May 27th, 2017-Uncertainties

Published May 28, 2017 by jillamatt

***Jill’s ‘letting go’ Diary***

This is part of a series of posts (ordered by Dated Titles) where I am recording my thoughts and emotions as we tackle getting rid of all of our possessions.  From the day that I came up with this idea, to sell everything and travel the world, I have recorded my thoughts on certain days where I feel like writing.  These are real time, and not edited (except for grammatical corrections.) 

It’s hard to believe that it has almost been a month since my last post. Time has been slipping by like a river, flowing all around us, but simultaneously, sweeping us downstream with it.

We are being carried along by the river.  Like we are just robots in motion, with something else guiding us and pushing us along.

My mind is on auto pilot. Constant lists run through my head:

  • Things we need to finish on the house before we list it for sale. (I’m currently drywalling my kitchen, that we are still obviously using. FUN TIMES!)
  • Things we need to get rid of. (Another yard sale is coming up on June 3rd.)
  • Things we want to do before we leave.
  • Places we want to visit, friends we want to see and connect with, one last time before we go.
  • Things we want to give to specific people before we go.

These thoughts, and many more like them, race through my head all day, even as I continue to run my own business, which is just starting it’s very busy season.

_______

Just recently I have started to find myself fielding some pretty intense and interesting questions from people about what we are planning.  It’s almost like it is somehow starting to be real to people.  Like maybe, just maybe, they thought we were bluffing, but now it is actually happening.

I was asked the other night, around a campfire, “So how do you feel about the uncertainties?”

After processing the question for a second, I croaked out a very caught-off-guard and shaky “ooookaaaayyyyy.”  (I couldn’t have sounded more insincere if I had tried.)

This, of course, was met with giggles and comments around the fire like “that’s not sounding very sure”, & “ya doesn’t sound like it.”

Without hesitation, although slightly embarrassed by my response (not my typical stoic self), I said “Well yeah, of course I’m scared shitless.  I’m definitely scared, but many great things have been accomplished by people who have faced their fears.”

And it’s true.

The hilarious thing about my response to the question, I now realize, is that my response ITSELF was uncertain.

I thought about this question for days afterwards.   Being the psycho analyzer that I am (mostly of myself), it bothered me that I had had a response like that, so seemingly unsure, and I needed to do some deep thinking to explore how I really did feel about the uncertainties.

“How do you feel about the uncertainties?”

It’s such an interesting question, for starters.

How do any of us feel about uncertainties?

My Dictionary app defines Uncertain in these ways:

  1. not able to be relied on; not known or definite. (an uncertain future)
  2. (of a person) not completely confident or sure of something.
    “I was uncertain how to proceed”

I bet there are VERY few people who do not experience some sort of uncertainty in their every day lives. We all carry around some kind of worries about things that MAY OR MAY NOT play out in our futures. We all second guess our decisions, uncertain if we have made the right ones.

Nothing is guaranteed. 

Most of us move through life with some general idea of what may come in the future. Whether it be goals that we have, or dreams that we want to fulfill. As most people busily plan out the details of their future, they are unconsciously aware that our “plans” may or may not happen.

Nothing is CERTAIN.  

Uncertainty pertains to those people who live in places for many years and are comfortable with their surroundings, AND it pertains to those who choose to go traveling, and can find comfort in their surroundings in far off lands.   It really is not picky with whose mind it occupies.

When I was asked the question, in that moment, I think I took it as a question where you either answered A) I’m okay with the uncertainties, or B) I don’t like the uncertainties.  And without trying to sound like I am defending my shaky response, I did my deep thinking, and decided this;

Not liking uncertainty really has nothing to do with a decision such as this. A decision like the one we have made, to sell everything to go traveling, is EMBRACING uncertainty.   I’m not exactly saying that I ‘like’ uncertainty, but I’m willing to open my life up to it.

The uncertainty of this plan, is what makes it exciting. It’s what causes my heart to flutter in my chest when I picture myself in this new reality that we are creating for ourselves.

Living with uncertainties, can for some, be debilitating. But I believe that it’s what lies out there, AMONGST the uncertainties, that shapes us as people. It’s what keeps us on our toes. It’s what creates our character.

How we react to the uncertainties that hit us on a constant basis, is what makes us the people we are.

The more we can drag ourselves away from the certainties, the more we grow.  Period.

And so, I am now ready to answer the question properly.

How do I feel about the uncertainties?

I say “BRING ‘EM ON!”

** Thanks for reading!  This is part of a larger group of blog posts about us letting go of all of our possessions to go traveling.  If you would like to read from the beginning, click here.**

To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

To see my blog post menu, click here.

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When nothing is sure, everything is possible

April 30th, 2017- Costa Rica bound!

Published May 1, 2017 by jillamatt

***Jill’s ‘letting go’ Diary***

This is part of a series of posts (ordered by Dated Titles) where I am recording my thoughts and emotions as we tackle getting rid of all of our possessions.  From the day that I came up with this idea, to sell everything and travel the world, I have recorded my thoughts on certain days where I feel like writing.  These are real time, and not edited (except for grammatical corrections.) 

Wow!  Things seem to be falling into place all around us lately!  We just found out last night that we got a house sitting gig in Costa Rica, just South of Manuel Antonio, from November 1st to December 30th. It’s a very quiet and un-touristy part of Costa Rica, which is perfect for us.

I have been back and forth via email with the owner of the property for the last couple weeks. Initially she contacted us to see if we were available from September 1st to December 30th. I explained to her that we were in the process of selling everything and that we likely wouldn’t be ready by the beginning of September.

She wrote back to tell me that although they prefer to get one set of people for the whole 4 months, they have also split the term up in the past into 2 segments. So I told her that if she could find someone for the first half, we could certainly be available for November/December.

Well, she did just that, and in the blink of an eye, we now have a skeleton of a plan forming, which, in some deep seated way, is comforting to know.

I can’t help but laugh, however, as I read my last “Letting Go Diary” post about Plans and Planning.  In it, I resigned myself to the fact that we really didn’t have any specific plans, and that stressing out and worrying was not going to get me anywhere but to being burnt out.

However, when we secured this house sitting position, it also all-of-a-sudden made this whole scheme that we have concocted, VERY REAL!  Suddenly we DO have a plan, suddenly there ARE goals to achieve.  Suddenly we have something very real and concrete to work towards.  And in some strange way, it has made us super excited, and has brought us both much comfort.

Playa Matapalo

Playa Matapalo

Even though, I must say, I do like the feeling of just heading out, and not really knowing what is around each corner, I am also very aware that this will be a fabulous way to truly unwind from this hectic life that we live, and will give us breathing room when we get there, to figure out our next moves.

It also provides us with a goal, with some structure, and with something to truly look forward to!

PURA VIDA BABY!!!

_____________

PURA VIDA:

Spanish for “pure life.”

The law of the land in Costa Rica. The expression is used in many forms, from a greeting, to a synonym for “excellent.” Ticos follow this lifestyle and are some of the most wonderful people on earth. A synonym of “hakuna matata.” Life is wonderful; enjoy it.

“Pura vida!” (Damn right!)
_________________

 

YARD SALE!

