A New Path

It’s been an interesting year since leaving gainful employment in San Diego. And in that time, there’s been a steady theme rolling through my head: a steady flow of cliches, famous sayings and all-too-real stories of life. You’ve heard ’em before:

“Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
— Helen Keller

“Twenty years from now you will more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
— Mark Twain

“There is magic in boldness.”
— Goethe
(Never mind that research indicates that most of these platitudes are incorrectly attributed; they’re still good sentiments.)

Throw in images of other lives abruptly interrupted by tsunamis, earthquakes and things such as diagnoses of illnesses, then mix in a year of living in friends’ and sibling’s guest rooms and out of storage units while trying to figure out which career path to pursue, and you get a heady stew with an aroma that bubbles up long-dormant dreams from the subconscious.

So into this mindset comes an interesting Tuesday in early April. On the same day that I received an offer letter for an intriguing job in Anchorage, I received a solid offer on my not-listed-for-sale home, also in Anchorage. The couple who made the offer had seen the house back in the fall when it was listed but were waiting on the sale of their condo; well, that condo was now in contract and they just wanted to take a look and see if they still liked the place. At the same time all this was going on, I’d been in contact with my friends Boogie and Marlies, owners of the Swan 51 sailboat Star Chaser; I’d sailed aboard Star Chaser from St. Maarten to Newport, R.I., in May and had a thoroughly awesome time — and now, in 2011, my friends were going to be operating the Challenge 72 yacht, Polar Bear, and wanted to know if I’d like to crew for the season. Hoo boy…what to do?

I’ve had two big dreams in my life: Alaska and sailing away. And while I pondered during that week in April, I kept hearing those great speakers, kept seeing people whose lives were ripped apart by a wall of water they never saw coming, wondered what the hell was happening with the economy (and with the value of my home in particular) and realized: wait a second. The house offer, the sailing opportunity…the universe was offering me the chance to pursue that second dream. I had hoped to be able to do so while also keeping my house in Anchorage, but liquidating in this economy wasn’t a bad alternative. And in the course of the coming year, I could work on my writing a bit, right? (OK, a lot.)

So after the hardest decision of my life, I chose to take the plunge. In a whirlwind over the next month, I sold my home, my car and three-quarters of my belongings. I shipped the other quarter of my stuff to my folks’ place in Massachusetts and used my remaining Alaska Airlines miles to get a free ride to Boston (as opposed to driving six-plus days).

And later this afternoon I’ll board an Aer Lingus flight to Edinburgh, Scotland (with a stop in Dublin, Ireland). I’ll then take a train south to Newcastle, England, where I’ll join Boogie and Marlies and the yacht Polar Bear. We’ll set sail with a gaggle of guests next Sunday, May 22, for Scotland and points north, for a series of cruises to places I’ve always dreamed of exploring: the Shetland Islands, Norway and the Lofoten Islands, Jan Mayen Island (at about 71 degrees north latitude), Iceland and Greenland. Sailing, high-latitude summer, mountain fun…it’s all on the agenda. After that kind of a summer (with a return to New England in July for my buddy Tom McLaughlin’s wedding), we’ll head back south to Scotland and on to Ireland, Madeira and the Canary Islands, where we’ll take a month off in October and November, before prepping for the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers “race” across the pond to St. Lucia. At that point, it’ll be Christmastime with my folks back at Plum Island…and time for a next step, one that is still TBD at this point in time.

The bottom line (and here comes another cliche) is that I’d rather regret doing something than regret NOT doing something. So here we go. Stay tuned…

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