One of my favorite things about travel is the jarring perspective changes I have when I realize how other people live. When we traveled to Thailand (by plane) for a month, at that time, we felt quite adventurous. Very few people we knew had traveled to that area of the world. When we arrived we met people who had been traveling in SE Asia for years and were disappointed with how commercial and on-the-beaten-path Thailand had become. Our trip, which felt quite extraordinary when discussed with our friends back home, felt quite ordinary in conversation with these vagabonds.
When surrounded by other people sailing around the South Pacific, it is easy to feel as if our journey is an ordinary mainstream one. We are constantly in the company of people who have crossed from the Americas to the South Pacific just like us, who left home and country just like us, and often those people have another ocean under their belt (i.e., the Atlantic). These are our comparison group, our “average”, our peers. Remember, we’re just a bunch of wahoos out here.
In this group of wahoos, even some of our slightly more adventurous than average decisions turn out to be more average than we realize. At the time that we made the decision to turn around at the Cook Islands and return to French Polynesia, it felt scary. We didn’t know anyone who had done it. We didn’t know how our boat would perform upwind in the trades, bucking currents and swell. We didn’t know how our bodies would do living while hammering upwind and perhaps most importantly, how our minds would deal with sailing two miles to make one mile toward goal. Afterwards we met other boats who have done the same route, had friends make the same passage, and have met other people who have sailed much, much more difficult long passages. And what felt extraordinary initially to us started to feel quite ordinary.
When we meet someone on land, they usually think we are incredibly adventurous, if not nuts. Seeing our lives through their eyes reminds us that we are doing something many people dream of doing, that we are having years of travel experiences when most N Americans get weeks if they are lucky. I’ll admit, we begin to feel pretty cool and pretty “out there”.
Then we meet people who are truly hard core. Our life may feel a little wild to us, until we meet someone who says something like “I normally wouldn’t sail a cored fiberglass hull to Antarctica but because it was my second time there I felt comfortable with it.”, and we feel quite ordinary again.
If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m definitely not. I love this feeling of perspective shift. I feel so inspired knowing that I could reach for more adventure if I wanted to. It’s always there.
I don’t mind being average in a pack full of crazy people. It means we are keeping good company.