Another milestone was completed today as we held our first official yard and plant sale.

Plants are halfway down and through the gate. Forgot to take a picture of them!

It was a bright sunny spring day, and lots of people came out. All told we sold approx $1000 worth of stuff, which brings our overall total to just over $7000.

This is some of my random artwork that I have done during the span of 11 years living here.

 

The hoards of people waiting for the sale to begin!

However, there is still lots of stuff to go yet! We haven’t even begun on our kitchen stuff, tools, or garden equipment.

I must say though, although we still have lots of stuff to sell, our shoulders both feel much lighter with the amount that we have sold. It’s like we have been carrying around some kind of burden that we didn’t even know existed, and as those layers peel off, we are seeing and realizing our dream begin to manifest itself in our lives.

Tomorrow officially marks the beginning of the “busy” season for me in the house painting world. I have clients lined up from now until the end of July at least.  Chris has been busy with his Landscaping already with tons of spring pruning to do, but he is also part time working in his tattoo shop.

So our time will be precious, and we will really need to narrow our focus to get our house renovations finished and get it on the market by July, in the meantime continuing to sell as much as we can.

Life is going to be a bit crazy for a bit, but I am aware of what I need to do to “not over do it”, and everyday I am motivated by this amazing life we have to look forward to.

THIS is what I have been wanting!  To live a life that I feel like writing about everyday!  THIS is what has been brewing in the back of my mind for months now!

Finally!  Life is going to get darn exciting!  Pura Vida indeed!

** Thanks for reading!  This is part of a larger group of blog posts about us letting go of all of our possessions to go traveling.  If you would like to read from the beginning, click here.**

To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

To see my blog post menu, click here.

To learn about House Sitting opportunities, and how you can house sit as well, please click here.

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All things four twenty…

Published April 22, 2017 by jillamatt

We sat on the beach, and enjoyed the bright, hot sun on our skins. It was a welcome dose of vitamin D after the brutally wet and soggy spring that we have been enduring.

The sparkling ocean danced before our eyes and the murmur of voices coming from the stage, wafted over our heads.

As I scanned the crowd of people around me, 10’s of 1000’s at least, it struck me at how peaceful this scene was at Sunset Beach.

——-

Pure fate had brought us to Vancouver on the auspicious day of April 20th.  (For those who don’t know what April 20th represents, or about 4/20, please click here.)

My partner, Chris, had to go there to get his Yellow Fever vaccine for our upcoming journey. Apparently there is a worldwide shortage of the vaccine, and it was proving difficult to get a full dose close to where we live.

When he called the Vancouver clinic on Tuesday, the Nurse told him that he better get there ASAP to be guaranteed a full dose, which will last a lifetime. Nearer where we live, but still a ferry ride away, he could only get a 1/4 dose, which they state only lasts a year.

And so, that was it!  Chris made the appointment for Thursday, as we could both leave work that day, and we decided to make the trip.  We realized immediately that it was 4/20.

I have lived on the West Coast of Canada for 15 years, and have watched the Vancouver 420 festival grow by seeing it on the news, and reading articles about it, but had never gotten down there to check it out first hand. Seeing that we are leaving here this fall for a big adventure into the world, I was excited at the opportunity to finally go and check it out.

TO HAVE A NEW EXPERIENCE.

I really had no idea of what I was in for.

———-

Our day started at 6:20 in the morning, when we started driving from our home of Powell River, tucked along the mainland of the West Coast of Canada.

A series of roads and ferries takes us across 2 major fjords to get us to Vancouver. All told, it’s a 4-5 hour journey, one way, on a good day. We decided that we would go back and forth in one day, it would just be a long day. Our plan was simple, we needed to go to the Clinic for 2:00 and then get down to Sunset Beach, the site of the 420 event, by 4:00 or so.  This would give us an hour or so there, before we had to head back to the ferry terminal for our 7:20 ferry back home.

Figuring that it would be busy in the city because of the event, we decided to leave our car in Langdale, at the start of the second, and last, ferry leg of the trip, and just walk on the boat and ride public transit for the day. We planned out our bus route, and the app said that it would take 50 minutes from where the ferry arrived in Horseshoe Bay, to the clinic.

Great!  We would have lots of time to get there……or so we thought. The ferry arrived at about 11:40 (of course, half an hour late) but we still had tons of time to get over to the clinic. However, as we emerged out of the ferry terminal, it was instantly obvious just how busy things were going to be that day. There stood a HUGE line up of people waiting at the bus stop.

We had no choice but to get in line with the rest, and wait with earnest until the next bus came. Of course, because the ferry was late arriving, the bus schedule didn’t quite sync up, so we had to wait about 20 minutes for the next one.

The worrisome clock in my brain is now ticking.

Tick. Tock.

I start checking the time on my phone repeatedly.

It doesn’t help, either, that a guy walks by announcing “Geez!  I hope they are sending a barge for you all.”  Meaning that there were a lot of us, and one bus wasn’t going to cut it!

Thanks pal.

The bus pulls up at noon and we clamber on like a herd of sheep. The bus driver all the while yelling “Move further back!”  Only 6-8 people got on behind Chris and I so we considered ourselves lucky as we stood in the aisle holding on to the swinging handholds above, while many unfortunate patrons waited on the sidewalk for the next bus.

The bus pulls out and my eavesdropping ear kicks in immediately. As I start to overhear various conversations, I realize that many of the people on the bus, are headed down to Sunset Beach as well.

One young lady in particular asked a few people in general, how long of a walk it was from the bus drop off to the 420 party. She was sitting right below where I stood so I was within ear shot of her conversations that she was having with complete strangers.

She was maybe 18 or 19 with a soft, unimposing demeanor. Her innocent look and braided pigtails would probably profile her as a straight arrow, that wouldn’t have anything to do with an event like this. However, when she learned that others were going to the same event, she stood up from her seat, and loudly yelled to her partner, who was now sandwiched at the back of the bus, “Hey there are more 420 people up here, we can go with them!”  Then she looked up at me with a gaping mouth. A huge smile came over her face and she said, “This is my first time to the 420 event.”  As if to gently let me know that we all should be excusing her behaviour.  A silent way of declaring that she is excited.  I gave her a kind smile and thought to myself (now wishing I had have said it out loud) ‘me too’.

After that moment, it was as if most people in there realized that we were all heading to the same place. The mood instantly turned from the typical icy city demeanor that you normally find on the bus, to that of a more relaxed and chill vibe. The bus seemed to erupt in conversation as happy revelers exchanged words.

All was good until we hit the other side of Stanley Park. On a good day, the bus would take about 5-10 minutes to get down to Burrard street from where we were, to where the party goers needed to get off. But we immediately hit a wall of standstill traffic, and started inching along at a snails pace.

It didn’t take long for the mood to shift from light and jovial, to easing towards annoyed and hostile. By the time somebody announced that maybe walking would be better, we had entered into a HUGE gap between stops, as many had signs on the bus stop saying “Buses re-routed due to 420 Protest.” Which meant that they weren’t stopping in those spots.

Apparently we weren’t getting off until we reached Burrard, and that was that.

Tick. Tock.

