“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…”
In the arena
Recently, Brene Brown popularized this quote from Theodore Roosevelt by featuring it in the opening passages of her book, “Daring Greatly.” I am reminded of this quote now as we are in the midst of our pre-departure adventure.
Over the past few months, friends and family have been eager to follow our adventures after we cast off. Often, their first questions are, “When do you leave?” And after finding out that we aren’t casting off until after hurricane season, they’ll comment, “Can’t wait to follow you!”
I suppose it’s a common misconception that the adventure doesn’t get going until you’re sailing. It can be argued, especially by those who are in the arena, that the adventure has already begun.
In large part, we have been documenting this adventure from the beginning on serenadewind.com. From how the germ of the idea to sail full time was planted 2 years ago to now during our pre-departure phase this summer, which is gated from moving forward by the coronavirus pandemic.
When you’re outside of the arena, you may think this phase is a chore before life happens. However, when you’re in the arena as we are, Andrew and I know that this is the adventure, and in fact this is the hardest part.
For cruisers who have gone through this before us and subsequently sailed thousands of nautical miles, they have acknowledged the difficulty of this phase. Here are a few examples featured on The O’Kelly’s YouTube channel and in particular their playlist: Cruising Dream vs Cruising Reality.
- Before Cruising
- Birth of the Dream
- Pre-departure Fears
- Preparing to Sail Away
- Taking Off
- Relationships Change While Cruising
- Roles Change
- On Passage
- South Pacific Realities
- The Hard Times
As Nick aptly put it, “The reality is that the adventure begins when you decide to go.”
The adventure before the adventure
I am a huge fan of podcasts since it gives me an opportunity to multitask. Whether cooking, cleaning or knitting, I am able to stay entertained while going through the motions of whatever it is I also need to accomplish. These days, I am listening to quite a few sailing podcasts (Ocean Sailing Podcast, Sail Geeks, Sailing Ruby Rose) and most recently have binge-listened to Under the Sheets .
Their episode 12, which was published August 2019, is particularly poignant to me with its topic, “The adventure before the adventure.” It reinforces and validates what we have been experiencing, so that you do not disregard what is happening to you now.
From time to time, Andrew and I exclaim to each other:
We’re on an adventure!
It doesn’t matter what we’re doing. This motto brings smiles to our faces and puts the activity into perspective. During this pre-departure phase, we’ve been practicing:
- provisioning by walking to the grocery store instead of driving
- learning to be more self-sufficient by making repairs with whatever we have on hand rather than buying a replacement
- assessing how much water we’ll consume while showering
- upcycling whenever we can
- reducing our waste by going green
- increasing awareness of how we impact the world by becoming ethical sailors
- having culinary adventures by experimenting with all-pantry recipes
It may not seem like a big deal for anyone outside of the arena, but for us we feel it’s great preparation. Additionally, it puts us into a positive mindset to slowly introduce ourselves to a different lifestyle.
One of the most challenging parts of this transition is handling nay-sayers in your life. In virtually every conversation we’ve had, we have found support and enthusiasm.
Virtually all, except one.
For those of you about to jump in the arena to begin a voyaging life, your critics will come from any (and all) directions. Depending on how much you value that relationship, you will need to come up with ways of dealing with this sticky dynamic.
As I search for advice from other cruisers, I came across these resources and tips.
- The Boat Galley – Cruising Stories: When Your Family Objects
- Megan O’Kelly – How to Deal with Unsupportive People
- Cruiser’s Forum – Dealing with Parents Disagreement
- Mikael Strandberg – 9 Tips to Becoming a Modern Day Explorer
In the end, I followed my gut on how to deal with this situation:
- Understand that their fear is talking, not them
2. Empathize with their perspective while being firm with your goals
3. Ask the “5 Why’s” to dig into what’s truly bothering them
4. Try to share as much information as you can
5. Give them time to adjust to the idea, but eventually let it go
Ultimately, it’s your life
If they cannot be supportive of you, then realize that by not respecting your decision, they chose to alienate you even if that is not their intent. Sometimes, they can’t help themselves.
With my mom, I went through all these steps. I have chronicled our years of sailing experience, which she has forgotten. In addition, I remind her of the sailing trips and the fact that we sailed through storms before, which she has conveniently ignored. Finally, when it came to sharing information and educating her about the lifestyle (the good, the bad and the ugly), I shared links to sailing blogs of couples and families who have done this before. She found excuses not to read any of it.
It was then that I realized that my responsibility ended there. She wouldn’t meet me half way. I forgave her and moved on. Perhaps one day she will come around and see things from my perspective.
During this pre-departure phase, it’s important to stay positive. It’s enough to manage your own fears without having to manage the fears of others. And it’s for this reason that this stage is an adventure in itself as we are tested emotionally and have an opportunity to grow through these experiences.
Here is the full quote from Theodore Roosevelt, if you want to draw more inspiration:
It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.