The Top Five Fears

When people find out we are planning to move aboard Galapagos and go sailing on the ‘big water’ across oceans, the first thing people generally say is, ‘Wow’, frequently followed by, ‘Aren’t you scared?’.  And the answer to that is, ‘Oh, hell to the yes!’.  But probably not for all the reasons they might think.fear-clipart-clipart-fear-face-icon-512x512-92a3

The fears generally listed by these well-meaning folks include whales, the boat sinking, rogue waves, storms, pirates, sharks… you know the routine. I like to remind them that due to the fact that I live in an urban area with freeways more congested than a smoker’s heart, I play odds worse than any of those things every day when I drive my car. I also fly to distant lands on airplanes even though…9/11. Go figure. So while those kinds of fears can pop up, they are fleeting at best and my ability to put things into perspective tamps down any panic that might try to surface. No, those things do not deter me particularly. We’ll be as prepared as we can be, as careful as we can be, and we’re already good at turning tail and running from bad weather and things with large teeth, so our self-preservation skills are high.

And yet, I live with a certain amount of trepidation, if not fear and loathing, about this huge life change. These fears are always hanging just out of reach over my head. I cannot seem to put them to rest completely, although I do have plans that mitigate these fears. These are the things that could keep me up at night if I gave into them. Since people are always asking, here are the top five of my inner most secret fears and the steps I’m taking to mitigate them.

See this guy? I’m not afraid of him. Not even a little bit.

Number 1:
Getting out of my comfort zone. And I’m not talking about sailing. I’m talking about being a dumb American. Truth is, I am a dyed in the wool American with deeply held beliefs that reflect that heritage. I am an individualist to the core, I love my Starbucks, I have a very comfortable middle-class existence that, on the whole, is pretty easy.  I speak only English. I am a walking stereotype in so many ways and don’t I know it.

Mike looks forward to learning Spanish. We are planning to do Spanish language school down in La Paz.  It would be politically correct to say that I look forward to this, too.  But that would be a lie because languages are not really my strong suit. On the other hand I do not expect people to speak English in a country where that is not their native language, so I’m going to have to put on my big girl panties and just do it. Why can’t I just get some kind of Spanish language chip inserted into a slot in my head?

Also, although I am an American, I am smart enough to know that means that the most basic things I believe to be true about life are not necessarily shared by people in other countries whose cultures are less ‘individual’ based and more ‘group’ based, less ‘throw caution to the wind’ based and more ‘mitigate all probable outcomes’ based. I don’t want to be that crass and egotistical American that always expects things to be just like at home. (I mean, why bother to travel if it’s all going to be just like at home, right?) I am just smart enough to know how ignorant I am. So I’m listening to a university course on using cultural intelligence to adapt to being in other countries. It’s a great course which I would recommend to anyone who is interested in learning some of the basic differences between world cultures. Maybe I won’t embarrass myself too much.

See that little door? It’s narrow. For small people.

Number 2:
Gaining weight. That’s right. What is actually worse to me than being culturally obtuse is being physically obese. My body and I have not ever worked well together. Several years ago, when we first started planning for this phase in our lives, I decided I needed to become more comfortable in the old bod because living on a boat is no fun when you literally have to squeeze through the passageways. I had to give up many of the foods that people rely on around the world, like wheat and sugar. I can eat wheat on occasion now, but if I eat it regularly I’m in trouble. (It causes physical symptoms beyond weight gain for me.)

Thus began a long period of learning, healing, and working with this physical thing I live in and through.  For the first time in my life I am at a weight that pleases me, I can wear clothes that please me, and I have the tools I need in order to maintain this overall happiness with the body I was given. Some people would think that this fear is frivolous and vain. They would say ‘just accept yourself as you are’. But ‘accepting’ this tendency of mine is how I ended up 50 pounds heavier than I am now  with plenty of joint pain to boot so no thanks.  No, if I want to live a long and healthy life and not have to give up the things I love to do, like easily fit into a kayak, and climb around on a boat, then the weight must remain off the body and my diet must remain clean with an occasional indulgence.