—–

Protest?  It seemed a strange word. I never felt like this was a protest.  I always just thought of it as a celebration.  Where people could, for just one day, happily enjoy a joint in public, without fear of being arrested. I saw it as more of a feeling of being alive and having freedom, without the reign of authority breathing down our necks. A rare moment these days.

FINALLY, the bus arrived at Burrard St. And everybody piled off the with glee, scattering themselves down the sidewalk, all heading in the same direction.

Chris and I were actually meant to get off a couple blocks later, on Granville, as we were taking the Skytrain over to Broadway for his appointment. However, we got off and walked, saving ourselves from more inching torture on the bus.

Things went well from here on in, and we arrived to Broadway with enough time to grab a quick snack at the taco stand, as we hadn’t eaten since 6:00am. (We were both pissed off that the ferry wasn’t serving poutine, only breakfast items.  As we both had our hearts set on Poutine,  we silently protested by not ordering anything, and then both found ourselves very hungry!  We sure showed them………?)

—–

After the appointment, we headed back towards downtown by bus, being dropped off just on the other side of Granville St bridge around 3:30.

We started to walk towards the park, and quickly realized that we were part of a massive group, all descending down to the beach to be in place for the magic 420 hour. I would love to have seen the above image of people coming from all angles of the city.  We were like a swarm of mosquitoes, all buzzing in on their pray at once. However, we were happy mosquitoes, all walking quite quickly and with much anticipation.

The smell of marijuana started to fill the air from blocks away. I’m pretty sure upon smelling this, I giggled and jumped a little in my step. I just had a massive overwhelming feeling of how big this was going to be. As I said earlier, I really didn’t know what I was in for.

As we got closer to the beach we started to see a lot of Ambulance presence, but surprisingly not much Police presence. We saw more police directing traffic in the busy streets above the event, than we certainly did AT the event.  Even still, I had my hawk eyes out trying to spot them in the crowds.

I’ve always been one of those people that are scared of the Police. A rule follower, a normal citizen, a “don’t ruffle any feathers” kind of gal. My passport is my most valued possession, and I’m not likely to get in a situation where I might lose it over some silly injustice. So when I’m approaching a place where everyone is doing something “technically” illegal, my senses can’t help but jump into overdrive. (Not too mention I feel very brave in posting this blog post…..even just admitting my participation in the event.)

The closer we got the more rigid I became. It’s like I needed to see it for myself before I could decide if it was okay or not. I needed to formulate my own opinions based on my feelings when I got there. Even though I knew it was all ALLOWED, and all OKAY, my rule following anxiety was on high alert.

It wasn’t long before we were part of the mob, disappearing into a gently smoke filled cloud that hung invisibly in the air, and obviously realizing that everything is just A-okay……man.

Vendors were selling all manner of Marijuana infused edibles, skin creams, bath bombs, you name it!  There were marijuana infused rice crispy squares, popsicles, cookies, lollipops……like I said, you name it, it was there!! Not too mention there were people smoking weed everywhere you looked.

‘Okay’, I thought, ‘it’s okay.’

Deep Breathe.

‘You aren’t doing anything wrong.’

I took a moment to re-collect myself and take a breathe, and then forced myself to relax, and just take it all in.

We wandered amongst the booths and pushed our way through the crowds. It was amazing!  There were what felt like AT LEAST 100 booths lining the walkways, selling all manner of the aforementioned. Crowds amongst the boothspeople everywhere

People, young and old, took it all in, wandering to and fro and inspecting what was on offer in each booth.

We wandered and wandered along aisles of goodies, all the while subconsciously following the sound of a distant loud speaker, which somehow seemed to be beckoning us.

We arrived at the stage only to realize that there were limited spaces to sit on the grassy slope near the stage, and way to many people.

These small townies needed some elbow room!
We snaked our way back through the booths, down towards the beach, and found ourselves a patch of sand to call our own. We sat down in the warm sun and reveled in the occasion. Beach 4Beach 3Beach 2Beach 1

At about 4:18 they started to get the crowd excited and the anticipation grew of the magic time coming nearer. Much like we countdown for New Years, this had its own kind of excitement building with it.

Free joints were being handed out to those on the grassy slope because, in the words of the announcer “I want us all to light up at once so that we can be happy at once, and to send a cloud of smoke as a message to our government.”

For me, it wasn’t the excitement that we would all be “lighting up” at 420, it was more the excitement of thousands of people, collected together in a peaceful celebration. As the clock got closer, they started a 20 second countdown. It started at the stage, then moved to the crowd, and reached us and those beyond us. It was an invisible sound wave that pulsed out like a pebble being dropped in a pond, creates ripples. In no time flat approximately 35 000 people were counting down in unison.

The moment came and we all shouted and cheered!  Smoke filled the air above us, people hugged and celebrated.

421

Whoops!  Missed it by seconds!

It WAS a celebration after all!

It was a celebration of a plant, of a coming together of people, of a peaceful unity.

We sat quietly for many minutes, just taking it all in.  I looked around and realized that there was no arguing going on, there were no drunk people running around making asses of themselves.  It was a simple, peaceful gathering, in celebration of a plant!

Really!  Can you believe how powerful this plant is?  It kind of reminds me of a certain book that was written so many years ago.  A certain book that changed the world as we know it.

I wonder if this plant has the same power to change the world?  To help people to understand that life is wonderful and that we get too wrapped up in nonsense and the “First World” problems that we have.

___

News story about the 420 event.

___

We headed out around 5:00, thinking that it would be good to get some more food before we started our journey back to the ferry.  We figured that if the buses were that full coming in, then they would likely be just as bad heading out.

We made our way up towards West Georgia St by foot and happened to  stumble upon a “La Belle Patate” poutine shop!  Finally, we were going to get our Poutine after all!  We got in just before massive crowds starting making their way up the sidewalks.  Just as we all descended on the park, there was a massive exodus, and those walking by, with no knowledge of what was going on, clearly looked bewildered by the crowds (but surely they could smell it in the air and figure it out?)Labelle Patate

We decided to take our poutine to go, and would just get on a bus and eat at the ferry terminal while we waited.  After all, there were lots of people walking by, and we were quite concerned about getting a bus out of there.  As we approached the bus stop, our bus number drove by with a “Sorry bus is full” sign shining down on us.  I let out an exasperated sigh as we approached the waiting zone, thinking there was no way that we were going to get out of there and to the ferry on time.

City from the Lionsgate Bridge

View out the bus window from the Lions Gate Bridge.

Chris with Poutine

Chris walked our precious Poutine cargo like this all the way from downtown and on to the ferry!

Just as we reached the back of the lineup that had assembled, another bus pulled up with room for all of us.  We all squeezed on, again moving all the way to the back.  The driver stopped at a couple other stops to let the odd person off, and a couple more on until finally we  were full as well.  As buses were now also behind schedule, and this bus was supposed to keep time to the ferries, the driver stood up at some point and asked if “Anybody needed to get off before Horseshoe Bay (the ferry terminal)?”  He asked three times, making sure that  there was nobody that didn’t.  He said “Okay, I am going to make up time by going straight to the Ferry Terminal, this bus will not stop again until we get there.”

