Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fly me to the moon

I sometimes wonder how I got it in my head to build a boat and sail around the planet. Sure, people do it, but those people have carpentry and sailing skills. I don’t. I had never used power tools and was on a sailboat once. I might as well have announced to my friends and family that I wanted to build a backyard rocket ship and go to the moon.
I suppose the dream was born as a form of escapism several summers ago when I spent three months confined to the administrative wing of a hospital in South India. I was still in college, scrambling to keep up with the Joneses--academic style. After a particularly difficult school year, I found myself researching cervical cancer among women in Tamil Nadu. I had arrived in the city of Madurai via Thailand and Cambodia, refreshed from backpacking alone through Buddhist temples. 

My second day at the hospital was a Saturday, so I left the hospital grounds to enjoy a lovely afternoon playing cricket on the banks of the Vaigai River with some schoolboys. When I returned, the hospital staff was distraught, "Where has Madam been!?!?!" I later found out I had been summoned by The Chairman, and when his staff could not produce me, he was quite miffed. In India, it is really not good to piss off your boss. I was thereafter banned from leaving the hospital, except when accompanied by a male hospital employee (on his terms). My visions  of exploring South India in my time off vanished and I spent most of my free time in my bedroom, with an attendant sleeping across my door jam so I wouldn't make a run for it. All of my playful attempts at escaping the hospital on the weekend were foiled and I sunk into a sort of daze– surfing the net at night and reading through endless medical records during the day. I day dreamed about my time in Cambodia and Thailand, and about the time I would have in Indonesia– my last stop before returning home for school in the fall.

During my nights of internet crawling, I stumbled upon Joshua Slocum's Sailing Alone Around the World and was soon reading works by Tania Aebi, John Guzwell, James Baldwin, and Annie Hill. Though the fascination with voyaging under sail began as a relief from the rather unpleasant aspects of not being able to go where I pleased, the idea stuck. Some of the most  intensely gratifying and beautiful moments of my life were spent traveling and I realized that voyaging could be a way to attain a permanently mobile lifestyle without having to spend decades of my life working to afford it. 

I returned to the U.S. and my college days progressed as haze of studying, research, and stress. As graduation neared, I found myself unbelievably unhappy. There I was-- I had accomplished everything I set out to do and more, was in the running for some internationally prestigious scholarships– but I was sad and frightened. During my years of work and self-involvement, I had lost sight of what was important to me and was headed straight for a rat-race lifestyle. I realized that if I didn't change course then and there, I would not find joy. So, I buried graduate and medical school (for now) and packed up my tiny car with all of my belongings and drove South, way on down to the Rio Grande where I rented a little house on a ranch and began teaching Physics at the local high school.
The new neighbors
The new front yard
It was here, on the dusty edge of the Rio Grande Valley, in a place that at times resembles a grim Spaghetti Western, that I found the derring-do I needed to begin. This blog will chronicle the wooden boat building process and serve to help me celebrate the small successes. Perhaps down the road it can serve as a resource for others who are wanting to do something similar, but are just as inexperienced as I am now. I'm looking forward to this journey. Along the way, I hope to build lasting relationships within a like-minded community, gain some practical skills and self-sufficiency, and live the life I've imagined.

Texas sunset
The new porch

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