Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dream Deferred

“Walked last night on the beach in moonlight. An elemental scene, created only in black and white, in lightness of silver and shadow of nothing. The ceaseless breakers rose from void, turned existent as the froth caught the moon, then dissolved again out of form. For some reason I am dying to be on a sailboat and heading for nowhere. There’s a paradoxical dualism in my constitution—a craving for motion and travel, yet a deep need for privacy and a ‘home’, however, small, that is all mine. I think nothing would satisfy me so much, in these regards, as a bit of fiberglass or wood with some sails attached.
So here’s a plan: Finish residency. Move to some port city. Buy a small condo. Live simply, save as much as possible. After two or three years buy a boat. Maybe buy it in the fall, spend the winter working on it. In April or May, rent out the house, put things in storage, and move onto the boat. Spend the summer fine-tuning. Then, in autumn, sail to the Caribbean and keep going around the world… Let’s see, I’ll be 32 when I finish residency. I’d like to have achieved this adventure, if I’m going to do it, before I’m 40. If it’s going to take two years, that means leaving when I’m 38. Is six years enough time to save the money?” -- Journal of Turboglacier, 4/26/97 (Durban, South Africa)

“You have to understand that for a trip like this to happen, you had to break ties. You had to be a bad son, a bad brother, a bad boyfriend, and you had to leave. Otherwise, you wouldn’t go.” -- Alberto Grenado, speaking of his famed South American odyssey with Che Guevera

“But you have to go. You have to! I’m living vicariously through you!” -- Co-Chief, two weeks ago.

Today, I live in a port town, just as planned, and now I have a boat. Sandra Lee is imperfect but stout and could be modified to be an around-the-worlder. There’s a condo, just as planned, though the Turbopalace is actually half of a 150-year-old house that is in constant need of attention. I have six feet of books on boats, weather, celestial navigation, liferaft survival, disasters at sea (thanks mom), transoceanic routes, and the memoirs of at least eight circumnavigators.There’s enough money, even, thanks to frugal living for quite a few years, and very generous help with student loans from the Turboparents.

But where is the enthusiasm that drives to embark? Where is the willingness to spend every nickel on the dream, rather than earmark them for next year’s malpractice insurance premiums and the college education of children I don’t even have? Why now this worry about being away from the people in my life, this concern that my friends will evaporate, that I won’t be there if misfortune comes to my family? Why do I spend my days caulking the windows of the Turbopalace against winter and arranging to put Sandra Lee to bed till spring, instead of selling the Palace and aiming Sandra Lee for Bermuda at a lively clip?

Plans for the circumnavigation have been progressively scaled down. First I thought, maybe just to New Zealand. Then I thought, well, I’ll get to the Caribbean, at least, and see how I feel from there. Then I thought, at minimum, I should spend this whole summer exploring the remote regions of the Smallish State coastline. But the boat didn’t materialize until July, so I figured at least all of August could be spent aboard. But mechanical issues and social commitments lead to more delays. A friend agreed to come up and, at very least, join me for two weeks in September. But then he signed up for a SCUBA class, which ate into that time, and the voyaging plans were reduced to a four-day weekend. Which was supposed to start today. But there’s a cold rain about to settle in for the next 48 hours, so I’m about to call him and suggest waiting a day to come up, or canceling altogether. The circumnavigation reduced to a couple of daysails.

Perhaps my 28-year-old self misjudged my 38-year-old self. Perhaps there should have been a much smaller boat, on a much shorter shoestring, much earlier. Perhaps I never wanted to go at all.


Anonymous Johanna said...

Before almost every vacation, when I'm madly rushing around trying to deal with the most urgent work things, anticipate all the crap I need and stuff it into bags, I end up sitting in the middle of my mess, opening a beer, and wondering why. Often, I'd cancel if my plans didn't involve other people. I end up focusing on all the ways this is a pain and what can go wrong and all the stuff I *could* do if I just stayed at home for a week of holidays.

I've never regretted going. Not even when the trip was cold and wet and I felt like I was growing moss under a tarp for a week.

It's always just two weeks of my life, not two years. From where I'm sitting, at work, wishing I was somewhere else right now, two years sounds like a wonderful opportunity that I'll never have and long for.

If I had the opportunity, I'd probably panic and not do it (which could explain why I've never *created* the opportunity). But I bet if I did it, I wouldn't regret it.

My friend quit his job and drove his jeep to Tierra del Fuego. He never went back to a conventional job, and he's recrafted his life. I think that's what I'd be most afraid of - that I'd never be able to make myself go back to being... more ordinary... if I had two years. It's hard enough to be at a place where I feel like I'm not going *anywhere* when I don't travel internationally for more than two or three months...

I hope you go. I hope you blog it.

9/14/06, 10:18 AM  
Blogger Ms. Runner said...

This post really struck a chord. All I can say is, like Johanna, I've never regretted taking on an adventure, but the ones that I wanted most were the smaller ones, or the adventures that were adventures to me, though perhaps not by anyone else's standards.

9/14/06, 11:44 AM  
Anonymous Susannah said...

Ok, so you're a doctor, and you seem pretty organized and together. Are worried that you won't be able to find a job when you get back or support yourself? Barring disability or a major disaster, things should work out fine. Just go. You will meet other cruisers along the way. People are always looking for rides. It is a whole community and way of life out there. If you want to go in order to "disconnect" from the world, you'll be disappointed. You will be trading one community for another, but this community will be living in the sun and discussing their boats every day. You'll meet people from around the world. Your faith in humanity will be restored, and you'll be living in the present. (Although some of the poverty you can see in the Caribbean will give you serious pause, and you might start to have some guilt). Next November I expect to hear that you are leaving from Las Palmas to spend Thanksgiving at sea and winter in the Carribean.

9/14/06, 12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would say, if you want to go...go... you can deal with what happens when you get back—when you get back.

I should be leaving fairly soon myself. I don't know if how far I'll go, but we'll have to see.

9/14/06, 12:59 PM  
Anonymous bill said...

I hear you, Turbo. One's priorities change, one's comfort zone changes, one's wants and needs change with time. The thing that strikes me is that you still have plenty of time if you want to pursue this particular dream. There would be many more immutable obstacles if, for example, you had major health problems, a life partner who was anchored to the Smallish State, or children in Smallish Schools. Maybe at this point it's enough to keep the dream in mind and see if you want to cultivate it further?

9/15/06, 11:00 AM  
Blogger Katinka said...

This post makes me prick up my ears, because my experience is the exact opposite.

I took the risky route and spontaneously moved halfway across the planet in search of a dream; in so doing I left my family, a brand new job and several dear friends behind.

Now seven years later, I feel like I'm back where I started, but with more complex problems to consider. If I ever return to Australia, I'll be leaving an adopted "family", great friends, and financial security. Again!

And yet, ironically, I wonder if I'm really any closer to my original vision, or if it would have looked quite different had I not taken this road. Dreams must either deepen, or change. Maybe I've traded one for another.

Yes, it is possible to start over again, but I also empathise with the apprehension about making a choice of that magnitude.

I think the real question is, are you content?

9/15/06, 1:59 PM  
Blogger Turboglacier said...

"I think the real question is, are you content?"

Never. This is likely my greatest curse, and likely also my greatest blessing.

9/16/06, 1:21 PM  
Blogger Katinka said...

(Same here...:)

9/16/06, 2:22 PM  
Blogger Xphjklyfg said...

Perhaps you have found greater adventures? It doesn't have to be cold, wet and uncomfortable to be an adventure. And adventuring doesn't stop at 40 either.

9/23/06, 2:30 PM  

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