As nobody protested, he sat back down, flashed his “bus is full” sign, and whisked us off to the ferry terminal.  I couldn’t help myself but think of how kind and considerate that driver was.  He went outside of his call of duty, to make sure that we got to where we needed to go, as close to on time as he could get us.

As we jumped off the bus, I thanked him for his dedication to our needs and our precious timetables.  And I couldn’t help but wonder; is this a Canadian thing, or a Vancouver thing?  How many bus drivers in the world would care that much about the customers on the bus?  Are they all like that?  I guess I have never been in that situation before, so it’s hard to say.

I do know one thing for sure though, on a day that would normally be stressful, annoying and aggravating for us small town people to make our way into the city, my faith in humanity was once again renewed, and I marveled at the wonderful day that we had had.

Arriving to the ferry terminal at about 6:10, we were told that the last ferry was meant to have left at 5:50 and it was just arriving.  Hallelujah!  For likely the first time EVER, our ferry was going to leave early!  This meant that we would have time to visit friends on the next coast up, that we didn’t think we would have time to visit.

Our delicious Poutine!

Looks like heaven?  I got the Donair Poutine…..I know!  Seriously, so good!!

We had a quick visit with them and made our way up to the next ferry which was set to depart at 10:30.  Unfortunately, after boarding, an announcement told us that we had to wait for the last ferry out of Horseshoe Bay (as it was obviously late.  Those people needed to get this last ferry to get them home that night.)  And so, in  state of complete exhaustion, but happy that BC Ferries was actually doing the right thing by waiting for people, we both drifted off to sleep before an announcement woke us from our slumber that we were nearing our destination.

All told, our one day trip to the city was 18 hours from door to door.  Under normal conditions, a day like this to the city would leave us both tired and drained.  But this time we saw only the best of humanity, and we both felt enlightened and happy that we had had such an interesting day, with tons of new and exciting EXPERIENCES.

**Thanks for reading!  For those new to my blog, my partner and I are in the process of selling everything to head out into the world to make traveling a priority in our lives .  If you would like to read about our letting go process, please start here.  If you would like to follow us along on our journey, please enter your e-mail address on the right hand side of this page to subscribe.** 

 

 

April 5, 2017 – Plans and Planning

Published April 5, 2017 by jillamatt

***Jill’s ‘letting go’ Diary***

This is part of a series of posts (ordered by Dated Titles) where I am recording my thoughts and emotions as we tackle getting rid of all of our possessions.  From the day that I came up with this idea, to sell everything and travel the world, I have recorded my thoughts on certain days where I feel like writing.  These are real time, and not edited (except for grammatical corrections.) 

PLAN:
1. a scheme or method of acting, doing, proceeding, making, etc., developed in advance: battle plans.
2.a specific project or definite purpose: plans for the future.

It constantly amazes me at how wrapped up I get in plans.  It’s the ultimate clue that I am simply NOT living in the moment, if I am constantly thinking and worrying about the future.

With our upcoming departure from Canada, looming on the horizon, I find myself completely overwhelmed (there’s that word again) with all the things that need to be done before we go.  We still need to sell more stuff, clear the clutter, finish renovating the kitchen and sell the house.

It seems like a monumental list of things to do, and I find the more I think about the overall picture, the more I get totally stuck.  I’m forever trying to remind myself that slow and steady wins the race.

I’ll be quite honest here, I dam near burnt myself out a couple weeks ago.  It wasn’t a full face plant, but I think I caught it just in time, before I completely collapsed under the utter exhaustion of it all.  Here I was bragging about my stealthy selling skills ( see my blog post about Overwhelm.  Hello??  That should have been a warning!) and how I was in overdrive coordinating all of my pick ups and drop offs of stuff everyday,  not too mention being constantly on facebook posting items to sell and making sure that what was purchased was deleted etc. etc. etc.  Meanwhile, my adrenals were screaming at me to take a break and relax a little, or a LOT!

I finally collapsed one evening and laid down on the couch, utterly exhausted, but feeling the Adrenalin still coursing through my veins.  I literally could feel my body vibrating.  I was so tired I could barely speak, but so awake from the buzzing that I couldn’t sleep.  It was a very strange feeling indeed.

But EVEN in that moment, my brain was telling me that I WASN’T doing too much.  “What is wrong with me?  Maybe I’m sick?  This can’t be burnout?  Not me, oh no, I don’t burnout!  Why is my stomach so clenched?  Maybe I have an ulcer?  Maybe I should go to the doctor.”  These were the thoughts running through my brain as I lay in a vegetative state on the couch. I was literally arguing with myself, in disbelief that I was actually just doing too much!  Going too fast!  Trying too hard!

After much back and forth between my egos, I finally decided that maybe, just maybe, I should hold back on the rapid selling that I was doing.

The whole point of this trip, after all,  is to get away from the everyday run around that we are experiencing here in Canada, the perpetual hamster wheel.  Somehow my sub-conscious seems to think that it’s a race to get there.  Like if I just put in all this effort and exhaust myself now, then when I get to where ever it is that I am going, I can finally relax.  But the thing IS, is that I have to get there!  And at the pace I was running, the only place I was going to get to was the hospital!

And I have finally realized that there are no timelines!  Sure, we want to have the house listed by July, and sure we want to leave Powell River by the end of September to mid October, but there really isn’t a specific PLAN, these are just goals that we are working towards.  We don’t have a flight booked, in fact, we are hoping to just fly standby using airline passes from a friend.  There are no hard dates, we haven’t booked a hotel or a hostel for when we get there, we haven’t done anything concrete to make running around like a maniac worthwhile.  Besides, the countries we plan to go to will still be there when we get there.  They will wait for us, I am sure of that.

However, I know that I am not alone in these thoughts.  Planning is a buzz word that inundates our society on a day to day basis.  We are told that we must PLAN for retirement.  In high school we are constantly asked what our PLAN is for education and our future.  We are conditioned to think that we need to PLAN our trips.  I hear people talk about their 3 year plans, 5 year plans and even 10 year plans.

The ludicrousness of this all is that we spend so much time PLANNING and working towards our PLANS, that we forget about the day to day.  The “happening RIGHT NOW stuff”.

What’s happening right now is the ultimate most important moment of our lives.  There is no guarantee that we will make it to “retirement”, or even tomorrow for that matter.  It’s those little moments that are happening RIGHT NOW, that shape our life stories.  What good is life if we are always caught up in what is happening in the future, which isn’t a guarantee anyways?

And so, after literally 2 weeks of recovery, I have resigned myself to slow down, take some deep breathes, and move at a pace that is sustainable.  I would like to enjoy my last few months here in the place I have called home for 11 years.  I would like to see people, engage and connect with my friends, and know that my last few months here were awesome,  not just a panic run around to get nowhere fast!

life-is-what-happens-to-us-while-we-are-making-other-plans

** Thanks for reading!  This is part of a larger group of blog posts about us letting go of all of our possessions to go traveling.  If you would like to read from the beginning, click here.**

To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

To see my blog post menu, click here.

Kayaking the Florida Everglades and The Bahamas – Part 2

Published March 29, 2017 by jillamatt

**This is a multi-part series about a trip that I did with my ex-husband in 2001-2002.  Unfortunately, I do not have access to my journals that I kept during this trip, so this is all from memory.  Some dates, places and timelines may be slightly skewed. **  If you would like to start from the beginning, click here.

