Hardship is Over Rated

Recently I was reading this really entertaining, if a bit anxiety provoking, story I found on Digg.com. It’s a story about a young couple who wanted to experience life on the road, #vanlife style. They wanted an “authentic” experience, one with no frills; one that wasn’t “instagram ready”. While they would be inspired by #vanlife, they would do their travels on a low budget. My anxiety began for them in that first paragraph where the author describes the super cheap van they bought with an engine that leaked fuel at the first fill up. My God. What were they getting themselves into? As the title explains, they wanted to do van life ‘right’, but it broke them down.

I passed the story on to my son and daughter-in-law because they had traveled the country in their Honda Element before setting off on their travels to Europe. I felt like they would probably relate to parts of this story after traveling for almost a year. Jill had seen the story and read it already and as we dicussed it, I thought her takeaway was appropriate: “Don’t get in over your head because you think the vision of your dreams will carry you through”. Man, such truth. Spot on. That’s what a year of travel by land, or maybe two years of cruising by sea, will teach you. This story spoke to me.

Are we in over our heads? Do we still have the underlying dream? Some days we do, and then the next day we don’t. I speak for myself, of course. Lately I’ve struggled with what I can only describe as ennui. While Mike has experienced it as well, he doesn’t ‘do’ ennui as deeply as I do; at least where anyone would notice. He’s got too many projects going in his mind. I have a few, but I’m not as engaged with them as he is, although it says something that I really look forward to sitting down with a needle and thread and getting those cockpit cushions recovered with fabric I bought in the states. I’m not sure exactly WHAT it says, but it’s something. Maybe a glimmer of hope, a small piece of a dream that is still alive?

Galapagos was in great condition when we got back to her. That’s always such a big relief.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to put my finger on what these feelings are about. Am I not as adventurous as I thought? Am I just tired of cruising? Is it the heat of Mexico? (Because let me tell you it sucks.) Am I going to be able to get back into what I love when we are on the boat? Would a good snorkel experience put me back in the groove? There must be some reason why I was like a dog on a hunt for extra snorkel gear during our recent travels in the states. I had a dream recently that the boat had been tossed way up into the air and I had fallen into the water, all the way to the bottom of the sea. I was trying to swim for the surface but I was getting nowhere fast and was afraid I would drown. It was very scary, but on the other hand the water was super clear and warm. I hate these kinds of dreams. What gives, White? Take a salt tablet and snap out of it!

After sidling up to the topic on a number of occasions over the last year, we finally had the conversation about whether we are done with cruising. Spoiler alert: We aren’t. Whenever I am openly miserable I must give the impression that I want to quit and go home. I don’t want to quit, I just want to find a solution to the current dilemma. I’d like to hide my suffering, but unfortunately I wear it on my face. Please see photo below. So while I’m not ready to throw in the towel,  I do sometimes believe that suffering is over rated as a tool for personal growth. And yet give me one example of something that has caused tremendous personal growth that has not involved the fires of  suffering of some kind? I’m hard pressed to think of one but I’m open to your opinions on this subject.

Two down. A few more to go. As always, I do this stuff by hand.

I’ve been thinking deeply about this lately as we make our way through the work that is getting the boat back in order so we can actually be cruising again rather than sitting in the lovely Marina Real in San Carlos. The current situation is this: It’s blessed hot in the boat. Two days ago it was 97F with humidity of 87%. Michael and I could not drink water and electrolytes fast enough to keep our bodies in order. Even standing still we literally dripped sweat onto whatever we touched and there would absolutely be zero touching of one another. “You want to hold my hand? Surely you jest! Step back; crazy man! ”

I struggle with nausea in the heat. My feet swell. I finally experienced what I had only read about before: ” It’s too hot to eat.” WTF. Nothing gets in the way of me and my food.  I had not been sleeping well and was close to tears way often. I found myself hunkering down in the cabin just trying to keep cool, then I realized that all the fans were just circulating hot air. It felt like I was literally in a womb of a smelter. All I wanted was to be born again into a cool, refreshing breeze. I began to question the sanity of what we were doing. I mean why was I even here? I felt like I was just surviving the weather conditions, certainly not thriving in them. Is this how I wanted to spend my time? (Which, by the way, feels super short lately.)

Just not a good look for anyone.

