“Life-lanes” by Progressive Insurance asked me to answer a few of my most common questions. A very common series of questions sounds like this… “What did you get out of it? What did you learn? Why would I want to do it?” Every – damn – time I freeze up because the answer is lengthy, intense, and actually requires emotional effort to respond in a fashion that I care to have it understood. I stutter at the task of trying to sum it up. Most people regret asking this question because I either A) Go on a tangent or B) tell them that I perfected shitting into a bucket.
Anyways. Here is my response in a nutshell. Or in a bucket.
There is something to be said about traveling slowly. Something magical. Something that as far as I am aware, can be not be earned elsewhere. There are many ways one could choose to travel slowly, and in this particular story it was by sailboat.
It took my best friend and I 87 days to get from Northern Michigan to the boarder of Florida in a 27 foot sailboat. Averaging 25 miles a day and 4.5 knots. Together we sailed down Lake Michigan and entered the seam of America, stitching our way south along the Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Tombigbee rivers until we met the Gulf of Mexico. I could have driven that distance in 18 hours. I could have flown it in 4. I could have roller-skated faster.
I would spend 8 hours a day sitting in the cockpit holding a beautifully handcrafted wooden tiller, doing absolutely nothing but steering the boat and dodging unidentified floating objects. Months passed. The time that passed had absolutely nothing to do with having to be at a certain place at a certain time, but everything to do with substituting the the only way in which I ever knew how to spend time (work, family, friends, relationships, school, recreational activities, other miscellaneous non-sense like shaving my legs and organizing my underwear drawer) with the following :
Time to think back // You have time to rewind. Push play. Think back to all the reasons you are where you are. Think through all those decisions you made in the past that were never actually thought through. You get stuck on the things you hate thinking about the most. The things you stowed away in a very secure place years ago, with no intentions to ever look at them again. You peel back the years, the layers, and toss the clutter you no longer need. You recognize your wrong doings and rejoice your attributes. Clearing space in your mind for the following :
Time to be present // You don’t miss a beat. It’s merely impossible. You see every bird, every animal, every type of tree, every cloud formation, every bend, every movement of the water. You look at it for more than seconds, because you have minutes, maybe even hours. And you don’t just look at it because it’s all that’s in front of you, you even have time to be fascinated with it. With the fascination comes curiosity. With curiosity comes questions. Your still left with time to try and find the answers. Are you catching my drift? The art of being present is rather educational. Your mind has then made room for the following :
Time to discover // By being in a constant stream of odd situations, you discover things you’re great at and things you’re horrible at. You discover Resource management. You discover how to budget. You discover how to be a jack of all trades. You discover the side streets. You discover how to talk to strangers. You discover beauty in everything- even mud. You discover your priorities. You discover exactly how little one requires to be happy. And eventually you discover this large compartment stocked with the following :
Time to appreciate // And I mean truly appreciate. Allow me to take the word appreciation to a whole new altitude. I am taking it off a rolling hill in Iowa and putting it on top of Alaska’s’ Mount Denali. From the simplest of amenities like running water, electricity, refrigeration, controlled climates, and plumbing. To the clouds that block the sun even if it’s just for a moment. The brief rainfall that is your only means of cleanliness. The wind that cools you off at night and moves your house free of charge by day. The spider who lives in the cockpit and feasts on intruding insects. The power-boater you met that day who offered you ice. The couple anchored next to you who has the right size wrench. The family you met while aimlessly wandering town who took you in and offered a square bed and a hot meal. You get caught up in a state of gratitude and can’t help but to start thinking about the following :
Time to pay forward // I began a list while traveling down those rivers, and keep it going till this day. I wrote down every person that went out of their way to do something for us. Whether it was lending us a tool, cooking us a meal, towing us off the ground, passing down their charts, or spending hours in our ridiculously small engine room we referred to as “the basement”. The list is long. There is a good chance we will never be able to re-pay favors to these particular people. Helping hands, encouragement, and willingness to teach can be passed on. The rest of my time on that boat entailed trying to figure out how I was going to spend the rest of my life – doing exactly that.
Thirteen states, three countries, and nearly two years later I was still sitting in that same cockpit. Holding the third beautifully handcrafted wooden tiller (after splitting the first two) dodging unmarked rocks in Canada and days away from sailing into the same bay in northern Michigan I once left from. One huge circle taught me everything I ever wanted to know.
Disclosure: I was compensated for content provided to Life Lanes from Progressive. All thoughts and opinions are my own.