 

The night before we left to kayak to, and through, the Everglades, we had taken out our marine chart book out to determine what our route would be, and to try and figure out how long it was going to take us to get across the Florida Bay to Flamingo.

Blackwater Sound has an almost impenetrable circle of mangroves around it. In looking at the charts, we realized that there is only one area where narrow channels would bring us out to Florida Bay, and the many islands that lead across to Flamingo, the entrance to the Everglades National Park.  Using my charting skills that I had learned on my previous sailing voyages, we did a rough estimation of the compass heading that we would need to follow, in order to access “The Boggies”, the name of the main channel.  It seemed easy enough, how hard could it be to find this passage?

Blackwater sound

The Boggies

The Boggies and the only access to Florida Bay.

However, I quickly realized that any thoughts I had about it being easy, were VERY wrong!

We had literally NO experience with Mangroves before, and had no idea that a small channel, like the one we were seeking, is easily disguised by the thick foliage.  Unless you are literally RIGHT AT IT, you cannot see these channels from any angle as the shoreline just blends into a tangled mess of brown and green.  Less than an hour of paddling our tandem kayak out to who knows where, we were already fighting and arguing because we couldn’t find this channel.  Seriously!

Looking back, this set the tone for the entire trip.  We argued more and yelled at each other more while we paddled that bloody kayak, it was a miracle that we managed to keep our relationship going.

Obviously, in the end, we finally managed to find it, but it took a really long time, and some slow meandering along the shoreline before we happened upon it.  This may have been our first lesson that this wasn’t going to be such a piece of cake as we thought.  Not to mention that my lower back and shoulder started to hurt almost immediately, and it took a few weeks for my body to sort out this new way of moving.

Blackwater Sound to North Nest Key

The top island on the left is North Nest Key

After popping out of Blackwater sound, and feeling much freer, we set our sights on North Nest Key where we were to camp for the first night.  North Nest key has an actual campground set up already, complete with a couple outhouses mounted on a dock.  This was our first experience with something like this, but soon realized that because they were emptied by boats, it made sense to have them out hanging over the water.  We had a fairly uneventful paddle there, after our ridiculous start that morning, and an uneventful first night as well.

first camsite

Our first campsite on North Nest Key.


dock at first campsite

Out houses on a dock. Complete with a birds nest on top! A small indication of the bird life that was to come!


first dinner

Spaghetti Dinner, first night.


Heading out

Getting ready to head out.  Note the shallow waters as far as the eye can see!

The next day we had our sights set on Flamingo.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure on the distance we had to cover that day, but things didn’t exactly go as planned anyways.

Because we were in a kayak, we felt that we could just paddle wherever we wanted to, as long as the water was a foot deep or so.  And so, instead of paddling in a somewhat straight line to Flamingo, which would have taken is into deeper water, we headed north/northwest, to get ourselves closer to the shoreline so that we could see some scenery on shore.

This turned out to be a bad idea.

As previously stated (and likely will be stated repeatedly throughout the course of this story), we had no idea what we were doing, so we paddled for a while in shallow seas that were likely about 2 feet deep.  However, they quickly turned to about 1 foot deep, which makes it incredibly difficult to get a full paddle in the water.  This forced us to do shallow paddles, which puts unneeded stress on the upper body, as you aren’t able to fully use your torso and leg muscles, to get those good, solid, deep paddles.

fishing

Our only prospect of a meal got thrown back!

We started to realize that at the rate we were going, Flamingo was a long way off. We’d been paddling for 6 hours or so at that point, and I was in full time complain mode as my lower back and shoulder were killing me, and the shallow paddling was making us both crazy, as each time you dipped your paddle in the water, even with shallow paddling, you would connect with the muddy bottom not too far below.

Norrth Nest Key to Shark Point

We paddled from North Nest Key on the far right, to Shark Point, the left hand finger on the left hand side of the photo.

So, after consulting our charts, and realizing that we were  both exhausted, we decided to hug the shoreline, and kept our eye out for a good place to pull in for the night.

On one long finger that stuck out into the bay, called Shark Point, we managed to spot a flat area, not much bigger than our tent,  that looked to be somewhat free of mangroves, and we figured that it was as good a place as any to pull up for the night.  We were just desperate to rest our weary bones, and we would complete our mission to get to Flamingo in the morning.

Shark Point

Shark Point on the left.  Since looking at the maps to write this, I see that there are roads to the ends of both of these points, and that Shark Point, now has a dedicated camping “Chickee”. Chickees are man made camping platforms that will be introduced in the next chapter. 

As we pulled into shore, the water was incredibly murky, and we knew that we were going to have to step out of the kayak, into the muck below, in order to get our boat to the shoreline.  It was daunting to say the least.  We knew there were saltwater crocodiles in these parts, but had no idea where, and the thick foliage and other icky things, was all mixed into the muddy soup that we were about to dip our delicious looking white calves into.  Are there Piranhas in Florida? I think we both did a sharp inhale and braced ourselves emotionally before we took that step.

There was a stiff breeze blowing as we pulled our boat up out of the water, and set up our tent.  We made a quick meal and then hung out in the tent for the night.  After all, we were surrounded in thick mangrove foliage all around, and there was really no place to explore.  Not to mention I think we were both very uncomfortable with where we were camping, and felt safer in the tent, like it acted as some sort of invisible barrier to whatever lurked outside.  Little did we know how important our barrier would be!

At some point, after dark, the wind died down and we started to hear a soft humming sound.  It seemed to amplify and get louder, and we couldn’t, for the life of us figure out what it could be.  Were there power lines in the area??  That was the only logical conclusion to the constant humming that we heard.  We really had NO IDEA what it could be and we both slept fitfully that night, with many uncertainties about this strange land and it’s strange creatures surrounding us, running through our minds.

When we awoke the next morning, we were instantly aware of what the humming sound had been.  MOSQUITOES!

Because the wind had been blowing when we pulled in, the mosquitoes had been kept at bay.  However, as soon as the wind died down, they smelled fresh blood, and had been buzzing our tent all night long, likely desperate to get at us.

The only thing that separated us from the 30 or so mosquitoes on our tent, was a very thin mesh.  We hadn’t put our water proof fly sheet on the night before, as there was no forecast of rain, and no need for privacy.  So we laid there face to face with these beasts as they patiently waited for us to come out of our barrier.  We thought that maybe if it got too hot, they would eventually go away.  Or maybe the wind would start up again and blow them all to their hiding places amongst the mangroves.  We waited and waited for what seemed like eternity, until Jamie finally decided that he was going to make a break to the kayak to grab some food.  How bad could it really be??  There were about 30 mosquitoes attached to our tent screen at any given time, surely he could withstand a few stings in the minute or so it would take to grab a couple things to eat.

So we hatched a plan, he would open the zipper and run out quick, as I zipped it closed behind him.

Okay, no problem, this was going to be a piece of cake.

