other readers’ comments, but I have not done that so far because I want to encourage anyone to comment in any capacity.

            You seem to be a keen reader, writer and lover of adventures. And I’m glad you enjoy following my adventures. Maybe you should reread your comments as though you were receiving them from an anonymous reader and consider what they sound like to you from the other side? Sometimes with online anonymity it’s hard to gauge a person’s intent, so it’s worth being aware of the tone used when in a community where people don’t have the luxury of knowing you well enough to give you the benefit of the doubt.

            I certainly appreciate your readership and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

            Sincerely,
            Tasha

          • Ric September 20, 2015, 5:22 am

            Can we be honest?
            If you pay Joe/Joanne Schmoe to teach you to write, and she/he tells you your writing is great after they cash the check, is your writing great, or have you just paid for an opinion from mr/mrs fabulously famous/rich/living off your, and many other peoples, payment?
            How many people in the class you were in were told they can’t write for poop, and should pursue another direction in life? Anyone? Not one? You paid for that “famous writer” to love your writing, just like all the others in your “class”. Take heart, you are a damn good writer, and I will tell you this for free, and you are coming along nicely, grasshopper.

  • Jason Barry August 29, 2015, 7:30 pm

    Allllrighty then! Shove off!

    However, ..if the icemaker isnt fixed by Ibiza, I’m cancelling my subscription 😉
    Give’er hell guys
    Jason Barry recently posted…Engagement GalleryMy Profile

  • Cheryl Geeting August 31, 2015, 10:46 am

    Woo hoo! I can only imagine how excited you are. After all your adventures, I’m sure you two are gonna have some great experiences ahead. As far as the anxiety … we’re gonna feel that way just leaving our town. We haven’t even been in the Gulf yet .. gulp! Wish we had half the sailing experience ya’ll have .. =)

    So happy for you two .. enjoy!
    Cheryl Geeting recently posted…Concho Ride in Luperon!My Profile

  • Greg September 1, 2015, 6:40 pm

    I am truly jealous, you have an excellent boat and the plan, really looking forward to following your adventures as an armchair explorer hoping to do the same in the near future. Good luck and safe travels. BTW is Ric your English Teacher or what, he should go back to marking High School English papers and get a life.

  • Tobin Lee September 1, 2015, 10:31 pm

    Aloha Tasha [and Ryan],

    Loved reading your last entry here. Thank you for taking the time to type it all up and share. It really sums up how I feel inside these days. Been reading a bunch of your posts over the last few weeks, and really appreciate the chance to see a little bit into what the life is like. Stoked. I’ve done a bit of the traveler/wanderer life myself but I have a real love of sailing. Recently, a boat has come on the market that I’ve really dreamed of having – and it’s gotten me preparing my life to be changed by it (all anxiety included).

    Looking forward to hear more about the journey.

    As they say in Catalunya: Bon viatge i què vagi bé!

    • Tasha Hacker September 8, 2015, 11:56 am

      Hi Tobin!
      Thanks so much for those compliments. It’s always wonderful to hear from readers who enjoy following our adventures 🙂

      This boat sounds like just the thing to get you excited to continue on your traveler/wanderer ways… it really is the best way to travel!

      I look forward to hearing about this boat you’ve got in mind. We’re in Spain now, and we’ll be hitting Barcelona very soon. So perhaps I’ll see you out there on the water!

      Tasha

  • Jessica September 8, 2015, 2:19 pm

    I am SO freaking excited to see you two back on the water! I can not wait to read about your adventures as you travel around the world. I can’t believe how far we’ve both come and all we’ve seen and done since we first met three years ago. I really hope we meet up again in the Caribbean next year to share some more great memories! 🙂
    Jessica recently posted…Mission Demolition – GalleyMy Profile

    • Tasha September 11, 2015, 2:00 pm

      I am so freaking excited to be back on the water!!! It’s going to be some good tequila-fueled fun when we meet up with you guys in the Caribbean again! How’s that boat project coming along? When do you think you’ll be finished and sailing again?
      Love,
      Tasha

      • Jessica September 20, 2015, 4:58 pm

        Boat projects are coming along ok….but there’s some waiting for welding to be finished until we can move into other areas like the galley and the head. Once they’re done though and we have the weather in FL cooling off there will be no stopping us! We should be cruising again by next June/July at the latest. Know where you might be then? Think we’re headed for the San Blas.
        Jessica recently posted…Odds & Ends ProjectsMy Profile

  • Regina September 13, 2015, 7:05 pm

    Oh my god! Sounds like that I’m going through. We should be leaving Key West Florida within the next few weeks heading south making out way toward Panama Canal for February….

    We’ve been daydreaming about this for the last 17 years…
    Regina recently posted…Giving up to GetMy Profile

  • Josh October 18, 2015, 12:18 pm

    It’s been a while since I checked in on you guys. I’m so excited for you and your new boat!! And thanks for the insights into the realities of purchasing a new boat, i.e. the 80% rule. We’re still a few years away from a boat purchase and that definitely helps put things into perspective regarding used vs new.

    Can’t wait to catch up to your current location and status, though It’s a Necessity has already provided a sneak peak into the not too distant future.

    Fair winds!
    Josh
    Josh recently posted…Green Grows the GrassMy Profile

    • Tasha October 19, 2015, 3:42 pm

      Thanks Josh! We’re very excited about the new boat, too! It’s been a mad couple of weeks doing rowing races back and forth across the Mediterranean with Cheeky Monkey getting broken in severely with her and Ryan acting as support for the Shoreseeker Challenge races, which brought Cheeky Monkey out into some pretty nasty storms. There is a lot to write about, so I just need to sit still for a bit and get writing about it here pronto! More updates soon and thank so much for following along!
      Tasha

  • Luke Armstrong December 7, 2015, 8:45 pm

    So excited to watch this space and see your adventure—incredible and inspiring—hope to be able to catch you guys and say—AHOY!!—somewhere in this wild-ass world.

    • Tasha December 26, 2015, 3:05 pm

      Hey Luke!
      Great to hear from you! When are you coming sailing with us, huh? We’re in Antigua now and heading next to St. Barths and south through the Caribbean after New Year! Come on board and bring your ukele and some whisky 🙂
      Tasha

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