Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On Dealing with Homesickness

50 some days and counting until we shove off and sail the Pacific. For a very long time.

I've been thinking about homesickness lately. I haven't been outside of Southern California for more than 3 weeks at a time. Ever. Chris and I have been fortunate to live within an hours drive of our hometown for nearly all of our adult lives. The majority of our family and friends still live in the same area.

To put it bluntly, leaving will be a shock, I think. A traumatic event.

Facebook and Skype will make it easier, no doubt. But still, there's nothing like the warm hug of a loved one -- the way laughter bounces off the walls at the memory of a shared experience.

How will I cope when I start missing you people?  I honestly don't know. That's the scary part.

The truth is, since Chris and I don't have kids of our own, I've spent the last 20 years trying people on for size -- auditioning them for that rare title of "Someone I Would Like To Still Have As A Friend When I'm Living at Leisure World in 30 Years." I see friendships as an investment in my future happiness. Connection is everything to me.

The problem with the sailing/cruising life is every new person I meet -- whether a fellow sailor or a warm Mexican family in Puerta Vallarta that welcomes me into their home and lets me play with their children -- is someone I will need to say goodbye to when we shove off and head to the next port.

Ouch. "Goodbye." That most inconvenient and unwelcome of all words.

I'm going to have to find an uneasy acceptance of the fact that when I say "goodbye" to the amazing people I meet during our travels, chances are good that I will probably never see them again. And that needs to be OK.

 I need to make a subtle yet substantial shift in how I view my relationships with others. Instead of seeing every new person as a potential long term friend, I need to say to myself: "I may only know this person for a little while. What experiences can we share? How can I help this person? What can I learn from them?"

Eastern religions teach us that unhealthy attachment can be a source of much human suffering. They also teach us that we are all connected, and for ultimate happiness and well being we should seek our place in the natural flow of things -- a metaphor which fits nicely into the sailing life. :-)

Seasoned and experienced world travelers already know this. They know that while wistfulness will naturally occur when we say goodbye to someone we have grown attached to, what helps is to realize that at the next destination in our travels, we are destined to make the next connection -- to meet the next good friend that we may never see again.

Yikes. This won't be easy, I can tell.

My plan is this: I won't see our travels as "being away from home." I will instead frame it as exploring our greater home -- our planet. It's ALL home. Which really is true, if you have any knowledge at all of astrophysics. Planet Earth and her 7 very sailable oceans is a teeny-tiny rock in a solar system that is one of countless solar systems in the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of billions of galaxies in the expanse of the universe...

If you compare our future travels with those of astronauts, well, by comparison sailing a couple of oceans is nothing. And anyway, friends and family -- you're all going to come visit us at our exotic locales, right? Right? RIGHT?   ;-)

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