So, in one foul swoop, Jamie unzipped the door and jumped out. The buzzing instantly amplified, and  within a split second, there were AT LEAST 40 mosquitoes now zipped up INSIDE the tent, and Jamie was already screaming “Let me in! Let me in!”

He figured he had been stung about 30 times in that second, and I had my fair share too!  He came barging back in, bringing with him a new wave of mosquitoes, while we both screamed bloody murder.  I’m sure if ANYONE had been within even 100 km of us, they would have thought somebody was indeed getting murdered.  It may very well have been the most frantic second of my entire life thus far.

We spent the next few minutes squishing mosquitoes and smearing them along the inside of the tent walls, all of them filled with fresh blood!

We sat in our tent breathless, and took some time to get ourselves back together physically and emotionally, so we could figure out how the hell we were going to get out of here.

But first, we were still hungry and really needed something to eat.  We were determined to get some food back to the tent so that we could hang out and figure out, with rational minds and full bellies, our escape plan.

We finally decided that if Jamie covered himself with sleeping bags, blankets, towels, sarongs and whatever else we had in the tent, he could shuffle to the kayak and just grab anything that was on top, and then run back as quick as possible.  The kayak was only about 10 feet away, so it was definitely doable.

And so, amidst another wave of mosquitoes flocking INTO the tent, more ridiculous screaming at the top of my lungs, and more sustained mosquito stings for both of us, he managed to bring back some small staples that fed us substantially for the moment.  I seem to remember crackers, or something like that.

As we sat there helpless, watching them flitter back and forth, bouncing around on the mesh of the tent, and smearing their sisters and their (our) blood across the inner tent walls, we finally satisfied our hunger, and came up with another plan.

It was now about noon, and we didn’t see an end to these things.  I’m sure you are wondering how we went to the bathroom amongst all of this.  And I can honestly say that I don’t remember, and can only assume that we peed into a water bottle or something, as there was NO WAY that we would have been able to leave the tent to do so.  We realized at this point, that the 30 mosquitoes that were dancing around on our tent, obviously had MANY other sisters lurking in the grasses, just waiting patiently to feast on the fresh meat they could sense was nearby.

We also knew, from growing up camping around lakes etc. back in Canada, that bugs usually stick to the shoreline, and don’t venture out into the water very far.  So we knew that if we could just get our stuff on the boat, and push off, even 30 feet from shore, we would be free of these things, and then could sort our gear out once we got out there.

So, we came up with a detailed game plan, complete with tasks for each one of us, that would allow us to literally just jump out the door, collapse the poles of the tent, bundle it up as much as possible with everything in it, throw it onto the kayak, and then just push off.

This is what we did.

After about a minute of franticness, with both of us fiercely determined to get out of there alive, we managed to complete our plan with not a word to each other.  We were like robots, in total survival mode, and adrenaline coursing through our veins.  Mosquitoes stung us in every orifice, through whatever clothing we had on, and over every inch of our exposed skin.  I will never forget the feeling of small darts poking me in my butt cheek, right through my bathing suit and thin shorts that I was wearing.  Never in my life had I been stung by a mosquito on my tender white butt skin!

We heaved the kayak into the water and pushed off as hard as possible.  Within 30 seconds, we were blissfully floating out on the water, with nary a mosquito to be seen.  Although the top of our kayak was piled high with our belongings, the peace that washed over us was wonderful, and we took a minute to soak it in before we both erupted in uncontrollable laughter.

We looked at each other with wide open eyes and a look that can only be described as; Holy Shit!  We had heard that the bugs could be bad in the Everglades, but never in our wildest dreams, or nightmares, could we have imagined that.

We were in awe, we were in disbelief, we were amazed and we were humbled.  We had nothing but utter respect for the power of the bugs in this strange land where we found ourselves.  And finally, us 2 naive Canadian kids, now knew the answer to the question of how bad the bugs could be.

THEY WERE BAD!  Bad, in the biggest, baddest sense of the word!

It was a valuable lesson learned, early in the trip, and one that would stick with us for the next three weeks as we navigated the waters of the Everglades.

*Thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for Part Three of our adventure, coming soon!*

*My boyfriend and I are currently transitioning from a “normal” life to that of an adventurous one!  We are selling everything to head out into the world to make traveling a priority in our lives.  If you are interested in reading about our letting go process, please read my first post here.*

March 23, 2017 – Regret

Published March 23, 2017 by jillamatt

***Jill’s ‘letting go’ Diary***

This is part of a series of posts (ordered by Dated Titles) where I am recording my thoughts and emotions as we tackle getting rid of all of our possessions.  From the day that I came up with this idea, to sell everything and travel the world, I have recorded my thoughts on certain days where I feel like writing.  These are real time, and not edited (except for grammatical corrections.) 

As I pondered a topic for this blog post this morning, I thought about the number one word that has stuck out to me over the last couple weeks.  That word has been REGRET.

Most importantly this word is included in sentences about selling our house.  “I hope you don’t regret selling your house.”  I have heard it time and time again, and my response has started to be “I don’t really live with regret, so I’m not really worried that I will regret this.”

I suppose I am fortunate in that I haven’t lived a life full of regret.  I am keenly aware that every moment of our lives, has transpired into where we are today.  And I suppose, that if I was in a place where I was utterly unhappy, then I guess regret may play a more prominent role.  But, even through the trials and tribulations that I have had in my life,  I have mostly chosen a happy path.  Whenever I start to find myself in an unhappy situation, I know that it is time to change things up, and I realize that it is time to go out and find what it is that makes me happy.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always roses.  I’ve had many things that have happened in my life that I consider to be failures.  Failed businesses, a failed marriage, failed friendships.  Sometimes I just FEEL like an utter failure, and sometimes the unhappiness creeps in when I’m not looking, and I find myself in a bit of a rut before I have some major breaking point that snaps me out of it.

But, the point IS, is that I do eventually snap out of it!

__

I’ll never forget an experience that I had when I was kayaking in the Bahamas at the age of 24.  (Some of you will have already read part one of this adventure!  If not, read here.)  My ex husband and I were paddling a chain of islands called the Exumas.  There were a few fresh water cisterns that dotted the islands, and were indicated on our marine charts, but they were usually quite brackish and didn’t look very appetizing.

We had with us 2 collapsible 5 gallon water jugs.  When we ran out of one of them, we usually got antsy about getting more water.  So we would look at our Marine Charts, and would figure out where the closest popular boat anchorage was located.  Most boats had mechanisms to desalinate (ie. remove salt) from their water, so they could use ocean water for drinking, which vastly reduces the need to fill up cargo space with water.

We would simply paddle up to boats and start chatting with sailors, and as soon as they heard what we were up to, they would generally not only offer to fill our water up, they would also offer to give us food.  Now, this was never our plan, to get more food, but if someone offered, we sure weren’t going to say no.

On a side note here: Sailors, and the sailing community in general, have got to be the most community minded and helpful group of people there is on the planet.  Never have I experienced a large group of people who are so eager to help out one another, that they literally clamber at the opportunity. 

One boat in particular had an older gentleman that was so intrigued by us.  In the course of us staying in one spot for about 5 days, he would repeatedly come and find us on the beach where we were camping, just to chat and ask us questions.  The last day we saw him, we had paddled over to his boat, as he had told us that he had some food and stuff that he wanted to give us before we continued on our journey.  We paddled up to his beautiful trawler and he stood above us with his hands on the railing.