I have worked very hard at this for many years, and yet each time we take a trip on the boat, I gain weight. This is because I see it as a ‘vacation’ from my normal life,  eat crap food filled with carbs and sugar, and drink beer. This will never do.  I cannot be a cruiser who lives on rice, beans, tortillas and beer. All those cruiser social functions you read about on blogs? They leave me with a horrible mixture of excitement for the social aspect, and dread for the ever-present foods involved.

To make my physical self happy, I  depend on walking at least 2 miles every day, and doing yoga in a sweltering hot studio a few times a week. (Should have no trouble in the South Pacific, right?) My body is a finely tuned instrument. I have begun honing my “weight maintenance while traveling skills” and I am ready to put them to the test during our cruise in July. I’ll blog more later about what has worked for me and what hasn’t and this will help keep me on track.

The one important trick your doctor doesn’t want you to know about if you want to maintain your weight anywhere you go and still live a full and interesting life filled with delicious foods? Take your scale with you. Use it every day. I have this Nature Spirit travel scale. It works and it doesn’t take up much room. It is my best friend.

Our son, Andrew, graduated from Western Washington University last week.

Number 3:
Missing my family. This is pretty much self explanatory. My darkest scenarios include something happening to a child or my mom when we are in a remote area and can’t easily get to an airport.  I soothe myself by calculating the odds in my head. Calculations will put me to sleep every single time. And we keep a high balance of travel points on the credit card in case of emergency. That’s all I can do. Because out of all the fears, this one would actually keep me at the dock if I let it, even though the kids are grown. Even though our daughter is only in this country 6 months out of the year. Even though our son lives in Bellingham. It’s not rational. It’s maternal.

Mr. Sun.

Number 4:
One or both of us not being able to tolerate the sun. I actually worry about Mike in terms of this more than about myself because he has had some symptoms that I worry are reactions to too much sun. Yes, we know how to use sunscreen, we have a hard dodger that will protect us from sun and weather, etc. We will invest in good sun prevention. I still worry.

On our Cal 34, Moonrise, I felt like a confident partner. I remind myself that it took awhile for that to happen.

Number 5:
Not being an equal partner on the boat. At home, we are pretty equal partners in terms of decision making, spending money, all the day to day things. Our roles in the house are both clearly defined and fluid as the situation mandates. We both have our projects and interests, and we do very well at parallel play.

Being on the boat changes things. Mike is truly in charge on the boat and that means that I am…not.  As much as I love our boat and love sailing, this trip is pretty much Mike’s rodeo in terms of the day to day operation of the boat.  I worry know that I am not a good follower, even if he is a good leader. Being a ‘follower’ is not my nature. We are two leaders, sometimes both trying to lead and getting in each other’s way, usually because the fact that I should be ‘following’ doesn’t even occur to me. So while Mike can step easily into the role of Captain on the boat, I’m not yet sure what role I will be stepping into. I need time on the boat – continuous time- in order to flesh this out and get comfortable on her and learn her systems before I can do much more than set a course, steer, and tweak a sail or two. I think that was starting to happen last year during our vacation, but then we had to come home.

Fortunately we have a good marriage from which to begin this trip, and for both of us the marriage is more important than pretty much anything else. So we’ll work through these things. We got a heads up on what our challenges would be during our trip last year bringing Galapagos home. We’ve gone over a few of our experiences with each other since then and worked out solutions to those problems. We’ll get a chance to practice a lot during our July cruise.

We’re counting down the days!

22 thoughts on “The Top Five Fears

  1. I love these posts! They will make not being able to see you for long periods more tolerable, because I feel that, at least in spirit, I will be with you! You all look terrific in the photo!! I enjoyed your honesty in describing your fears. Kind of like “taking the bull by the horns” (Channeling my Taurus planets). Of course I hope you’ll keep writing while you are cruising so that I can vicariously share in your adventure! Wonderful choice of listening to the course on cultural intelligence! If there is time, I’d like to get together with you before you leave, and speak of stars.

    • Joanne, I have been thinking of you often of late and would love to see you. Perhaps August? We have house guests coming this week, and leave for our cruise the following week. But you can count on many more blog posts. Let’s plan to get together when I get back from this trip.

