OK, so this turned out rather more platitudinous than I intended, but I sincerely hope that you will forgive me. Some occasions require a certain degree of sentimentality.
Looking back, it is difficult to fully comprehend what we went through. For my first few months back, I didn’t really believe that it was over. No matter what I was doing or where I went, I always felt like I was taking a break, biding my time before returning to the boat. Then at some point my mind just flipped a switch. In a matter of days, it suddenly dawned on me that I was back for good, and I immediately had trouble believing that we had actually done it. Had we really just been on a boat for 9 months? That feeling, hard as it may be to imagine, has remained. It has now been about 9 months since we returned, and that time has simply blown past. As it turns out, life happens a lot faster when you’re sleeping more than 4 hours a night.
It has been a slow, and sometimes painful reintroduction to the real world. There are certain perks, to be sure, to which I have reacclimatized with ease. Showering every day is a luxury that I no longer take so lightly, as is the absence of the unique…aroma that seemed to follow us from port to port. Not one meal has consisted of Kraft singles wrapped around a hotdog, and I thoroughly enjoy not having to take account of wind direction, speed, and my own sense of balance before relieving myself. Nevertheless, there have, equally, been several changes to which it has been more difficult to adjust. Not being within arm’s reach of John and Ellen, while refreshing for a while, can sometimes be stressful, as I have no way of knowing how their morning constitutional went without texting, which just seems a little weird. Additionally, in the real world it appears that no one considers it fair warning to yell “naked” in the process of stripping your pants off in a room full of people. And as it turns out, farting on the person next to you does not only not win ten points for Gryffindor, but can, in fact, get you in serious trouble with your waiter.
Perhaps the most difficult thing, however, is to figure out where to go from here. We have spent so much time so effectively avoiding that question that the shock of its resurgence damn near killed me. To whom do you go with a history degree and extensive experience with marine fecal sanitation, and somehow convince them to exchange money for your unique skill-set? Nevertheless, for all my complaining, I cannot describe how fortunate I feel to have been a part of this trip. It was rarely easy. In fact, there is a high likelihood that my life will end somewhat earlier as a result of the stress, sleep deprivation, and over-exposure to Franzia that I incurred. We began with limited(in my case at least) sailing experience, absolutely no mechanical knowledge, and somehow managed to drag our piglet more than 7000 miles (I actually have no idea what the true distance is, but I can guarantee that it was longer than that), through the Great Lakes, out to the ocean and down to the Domican Republic. Ours was not a story filled with high seas adventure, pirates, or shipwreck (for which our parents are undoubtedly profoundly grateful), but the far more banal day-to-day headaches of keeping an engine running, patching a sail, or trying desperately to touch the dolphins swimming just under the prow of the boat…Ok, so “banal” might be strong. Ultimately, I cannot thank John enough for convincing me that this trip was not just some pipe-dream that would never happen, but a real, feasible, totally reasonable way to avoid facing the rest of our lives for nine months. He was the driving force, the heart and soul, and the sometimes totally irrational anger of this group, and he should get all the credit in the world for that.
It would be remiss of me at this point to neglect giving a resounding thanks to all the people who helped us along our way. From all of our families to Pat in Little Current. From John and Arline in Oswego to Jay in Nassau and Provo. We quite literally could not have done it without you. Now, when most people say “we literally could not have done it without you” they mean “we figuratively could not have done it without you”. What I mean is that we literally could not have done it without you. We would still be cooling our heels somewhere in Lake Michigan, or else lost and freezing, somehow turtled in the arctic ocean without your kindness and assistance. There were so many people who were so genuinely open and kind to four kids whom they’d never met that I couldn’t possibly enumerate them all here. If any of you are reading this, however, I’m sure you know who you are, and you have our everlasting thanks. I doubt that I will ever be able to pay all of you back for your generosity, but I wish you all all the best, and I hope that our paths cross again someday.
It feels almost unbearably cliche to end with a piece of advice (almost)–particularly as any such advice comes from almost a full year of avoiding the very responsibilities that make up most of people’s lives–but I do hope that you will excuse it in this one instance. Being a part of this trip has changed my life immeasurably, and I’m certain that I won’t know for years, and possibly decades, how formative and important it was to me. And if you should ever wish to plan an exciting trip that takes you to far off places, and brings you into contact with new and diverse cultures and fascinating people, for God’s sake, just take a plane.