He was a man that appeared to have everything.  A beautiful boat, nice things, an easy life.  But when we pulled up to his boat, he looked down at us with the most sorrowful eyes I think I have ever seen, and said, “Boy, did I ever live my life backwards.  I worked my butt off my whole life so that I could retire and do what you are doing now.  But never once did I consider that by the time I retired, I would be too old to do the things I wanted to do in my twenties.  You guys are really doing it right.”

I get chills even now when I think of this experience in my past.  The regret in his eyes in that moment, pierced my soul.  It subconsciously became a marker of how I have lived my life, and I believe was instrumental in helping to shape the person that I am today.  It has made me fearless in trying new things, with re-inventing myself when I feel like it is time, with always moving forward, and never regretting my decisions in the past.

And so, as we move through this phase of our lives, we will not look back.  We will not regret.  We will launch out into the world completely open and vulnerable, BUT safe in the knowing that whatever is out ahead, is far more exciting than what we have left behind, and NO MATTER WHAT, our lives will be better for it.

And let’s not forget the most important thing of all:

A house, is simply, just a house.

Our lives, and what we put into them, is everything!

** Thanks for reading!  This is part of a larger group of blog posts about us letting go of all of our possessions to go traveling.  If you would like to read from the beginning, click here.**

To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

To see my blog post menu, click here.

 

Kayaking the Florida Everglades and The Bahamas-Part 1

Published March 22, 2017 by jillamatt

**This is a multi-part series about a trip that I did with my ex-husband in 2001-2002.  Unfortunately, I do not have access to my journals that I kept during this trip, so this is all from memory.  Some dates, places and timelines may be slightly skewed. **

As Jamie and I pushed off from the sandy beach behind the kayak store in Key Largo, my parents stood on the shore and waved to us.

It was a surreal moment.

We had never kayaked before, but the guy at the Kayak shop assured us that we were buying the “Cadillac” of tandem touring kayaks, a Current Design Libra XT.

Most of our hatches were stuffed with brand new gear that was first stuffed into black garbage bags.

We literally had no idea what we were doing, but we had a plan!

South Carolina

We had arrived in the States a couple months earlier, shortly after 911.  It was October 2001.  We had worked our butts off all summer in anticipation of a winter of fun and adventure.  A family friend and his wife had purchased a72 foot sailboat that not only needed some serious repairs, but it also needed 2 new masts to be built!  The captain of the boat told us that if we came down there to work with them on the repairs, we could sail with them down to Florida, and crew for them on their planned charters from Miami to the Bahamas.

It sounded like a good gig.  We were in our early 20’s and were always looking for adventure.

We flew into Charleston, South Carolina.  Immediately, we were shocked by the presence of Army and Marine personnel at all of our travel stops.  Coming from Canada, the west side at that, we were a fair distance away from what had happened on that fateful day in New York.  The gravity of the event hung heavy in the air everywhere, but we had seen no physical evidence that anything had changed, until we touched down in the States.  As we sat in bus stops, we eyed up the soldiers that were headed off to Afghanistan.  Off to fight George Bush’s war.  They were our ages. They were young, full of vigor, with a huge life ahead of them.  The reality of what they were up to was not lost on us.  We were both thankful that we weren’t in their shoes, and happy to be heading off into a winter of fun and adventure.

Beaufort map

We arrived in Beaufort, a small town on the ocean, where “Paradise” had sat literally rotting for many years.  The boat, a 72 foot ketch, had been neglected by the previous owner.  Having lost both masts in a storm, he had managed to limp it back to the dock, where he lived on it for many years, never taking it out to sea again.  He also didn’t take care of it at all, or take it OUT of the water, meaning that the new owner, our Skipper, had to put it in dry dock to rid it of years of marine build up.  Apparently the above decks leaked so bad, we were told, that on rainy days it was a constant run around trying to keep the many buckets from overflowing that were catching the dripping water from above.  Thank fully most of the miserable work that was done on the hull, and the leaking decks, was completed before we arrived.

Beaufort close up

Beaufort is nestled in a vast network of waterways that line the shore of the Carolinas. 

 

Paradise

Paradise docked just outside of Beaufort, South Carolina

By the time we got there, Paradise was out of dry dock, and back in the water.  It was located in a prime spot next to a giant metal building, which was the perfect housing to build a couple masts.  The dockyard reminded me of where Forest started the Bubba Gump shrimp company from.  In fact, I would not be surprised one bit if the film was filmed right in that area!

We met some seriously interesting characters from our little marine perch.  One guy, his name was Jerry, came down to the dock almost every day, and was always maneuvering large pallets of bags that looked like dog food.  Jamie finally went to talk to him one day, and found out that it was actually bags of monkey food!  Just off shore, there was an island that held captive a society of monkeys.  Unfortunately for them, they were akin to lab rats, as they were used to test pharmaceuticals for future human use.  This was definitely an eye opener for us small town Canadians.  There were rumours that places like this existed, but not once did we think they actually did!  And certainly not in the United States!  I laugh now at how naïve we humans are as young adults.

monkey food

Monkey Food!

Jerry was in charge of feeding the monkeys, and we enjoyed listening to his Southern Twang as he regaled the most hilarious stories of his encounters with them.  However, it wasn’t all good news as many of them were very sick, likely from whatever they were being given for the “testing.”   We decided that it was best to not ask too many questions.

We had some great food, and a large share of shrimp for sure!  Some days we ate feasts of crab as fisherman would come in with their catches, and throw up a basket of claws just for us.  Nights like this were heaven!  We would feast on crab, garlic butter, and nothing else and just feel like life could never get better.Crab claws

Most of our days were spent working on the boat, but the odd time, we were able to escape into Beaufort, and even managed a short road trip to Savannah, Georgia.  We were fascinated with the Deep South.  The architecture is grand and moss hangs off the trees like long wisps of witches hair.  We vowed that someday we would return.

spanish moss

The streets of Savannah, Georgia

After a few weeks of some serious elbow grease, and the erection of 2 brand new masts, Paradise was ready for the trip to Florida.  She was all shined up with a nice paint job and a new beautiful blue stripe.  We never did get around to stringing any sails, so we knew that we would be motoring to Florida.

masting paradise

Stepping the Mizzen Mast

masting paradise 2

Stepping the Main Mast

ratlines

Hanging the Rat Lines!

___

On the day we had decided to leave, they were announcing a small craft warning on the weather reports.  Typically this means, to many sailors, that it isn’t necessarily safe to go out in the open water,  but apparently our Skipper decided that we were bigger than a ‘small craft’, and wanted to get going, so get going we did.

sparkling paradise

All cleaned up and ready for the voyage!

heading to sea

Adios Beaufort!

We headed out around 3:00 in the afternoon, and had barely left port when the Captain asked Jamie to go down to the engine room to check on something.  We were motoring straight into the waves that were pounding down on us, making it feel like we were riding a bucking bronco.  Most sailors know that this motion is NOT good for those who may get sea sick.  Jamie had never really been out in the open ocean, save for one experience in the Whitsunday Islands in Australia, not nearly the same experience as taking a head on beating by the wide open Atlantic Ocean.  Well, sure enough, within a couple minutes of him coming back up, he announced that he didn’t “feel that good.”

