Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been freefalling down a hole of uncertainty, unsure of where I’m going to land. Part of this has been caused by the excitement of unexpected opportunities opening up in front of me, and part of it is a horrifying limbo of indecision.
My partner and I have been conjuring up future plans for over a year. Our ideas have jumped like skipping stones from one option to the next. “What will be our next big adventure?” When life was at its most stressful, we’d ruminate on this question for hours, our eyes alive with possibility. Too busy to plan, we could only dream.
We dreamed of bicycle touring through South America. “We can eat our way from place to place, and stay trim from all the cycling.”
We dreamed of buying a 4WD vehicle and touring overland. “It’ll be like sailing, but without the seasickness.”
Then, at the last minute, as we were selling our Stuff and moving out of our house and into an unknown adventure, we had new idea:
What if we bought another boat?
With twenty-four hours, Ivan had found The One online. At 44 feet, she had all the equipment we’ve ever wanted in a boat, and enough space to make a comfortable home. ‘The princess palace,’ Ivan called her, because compared with the run-down 32’ boat we lived on for two years, this fine vessel was fit for royalty.
The interior was stunning, and I mentally moved all my recipe books into the bookshelves, my spices into the kitchen, and our pictures onto the teak walls. Not only would she be a vehicle for exploring, she would be an elegant home.
Our plan was to move aboard, live in San Francisco for a while, and then sail her slowly down the Californian coast to Mexico, where we’d live on fish tacos and Pacifico beers for a while.
We put in an offer, and Ivan flew to San Francisco to see the boat. I stayed back in Australia, packing boxes and preparing for a life at sea.
In our dreamy heads, it was a fine plan. But she was twenty-seven years old, and, despite being meticulously maintained, she’d been around the block a few times. She was expensive, and we have enough experience to know that the cost of a boat doesn’t stop at the initial price tag. A wise person once said that if you want to get a sense for what sailing is like, stand outside in the cold, and have someone spray you with a garden hose while you burn $100 bills. Could we even afford her?
I was also concerned about the maintenance. Boats need a lot of it. They can’t get enough of it. And frankly, we’re not all that good at it. In fact, we’re far more apt at breaking than fixing. Could we keep her meticulously maintained?
And while the boat would allow us to travel and explore, so would a couple of backpacks and two budget airline tickets. I wondered if this boat was really just a big, expensive Thing.
After spending the last few years writing, self-publishing, and selling a book, I’d reached burnout. This creative adventure was as terrifying and rewarding as any outdoor adventure, and in truth, the thought of jumping directly from one perilous endeavor into another one filled me with dread. I needed to regain my footing.
My dear friend Carol, an experienced sailor, said, “It’s a huge decision and you want to be ready to jump in with both feet.”
But my feet were growing cold. However, I didn’t want to disappoint Ivan by telling him that I needed a break before taking this on, especially since he’d already flown to San Francisco to see our new boat. We had no other firm plans to fall back on, no home, and it felt like we had no choice.
Maybe if I try harder, I reasoned, I can rejuvenate my energy and be ready to go again. We can do this! It’ll be great! We’ll make it work!
Cheering myself on was only depleting me further.
For weeks, we wallowed in indecision. Time ticked passed. The yacht broker was calling every day for an answer. Ivan was with his parents in San Francisco, and I was with mine in Melbourne. The distance wasn’t helping the situation. People asked us, “So what are you guys up to now?” and we could only reply with confused shrugs and lost expressions.
Finally, over Skype one day, Ivan hung his pixilated head in despair. “I’m waking up with dread in the morning,” he confessed.
“So am I!” I said.
“I need a break,” he said. “I’m afraid that we won’t get a break if we buy this boat. It’ll just create a lot of extra work for us, and it’ll eat up all our savings before we ever get to explore.”
“I feel exactly the same,” I replied, “but I didn’t want to disappoint you. I thought you wanted this. I thought it was your dream boat.”
“It is, but not right now. I wanted you to give you a princess palace. I didn’t want to disappoint you either.”
Relieved, we turned down the boat.
We bought two tickets to Asia instead.
And now …
I’m writing this from a bungalow on a Thai beach. I have a little desk by the window, which opens up to the sound of waves crashing on the shoreline. From this small home, I can work on my manuscript edits with my publisher—something that would’ve been difficult (or impossible) to do from a bicycle, the back of a 4WD truck, or a boat on the ocean.
Ivan has been scuba diving every day. He’s getting certified, which is something he’s wanted to do for a long time. It’ll open up a range of ocean-related opportunities for him.
Our minds are free of worries over diesel engines, deteriorating teak decks, and maintenance To-Do lists. The last two years of hard work and stress are beginning to unravel. With both my feet on the ground here, I’m realizing something important:
Sometimes in life, the most thrilling adventure is a simple one.
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.