Best-laid plans… Posted by Erin

Lewis Carroll once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” And that has been my maxim for the last four years, when Brian and I began to whisper to each other that one day we wanted to sail away on our own boat. In the wee hours of the night, when we’d let ourselves dream about taking this trip, it always seemed better not to have too much of a plan. We just wanted to go.

When we finally started to share our dream with people in Seattle, everyone wanted to know where we were going. We’d boldly respond: “South. Wherever the wind takes us.” But we soon realized that wasn’t enough. So we canned a few responses: “To Mexico and the South Pacific Islands. From there, New Zealand…”; “Down to Costa Rica, then across the Pacific with a stop in the Galapagos Islands…”

Yet, deep down, we’d only allow our imaginations to take us as far as Mexico. It seemed too risky to let ourselves dream beyond that. There was so much to do before we left—buy the boat, get the boat ready, rent our house, save enough money, quit our jobs, get married!—that we couldn’t focus on being gone. And we knew enough to know that weather windows, safety of the crew and boat, and the plain fact that the Pacific Ocean spans a massive area, can ruin plans and spoil expectations.

But today, just two days before Christmas and four months into our travels, I’m feeling a bit directionless. Here we are, in Mexico. We’ve accomplished what we set out to do… Now what’s next?

It’s human nature, I suppose, to want to know where we’re going. When we’re kids, adults ask us what we want to be when we grow up. When we register for college, we must declare a major. When we get married, the reception hall fills with people who want to know, “When are you having kids?” The unknown is okay for small things, but society tells us that the big things, the ways we live our life, should be planned.

Over the next week we need to ask ourselves a few big questions: Do we sail to the South Pacific islands from Mexico, or do we go south to Costa Rica and then the Galapagos Islands? Should our first stop in the South Pacific islands be the Marquesas group, or do we leave a little earlier and explore Easter Island and the Southern Tuomotus beforehand? Is our ultimate goal New Zealand, or should we head north of the equator for cyclone season?

Of course, we all know that plans change. Now that we’re out here, our social hours are spent talking with people who are out here too. We’ve heard story after story about how the best-laid plans cause more frustration than satisfaction. A month ago, when we were anchored in Espiritu Santo, we helped fellow sailors contact family members who had flown to Mexico to meet them for Thanksgiving. They were supposed to meet their family 110 miles north of where our boats were anchored, but weather and illness had prevented them from making their destination. A few days ago I met a couple who had planned to spend just months in Mexico and have been here (happily) for years. And I’ve heard about a few who set sail from the states only to learn that this life isn’t for them.

Perhaps not having a plan is enough of a plan. We’re out here—we’re spending Christmas in Mexico, and we’re here on our own boat! It’s warm, sunny, and I don’t see any frantic last minute shopping sprees in my future. The fun part of not having things figured out is the surprise—life always seems more exciting when it’s not throttled by expectations. I suppose that even if we don’t know where we’re going, it’s enough to just go.