Conversations about throwing in the towel should not be had in sweat-dripping, sleep deprived conditions where my core temperature is hot enough to convince my body that it is ill. But have one we did, and it didn’t go particularly well for me. I had to call it off because: getting angry, which never helps. Then there is the feeling that because we have the absolute privilege to be able to make this choice at all, we should just take our lumps and never speak of them. It’s not lost on us in any way that we were born at the right time, in the right country, and are the ‘right’ color when it comes to the downright luck that gave our lives the right trajectory that we could actually put our shoulders to the plow, as it were, and work hard to make this happen. We take credit for what we have done, but we also know that others work much harder than we ever have and will absolutely never have this opportunity because the obstacles in their path are that much greater than ours ever were. So even sounding like we might be complaining feels somehow wrong. And the work we did put into this choice, not to mention all the money we spent, makes the decision of when to stop a weighty one, indeed.

Fantasies of renting an air conditioned condo swarmed in my head but in some intangible way, that felt like a failure. Did we come all the way to Mexico to live in a condo and drive our car around? We did not, but I admit the temptation is strong and that could still happen. Mike was doing OK in the heat. I mean, he was hot and drippy, but he wasn’t suffering overly much. Or maybe I was just suffering enough for both of us. I don’t know. Our Andrew/Jill combo are coming to visit in September and it’s also going to be just as hot then as it is now.  I need to get it together so I can enjoy this time with them. We need strategies in place that will help them stay cool so they don’t suffer overly much. I’ve been waiting for this visit for a year now. I cannot let heat get in the way of having fun. I want to snorkel with them and show them the best that the Sea of Cortez has to offer. (And no, it’s just not possible for them to come later in the year. They’ll be back working for a living.)

But back to the story of life’s struggles from the van-traveling couple. One of the thoughts expressed in this story crystallized for me what I’ve been experiencing in the past few months but had trouble putting into words, heat and humidty aside. Something about seeing this in black and white in another person’s words struck home with me and maybe, if you are cruising, for you as well. It’s pretty simple:

“ …transient living can wreak havoc on anyone….it’s harder to maintain healthfulness when you don’t have stability—when trouble can come at any time, in many forms.”

Well, slam bam. That’s it in a nutshell. We definitely feel attached to the boat and consider it ‘home’ for now. But the constant transitions, the moving from place to place by land, sea, and air, sleeping in a new place every few days, the continual focus on preventing trouble, the problem solving in a foreign country with few resources where language is truly a barrier; the logistics of accomplishing the most simple task, they all tend to wear on us over time. When you add adjusting to hostile weather conditions into the mix, it can tip a person over the edge. And that’s what’s been happening. These inescapable hot, sweaty days pushed me over the edge.

Just a fond memory of that air conditioned AirBnb with the king sized comfy bed in Puerto Peñasco. Land living. It makes a body soft. 

We discussed renting a condo and that’s still an option. But I do want to be able to adjust to this. Maybe my body just needs a more gradual acclimation? To solve the immediate problem of no relief we bought an air conditioner that we can use while at the dock. I had been sleeping in the main cabin because it’s cooler and last night I actually was able to rest with the AC going. But I think we will put it in the aft cabin for now because it struggles to keep the salon cool. It’s small. And the heat is big. It would probably handle the aft cabin just fine. Then we can have a cool room to go to when the going gets tough. We can actually run it with a generator as well, but that’s not going to be a regular occurrance. Still, it’s nice to know that if one of us succumbs to the heat, we have a way to escape it. And if the kids come and they, too, have trouble accomodating the heat, we can give them some relief. One of the previous owners of our boat posted to me on Facebook that it was too bad the central air conditioner he had installed on the boat when he was in the Sea of Cortez was no longer on board. I tell you, I cried real tears when I read that.

Installed in the main salon, our fantastic Ryobi rechargeable fan helps circulate the cool air.

Air conditioning, boat style. When this happens you are no longer cruising. You are living at the dock.

Out here on the water we are constantly doing what we can to make sure we don’t ‘get in over our heads’. This isn’t a vacation we’re on. It’s a continual balance between what is worth it in the long run, and what might be dangerous or just even not very much fun. When people consider cruising on a boat as a lifestyle choice, these times that are between actual cruising trips are frequently discounted or missed altogether in the dreaming and the planning stages. I know that we didn’t even really think about them at all. Our entire focus was on being on the water and making the boat safe. It’s taken us a bit aback to understand that there is so much time where you are actually doing other things; not sailing or anchoring or snorkeling. There are way more than I imagined of these other, less fun things that you have to get through to get back to those things you dreamed about. These things have been, for me, the ones that have made me feel more like we are in over our heads, and where we have to struggle to keep the vision of the dream alive until we can go out and sail, anchor in a sweet little cove, and slip silently, once more, into the silent water to commune with our fishy friends under the sea. I hear the water is clear this time of year.

Sea Fans keeping the dream alive.

I leave you with an appropriate joke I read on Facebook:

When you’re under the sea,
And an eel rubs your knee,
That’s a moray.

Get it?

S/V Galapagos, Standing by on Channel 22A