For 3 days we bounced along the coast, past Georgia and into Florida.  Jamie was a puddle on the salon floor for the majority of that trip.  We encountered some pretty interesting seas, but I had recently been part of a program for students called Class Afloat.  It’s truly a story for another day, but we essentially sailed around the world on a 188 foot tall ship, from the West Coast of Canada, to the East Coast…..the long way around.

I’m sure what I experienced at sea on that trip, had made this trip pretty easy for me.  I had seen a lot of crazy seas in that year, and this wasn’t really that bad.South Carolina to Florida

Florida 

We all took turns on watch duty.  It was supposed to be by couples.  Each couple would do 4 hours on, 4 hours off, so we could cruise non-stop through night and day.  By  the morning of day 3, the day that we arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, Jamie’s seasickness finally abated and he joined me on deck for the final watch duty.  I’m sure we were a sight for sore eyes as the rusty streaks, where metal had met seawater (and of which we didn’t know about until we got off the boat), melted down the side of our nice white paint job.   We caught our first glimpses of the city as we slowly maneuvered down the inland marine canals that connect everything together, like roads do in most cities navigating amongst multi-million dollar yachts and mansions that lined the water ways.

Ft. Lauderdale waterways

Back “alleys” were waterways that held the yachts.

Ft. Lauderdale opulenceFt. Lauderdale 2

Most mega mansions on shore, had equally extravagant mega yachts tied up in front of them.  Many of them also had multi car garages, and in one case, as told by a water taxi driver, the house had a 6 car garage, with a lift in each bay, meaning that they could store 12 vehicles in there!  And let me tell you, we saw some of these vehicles (accent on the plural), and they were nothing to sneeze at either!  The place was literally dripping in money!

Yup, we certainly WERE NOT in Beaufort anymore!

We anchored our boat (that was now coined a “rust bucket”), in a small 24 hour anchorage in Ft. Lauderdale, for what seemed like TWO WEEKS (although I can’t say how long it was for sure.)  Eventually we got kicked out of that spot, and had to go somewhere else, so the skipper opted to tie up at a dock for a night or two, then we would go back to the anchorage again for a bit.  We worked on the boat some more, trying like mad to get it looking good and ready for our first charter.

jill grinding decks

Grinding the Decks in Ft. Lauderdale

Finally, the big day came!  Our guests had arrived to charter the boat, and we were off to the Bahamas!

Florida to Bahamas Map

Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas.  It encompasses the entire chain of islands you see here. 

It was only a, really quick, week long trip, but we had a lot of fun. The clients were great, and although the deck was still leaking, (despite our many attempts to seal all holes), we managed to keep a solid rotation of dry sheets, at least keeping the beds comfortable below decks.  I’ll admit that it was a little rough, and at least one of our guests, a dainty blonde, was definitely not quite up to the adventure that this trip provided.  However, in the end, it was a great trip and a great introduction to the Bahamas for us.

rusted boat bahamas

I took very few pics on this first trip over.

The Bahamas is basically a series of sand bars, only 40 nautical miles off the South Eastern coast of Florida.  Because the land is very low lying, 207 feet at the highest point (Mount Alvernia), there is zero run off into the ocean.  The lack of sediment makes the water in the Bahamas some of the most perfect, clear, turquoise waters on the planet.  Couple this with its spectacular white sand beaches, and a whole different kind of Paradise was born.   It was love at first sight and we yearned for more.  But alas, it was not meant to be, we had to return our guests to the safety of the mainland so that they could get back to their normal lives.

When we got back to the hustle and bustle of Ft. Lauderdale, we were told that the next charter wasn’t for another few weeks.  We lauded the thought of hanging out in Ft. Lauderdale, the land of expensive things, for that long.

And so, shortly after hearing this news, Jamie and I decided that we were finished with our time on Paradise (the boat that is.)  Not only were we dreading staying in Ft. Lauderdale that long, multiple weeks of living in cramped quarters had taken its toll, and we had started to not see eye to eye with the Captain and his wife.  In short, it was time to move on.  Besides, we had the whole winter to travel, and it was only the beginning of December!

As we sat on the aft deck one evening, bobbing in the water in the center of the city, we hatched a plan.  We decided that we were going to cut our ties with Paradise, rent a car and head down to the Florida Keys to do some exploring.  I think we talked briefly about doing some kayaking, but we really had no idea what was to come.

Within a couple days, we were headed south.

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Key Largo is the first major city in the Florida Keys.  Right away we found a kayak shop that backed directly on to the Blackwater Sound, and Florida Bay beyond that.

Blackwater sound

The kayak shop backed onto the Blackwater Sound.  The ring around the outside is a thick wall of mangroves, and there was one tiny passageway through to get out to Florida Bay. 

Florida Bay Map

Note Everglades National Park in Green.

 

We immediately were drawn to the idea of kayaking around.  There was water everywhere and we just wanted to get in it!  Besides, we were on a budget.  What a better way to save money traveling then to cut out transportation costs all together!

After chatting with the staff in the shop, and having them show us the beautiful used “Cadillac” kayak that they had for sale, our idea was formed.  We were going to go kayaking in the Florida Everglades!  After purchasing a chart book and figuring that we could just paddle across the Florida Bay to get to Flamingo, the gateway to the Everglades, our plan was set.

We spent the next 3-4 days running around the keys, stopping in at Marine Shops to purchase a GPS, hand held radio, and any other boating stuff that we figured we needed.  We also grabbed as much camping gear as we could afford, which was not much more than the bare bones basics.  Not knowing a thing about kayaking, we stuffed all of our newly purchased gear into a few black garbage bags (those dry bags are expensive!), and then hastily stuffed them into our water tight hatches.  Who needs dry bags when your hatches are water tight!?

We were greener than green.  I laugh today, some 17 years later, at how astonishingly brave we were.  There was no talking any sense into us.  We had made a decision, and that was it.  How hard could it be?  We could learn to kayak WHILE we were kayaking right!?  No problem!  We HAD this!

Coincidentally, my dad had some business in Miami around this time.  Obviously they wanted to see what we were up to, so they drove down the keys to connect with us.  We hadn’t told them of our plan yet, although they knew that we were finished with Paradise.  I worried a bit about their reaction to the whole thing, but in fact, it seemed as though they were supportive.  My parents have had their share of adventures in their lives, so I never did hear any comments about trying to get us to change our minds, or asking us why we were doing this.  They just quietly allowed us to navigate this crazy plan that we had while simultaneously doing whatever it was that they could to help us along.  I’m sure, as they helped us push off from that Beach, on that December day, they must have wondered, at least momentarily, if they would ever see us again.

pushing off to the everglades

All loaded up and ready to go!

 

*Thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for Part two of our adventure, coming soon!*

*My boyfriend and I are currently transitioning from a “normal” life to that of an adventurous one!  We are selling everything to head out into the world to make traveling a priority in our lives.  If you are interested in reading about our letting go process, please read my first post here.*

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