“Travel is one of the special keys to the infinite horizons of the mind.”
Donated By Ronny Northrop Fiji92
Travel. It’s encoded in every cell within me. Its broad tentacles curl around my thoughts most days, stroking at my memories and entwining my desires. Not the safe, booked and paid for travel, but the fly by the seat of your pants and follow your nose kind. The sort that leads you into remote places in your mind as well as the landscape. Travel that leaves tiny scars for every devastating goodbye and tatters of yourself on the many fence posts that line the road of your journey. The kind, that shapes your inner being, your entire genetic makeup. This is the travel that has changed my life forever.
The world has been my university. For six years I was enraptured with her teachings. Perhaps when I am worn and wrinkled I may look back again with even clearer perspective and see all that I truly learned. Perhaps now I am too close to focus properly and need years to sit back and reflect that which I truly gained. To see it unfold and add color to this garden of my life.
The last few years my traveling shoes have come out only once or twice a year, adding a few more miles to my odometer within. The feeling is different; it is not the years away like before. I still struggle with the inner calling to the open road and when the wind blows strong outside my window, I hear and smell the rest of the world murmuring like a quiet song. I am only now realizing that Travel will not heal my life like I thought it once did, no longer is it the time to run away and forget. Not that I had to run away from much, but as we all know the growing pains of the late teens and early twenties can be challenging. I became quite talented at the art of disappearing when I did not like which direction I was going.
Now, as I enter a new chapter of my life I must not seek the foreign seas for comfort, but cling to the memories inside of me and face my life from where I stand. This lesson made itself apparent when I recently took a surf trip to Baja, Mexico. As I stood at a bank machine with the statement of 150.00$ left in my bank, 4000 miles from my country of origin and no home to return to, I realized this was not the way I wanted to play anymore. Gone was the charm of living out of a backpack and surviving on beer and the cheapest local meal I could find. Gone were the days of not having a home anywhere on earth and so changed the direction of my inner compass.
I find myself gazing out the window at the stunning and wild beauty of our valley. Silent and massive peaks glow mysteriously in the light of the moon, their flanks dusted with newly fallen snow. Stars twinkle brightly from above and the icy breath of winter forms intricate patterns on the window before me. In these quiet moments my thoughts recede into the volumes of my mind, savoring the richness of my memories. As so many times before I slip down the stairs through a sleeping household, to pour over the many journals of my past. Sixteen was my last count yet the ones I seek lay apart from the rest, tattered and grimy. Ten books, their covers as individual as the contents within. Six years of travel recorded into these many volumes, six years that gave me foundation for the rest of my life. How often have I walked among these fading memories, swirling in my mind, brought fourth by these scribbled words that lay before me. How amazing that I sit here in the candlelight in the midst of winter and with the opening of these pages I am on a different continent, in a different time.
June 14, 1997
Finally I awake from this sedated and numbing slumber…what I call the lethargic cloak of home life. Sometimes when I begin a new journey it takes a while for societies blocks to fall away, for the winds of freedom to blow strong and true. When the senses come alive, thoughts deepen and reflection of ideas blend with reality. I’m grinning stupidly with tears in my eyes and listen to the Braveheart soundtrack on my walkman. It is taped for these exact moments, with all the slow songs recorded together, to give my inner movie an emotional soundtrack. These dramatic cumulous clouds rise high into the blue with sheets of rain falling beneath. The sea is calm and glistening beneath me as I dangle my legs from the bowsprit. At this moment I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Earlier we had witnessed a large patch of rain coming our way; anxiously we gathered our shampoo and dirty cloths in hopes of enjoying some fresh water from the heavens. Our water maker broke last week and we now seem to be forever encrusted in layers of salt. The sea glossed over and the mist of rain engulfed us on all sides. We washed and squealed like children, relishing in the fresh water straight from the doldrum weather machine. No longer than 10 or 15 minutes did it last when we broke through the other side of the squall into the searing equatorial sun.
Spirits are high today as we try to savor the beauty of this trip. We will even have fresh vegies tomorrow, because the alfalfa sprouts I started are growing rapidly in the galley and I have fresh bread attempting to rise in the engine room. Days slip by quietly and I look forward to my watches where I can sit alone with my thoughts. From eight pm to ten pm I silently watch the sunset as the small colony of this boat slips away for a few hours of sleep, the stars have noticeably moved in the heavens as we move steadily south. Perhaps I will be visited by a lone dolphin or will just sit quietly with the rising full moon and roam the valleys of my mind. I am relieved of my duties until the morning when I wake for my second watch of six to eight. My so important rituals resume as I share another intimate moment with the sun. The stars recede into a milky blanket of morning clouds, the sea a glossy quicksilver. Then so quickly in this part of the world the earth begins to awake, a warm glow reaches over the horizon, setting the stage for the dramatic appearance of the sun. The water begins to shimmer with hues of violet and rose, the clouds a pale amber. Then she appears in all her naked beauty, rising from her bed to greet the new day.
And we have wind….Yesterday afternoon she crept. Her breath rippling the glossy water, fondling our awaiting sails. We have been floating in the doldrums, roughly a ten mile fluctuating band that spans the Equator. Now as suddenly as we lost the wind, she returns. At dusk fair weather clouds can be seen and the wind finally picks up from the right direction. We have anxiously awaited the South East trades, and now they begin to take us in the last leg of our crossing. We toast the Southern Cross, the constellation appearing in the onslaught of evening, rising brightly upon our bow. Beyond the horizon awaits the mysterious and enticing Marquesas. The most easterly islands of French Polynesia, islands known only to a handful of the worlds population. Famous French artists sing and paint her beauty. Jacques Brel and Paul Gauguin found their final days, lost in the savage charm of these islands. Herman Mellville writes of Typee, a story of living among the supposedly cannibalistic tribes of the area. He speaks of their exotic ways and their traditional tattoos done with shark tooth and hammer. On that note, I think I will have to get another tattoo on these islands, to mark a new and significant time in my life.
It has been a long time since I have anticipated the arrival unto a new land. A place that I cannot compare to all the other continents I have walked upon. I can only dream of what will soon be revealed.
At one hundred and thirty one degrees and fifty-eight minutes we crossed the equator into the southern part of the hemisphere. Its is an amazing feeling of wandering the globe when you cross such a significant mark as this. It is close to one in the afternoon. We sit on the aft deck and attempt an equator party, although because the seas have picked up considerably, we are all a bit queasy. But we are hearty sailors so we down our champagne and eat crackers and cheese and ignore our internal ailments. True to form, the sea in her mysterious ways, has sent us an escort for our crossing. With a squealing hello from her depths, a pod of pygmy killerwhales arrives to perform their happy frolics upon our bow. I will hold this image close to me as I attempt to sleep the restless sleep one tends to have when chop is rising to a stormy swell. Sea creatures and looming tropical peaks swirl together in my dreams.