“If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.”
– Mercedes Lackey
You often hear people say they have no regrets. Je Ne Regrette Rien. I don’t buy it. I suspect it’s something that people say to avoid confronting the pain of regret.
Not me. I have lots of regrets.
I’m not saying that I lay awake at night howling in fetal position, while crying a pool of miserable tears and snot (much), but I do reflect back and think: if I could do that again, I would do it differently.
Here are mine (after sailing for two years in the South Pacific):
Deciding to give up an addiction
I tend to spend hours emailing every day. Sometimes I feel bound to my computer and unable to disconnect, stuck inside a technology loop. So before we took off sailing, I decided that the cleansing emptiness of the ocean would be a great time to break this addiction. Even though we had a chance to install a relatively cheap piece of equipment that would allow us to send and receive emails, I decided to sever the connection and go cold turkey.
Missing people from home dominated my thoughts. I longed for the lifeline that email gives me when I’m traveling. Instead of surrendering myself to a beautiful location, I’d wallow in thoughts of missing friends and family.
Lesson: don’t use your travels as an excuse to give up an addiction. You’re vulnerable and displaced and you don’t need to take on more challenges. And addictions aren’t always bad – if they sooth, stimulate and make you happy, they’re worth it.
Letting fear dominate
I had this idea that, once we got our boat out onto the depths of the ocean, I’d snap into a state of fearlessness and be face-to-the-spray with my chest puffed as I dove from the boat and caught sharks with my bare hands.
It didn’t happen. Not even close.
Though I did find confidence with being at sea, fear still prevented me from giving myself completely to the experience. There were many times when I numbed myself to block fear, but in doing that, I also numbed my pleasure senses. I spent the 26 days of our longest ocean passage stuck inside a numb void that I wouldn’t call depression, fear, or anxiety, but just an emotionless emptiness.
Lesson: If you submit to fear, she will dominate with a leash and whip and you will be her bitch. Fend it off with therapy, meditation, and relaxation techniques. Practice accepting your own mortality (you’re going to die anyway) so that you can give yourself fully to life’s experiences.
Buying the wrong equipment
“Hey, let’s make a documentary of our voyage!” was an idea I’d proposed in the excited months before we departed. Not only do I have zero film-making experience, I also despise being in front of a video camera (and being behind a camera doesn’t excite me either). After two years of traveling, I shot about 45 minutes of random, mostly unusable footage that is still trapped inside the $1,000 video camera.
As a graphic designer and illustrator, still images are my playground. I should’ve invested the $1,000 into a quality DSLR that would’ve captured the voyage in vivid detail.
Lesson: be realistic about the gear you’ll use. Travel isn’t an opportunity to develop new talents unless you’re passionate and willing to fully commit yourself to learning.
Before we set sail, I didn’t actually know how to sail. This wasn’t entirely my fault. We were on a tight schedule thanks to Ivan and his burning itch to escape to sea. My attempts at learning to sail had ended with either me vomiting, or my lecherous instructor trying to hit on me. But if I did it again, I’d hone my sailing skills and practice to become confident. I’d learn to fix a diesel engine, and know how to stop a boat from leaking water (with a method other than patching the holes with duct tape).
Lesson: don’t assume you’ll learn on the go. Travel is stressful, you’re out of your comfort zone, and it’s difficult to learn. If possible, learn the skills you’ll need before you go.
Not doing the right research
I did a lot of research before we departed – I Googled, I read, I studied. But the one thing I didn’t do was connect with other well-traveled lifestyle sailors for their advice. If I did, they would’ve told me that having shade in the cockpit is essential and we would’ve got an awning installed instead of baking like crispy pork bellies under the hot sun. They would’ve told me ‘Having email is essential!’ They could’ve told us how to install an energy-efficient fridge before we left, which would’ve meant we could store fresh fruit, veggies and best of all, cold beer.
Lesson: take your research beyond books and the internet. Speak with people who have lived the experience. Ask them what they regret. Learn from them.
And never – ever – underestimate the power of a cold beer.
Do you have any regrets?
Author’s bio: Torre DeRoche faced her fear of the ocean by island hopping across the Pacific for two years aboard a humble boat with a man she met in a bar. She has written a book titled Swept – Love With A Chance Of Drowning. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.