October 2, 2020
Today is your day.
You’re off to great places!
You’re off and away!
So begins the first page of the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”. As I try to wrap my head fully around the swirling ironies before me, I turn the page and think back.
Exactly thirty eight years ago today, that day arrived for both Kris and I when we went on our first date… October 2, 1982.
Two high school students, headstrong with the typically firm conviction they already had a grasp of how everything important in the world works, plowed forward with the same awkward certainty shared by millions of other teenagers. Of course, the sky was the limit…
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
Fast forward ten years or so to the Nineties. As the infernal reality for a young married couple of having to work in order to pay for the cost of living continues to dictate most of our day to day activities, a hunger to travel has already set in. A need to experience slowly begins to dictate our long term goals. Our mindset was changing from holiday tourists to traveling scuba vagabonds, but it would take over a decade for that evolution to fully take place.
It’s opener there
in the wide open air.
I’m not sure when we first came across the Dr. Seuss book. It obviously wasn’t a memorable enough moment to stand out in either of our minds. However, the book itself was quite memorable.
Fast forward to October 2, 2008. Twenty six years after our first date. We have consciously chosen this date… the culmination of a five year plan to sell everything and leave the United States.
In so many ways it seemed like the final step of a long process. In reality, it was actually another beginning.
Oh, the places you’ll go!
There is fun to be done!
For nine years —- as we travelled to incredible places, met unfathomably deep people, and soaked up life altering experiences —- we were simultaneously feeding two seemingly contradictory realities. We were changing while, at the same time, we were reinforcing that which we had always been.
Thousands of dives, amazing cultures, lifelong friends we were making from all over the planet, endlessly looking at things in new ways. How could we have waited so long?
At some point during those nine years, we stumbled across that Dr. Seuss book again on a store shelf, in SE Asia of all places… we bought it.
Yet, even when you are forging completely new ground half a world away from where you grew up, you can still find yourself coming full circle… the exact same situation in a totally different scene.
So be sure when you step.
Step with great care and tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Even paradise has its darkness. Rarely are things exactly what they seem. Everything is fleeting. Nothing is set in stone.
Eventually the new becomes comfortable… too comfortable. It becomes time to… possibly move on?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker upper to make up his mind.
Somehow or another, despite all the piles of dive gear and the mementos we had to pack up when we eventually left SE Asia, that crazy Dr. Seuss book managed to find its way into our bags.
The previous decade had proven to us that, given a chance, outside possibilities have a real chance to become inside realities… even potentially something as outside as buying a sailboat to live aboard full time, despite having absolutely zero sailing experience.
Yet, the previous decade had also proven to us that the only prerequisite for gaining experience is actually doing something. Trial and error; research and discussion; in some cases sheer repetition (i.e. visual navigation or anchoring) and in others strategic avoidance (say, hurricanes or collisions). And living aboard a boat 24/7, three hundred sixty five days a year undoubtedly allows substantial opportunity for all of those things.
With time, the sheer novelty of everything accompanied by a terror of the unknown began to slowly give way to a sense of confidence and occasional understanding accompanied by a healthy respect for the unknown (with the occasional small poo in the boardies).
Exit… Sovereign Nation… Off The Grid. Much more than simply names of sailboats. They reflect particular mindsets… unique ways of thinking… complete changes in thought processing.
With time, we began to sense that shift of perspective. With time, we began to realize that, once again, we were controlling the direction of our lives.
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.
Somehow or another, that crazy book had once again made the cut of what was deemed precious enough to bring along when we moved aboard our floating home, S/V Exit.
And it echoed the reality that, even aboard our own floating empire, we were still subject to outside influences and the inevitable ups and downs of life.
Nearly three years and nine thousand nautical miles later, as we sailed Exit from Grand Cayman on Friday the 13th, March 2020, we had no concept of how the following six months would unfold.
Little did we know that we were headed for…
The Waiting Place…
Briefly, we were caught in the wake of the ripple effect involving the first Covid-19 lockdowns. Providencia and San Andreas, Colombia turned us away while we were twenty miles away. Bocas del Toro locked everything down the morning after our arrival. And, for a time, we were fearful we would once again be cast out as refugees.
But, eventually, we were granted visas and allowed to join the rest of Panama… and, for that matter, the rest of the globe, in the process of doing nothing…
Everyone is just waiting.
A perpetual planetary time out for almost our entire species. Pandemic.
A month… then a month becomes sixty days… then sixty days turns into three months… which quickly exceeds a hundred days… suddenly four months have passed… then five.
Then… finally… after six months, it seemed as though the global haze could actually be slowly lifting.
A hesitant easing of Covid lockdown restrictions in Bocas del Toro—- coinciding with what looked to be our final struggles to rectify a complicated windlass, chain, and anchor issue which had, in and of itself, brought us to a virtual standstill for months —- allowed us to start moving the mothership about more freely once again.
Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
Which brings us full circle to October 2, 2020. Thirty eight years after that first date. Twelve years after our exodus from the United States.
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So… get on your way!
Maybe not our mountain… but very possibly our ocean.
OH, THE PLACES WE’LL GO! It’s just what the Doctor ordered, ya know…
Now, to be fair, I have always been a Dr. Seuss fan. A fierce independence seems to course through the characters who pass on lessons and ideas from within unlimited and imaginative worlds via incredibly creative poetry, language, and storylines. Still, teaching children the confidence to resist being persuaded to eat questionable foods like green eggs rings a bit more common-sensible…
On the other hand, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” seems to resonate like the bizarre combined poetic interpretations of Mr. Rogers, Dr. Phil, and Rick Steves… all wrapped up with an even stranger personal resonance of some Nostradamus-type-deja-vu-familiarity. More like a mushroom induced overnight contemplation than a bedtime story… certainly far deeper shit than ever came out of the mouth of any purple dinosaur!
In the interest of full disclosure (just in case someone failed to realize), all above italicized, center spaced text stanzas are excerpts from “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” written by Dr. Seuss. Without having gained the expressed permission to reproduce these excerpts, I am counting on the Doctor’s unmistakable sense of cool to look beyond any thought of legal action. Barney can fuck off.