  2. It’s embarrassing how many people speak English (and, often, many other languages) while we struggle to learn the language of the culture we’ve become immersed in. The great news is how encouraging people are when you’re attempting a language that you’re just learning. Young children are especially good teachers because they lack the inhibition not to giggle and correct you when you make a linguistic gaff (my own early faux pas when responding to a boy who wanted to clean my car and I indicated I didn’t mind my car being covered in pulpo [octopus] rather than the correct pulvo [dust]; we both had a great laugh). It’s great you’re planning to learn Spanish in La Paz. ‘Se Habla’ offers a great program and there are many individuals who also offer one-on-one immersion tutoring. For recommendations you might want to ask the folks who run Allende books near the cathedral. BTW, number 3 in your list was always the biggie for us. Grandkids are nearly an impossible magnet to overcome. Good luck and good sailing! We look forward to following your adventures.

    • I agree, it IS embarrassing. I never quite understand why the world thinks English is the language of choice. But thank you very much for the recommendations. We will take them to heart. I am hoping our kids put off grandkids for a few years. I think we’re pretty safe on that front, but I don’t want to tempt the gods by being too sure 🙂

  3. Wonderful, wonderful post! I share some of your fears as well, especially the last one. One thing you don’t need to fear is not being able to write. You do it wonderfully. I always look forward to your posts and even more so now as you guys get closer and closer to cutting the dock lines.

  4. Great post! I have these same fears as well! Funny you should mention fear of gaining weight and all the social events. I often drink water and gain weight very easily … drink a few glasses of wine more then occasionally … the pounds appear immediately! I also fear not being an equal partner, missing my family and dealing with the sun (I’m a natural redhead). Another fear I’d add … going broke on fixing the boat! Fingers crossed that we don’t have constant, expensive repairs!

  5. No advice on most of those, especially the weight one, I swear if I even look at anything, (rocks, walls, dirt) and think about food I put on a pound.
    But, I keep thinking about your language worry, and that one seems approachable. There’s a lot of Spanish around us everywhere already- I’d bet if you start paying attention you would realize that without trying you have picked up more words than you think-it’s not full fluency, but it’s a start. Also, what’s your objective? Are you moving to S. America, or are you going to be visiting and staying a while and then going somewhere else? You aren’t going to need to write a dissertation, you just need to begin to communicate and then it will grow as you use it. Plus, spanish TV here now, and spanish radio, Mexican groceries and bakeries, and audio/pc tapes just to start hearing it and getting familiar with things. Doesn’t matter how well it takes NOW, think of it as planting some seeds that need stratifying or hormone treatments. You’re prepping your brain to be accepting later on…

    • I think the objective will be to be able to communicate in some simple way. I don’t even know how long we’ll be in Mexico or south America. The language is one thing, but the culture is another thing as well. I have certainly learned how much I DON’t know about different cultures by listening to the course I’ve been using. Fascinating stuff. Mike wants to go to the language school in la Paz so we’ll probably doing that. I believe they dunk you in Spanish and then hang you up to dry. Supposedly that works :>)

  6. I started using this app: I had spanish back in junior high, so I am at least a bit familiar with the words and structure, and this app takes it slow. (good for me) Partner-Bill is fluent, though hasn’t used it in a while, so at least for now, he knows how to communicate.

  7. Your post hit close to home on pretty much everything you listed. Thank you for putting it all so beautifully into words. 🙂 I’ll look forward to reading more about how you work through each of these going forward.

    • Thanks, Kerry! I’m glad the post hit home with you on the one hand, but sorry to hear you share my fears on the other hand! I’ll be keeping the blog up to date on all of this as we move forward. Glad to have you aboard!

  8. Well, a huge benefit to language study in La Paz is… LA PAZ! It’s a great place.

    The sun… well, the sun and the heat really did us in. I’m not made for tropical climates.

    One big fear I had was engine problems (failure) in a place where little help is available (the Mexican Navy WILL help, but they aren’t everywhere like our coast guards (and “vessel assist” etc doesn’t exist down there). Get comfortable with sailing your boat engineless near an inhospitable coast in light or no winds :O


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