Re­flec­tion

Yoga Journal - - Contents - By Liz Clark

IT’S STILL SO CLOSE. SHOULD I JUST GO BACK?

I had those thoughts af­ter cast­ing off my sail­boat from a dock in Santa Bar­bara, Cal­i­for­nia, in Jan­uary 2006, and watched teary-eyed as a hand­ful of my dear­est loved ones blended into the hazy win­ter sky­line in my wake. I’d been dream­ing of this voy­age all my life. When I was nine, we took a fam­ily sail­ing trip to Mex­ico. It opened my eyes to what was out there in the world; what you could see by sail­boat. I re­turned from that trip de­ter­mined to cap­tain my own boat one day. Then, in my teens, I dis­cov­ered surf­ing and im­me­di­ately fell in love with the sport and the idea of sail­ing around the world in search of waves. The sail­ing jour­ney I’d just em­barked on was an op­por­tu­nity to re­al­ize those dreams.

My col­lege friends, Mark and Shan­non, started the jour­ney with me, and as we sailed down the Baja coast, I was a wreck of nerves. It wasn’t rogue waves or pi­rates I was wor­ried about—it was the idea of fail­ure. I want to sail away, surf re­mote breaks, learn from other cul­tures, find hap­pi­ness and a bet­ter way to live in har­mony with na­ture—but what if I’m not strong enough? How would I ever get over the dis­ap­point­ment of fail­ing my­self and every­one who has helped me?

Two years into the trip—af­ter sail­ing around Cen­tral Amer­ica to Panama—I de­cided I wanted to sail alone to the South Pa­cific. I was scared of sail­ing solo and be­ing alone in gen­eral, which felt like a sign that it was some­thing I needed to do. There’s a lot of phys­i­cal la­bor that goes into sail­ing. Of­ten­times, I wished I had four hands. Alone, the boat jobs—haul­ing gal­lons of wa­ter, get­ting the sails up and down to trim, rais­ing and low­er­ing the an­chor—take longer and are more com­pli­cated. But the soli­tude soon felt de­light­ful—a time and space of pure com­mu­nion with the ocean. I’m sure it’s what keeps sailors re­turn­ing to the sea.

By Au­gust 2014, I’d been at sea for eight years. Choos­ing to pur­sue a dream like this has not been easy, but I have proven, at least to my­self, that with hard work, choos­ing love will never lead to lack. I have wrin­kles around my eyes and sunspots on my skin, but I feel beau­ti­ful. I have lit­tle money in the bank, all of my cloth­ing can fit in one duf­fle bag, and I flush my toi­let with a hand pump, but I feel rich. This is be­cause I have spent the most en­er­getic years of my life test­ing my phys­i­cal, men­tal, and emo­tional ca­pac­i­ties in pur­suit of my dream.

My years at sea have taught me that fo­cus­ing less on com­pe­ti­tion and more on con­nec­tion with my­self, with na­ture, and with oth­ers, gives me the most joy. In the South Pa­cific, I learned that shared laugh­ter tran­scends lan­guage bar­ri­ers. The chil­dren who gave me im­promptu hugs and bracelets from their wrists kept me hope­ful when I doubted my abil­ity to keep sail­ing. When I’d come to shore, count­less peo­ple of­fered a warm meal, an ex­tra hand, or let me fill my wa­ter jugs and do my laun­dry—with­out any ex­pec­ta­tions. The dol­phins who sang to me from un­der the hull on night pas­sages while I lay in my bunk con­vinced me that I was never alone.

Af­ter all, while I now know I can sail a boat by my­self, I’ve also learned that we can’t do it all on our own. And if we think we al­ready know ev­ery­thing, we shut our­selves off to un­lim­ited pos­si­bil­i­ties and po­ten­tial. It’s up to us to stay cu­ri­ous, to keep evolv­ing, and to let go of what no longer serves us.

I may have set out on this voy­age with the goal of sail­ing around the world, but the truth is that I have found what I was look­ing for in­side my­self.

Adapted from Swell: A Sail­ing Surfer’s Voy­age of Awak­en­ing by Liz Clark. Copy­right © 2018 by Patag­o­nia Works. Used with per­mis­sion from Patag­o­nia.

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