“It’s my dream to sail around the world,” Ryan says one day, out of the blue. We’ve been dating for six months.
“What, like, on a boat?!” I ask. “That’s ridiculous!”
“I just told you my life’s dream and you say, ‘that’s ridiculous’?”
My mind is reeling. I’m imagining myself in scenes from The Perfect Storm with a boat being violently tossed around at sea. And then I die. Without hesitation, I blurt out, “There’s no way I’m ever living on a boat.”
Which is how our first fight started.
Nine years later, I live on a boat. In October 2012, Ryan and I sail our 34-foot Catalina out of New York with our bow pointed towards the Caribbean and no plans to return.
And now, ten months after our New York–Caribbean journey has begun we’re leaving our boat behind to cross vast oceans in 70-foot Clipper racing yachts with the Clipper Round the World Race. Ryan and I are competing on different boats with 22 crew on each, starting in London, UK, and racing over 5,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The grand plan is to do a round-the-world trip using as many different modes of transport as possible. Starting in New York, we will board a plane to England, and from there, our travel plans look like this:
- Gosport, England: Train for 5 weeks in ocean racing and sea survival.
- Race Clipper yachts from England to Brazil (30 days).
- Travel around Rio de Janeiro.
- Fly to Cape Town, South Africa.
- Travel around South Africa. Do some shark cage diving and go on a safari.
- Race Clipper yachts across the Southern Ocean to Perth, Australia (30 days).
- Rent an RV/car/van to travel around Australia with.
- Spend Christmas in Australia.
- Head to Thailand and Southeast Asia for some backpacking.
- Work our way back to New York via the Western U.S., perhaps stopping in the Rockies to do a little skiing.
- Return to New York to let my family know I’m still alive before returning to our boat in the Dominican Republic.
So, how did I get here? From saying adamantly, “There’s no way I’m ever living on a boat,” to not just living on a boat, but racing thousands of miles across oceans?
The only thing I can say is I always wanted a different kind of life from the one sold in the “Career Planning” office of my university. And though, back in college, I could never have conceived of the life I live now, I was definitely looking for an opportunity to leave the United States. I didn’t want to be tied down to one place, or to someone who wanted a cubicle job, a mortgage, and a two-car garage. I was looking for adventure. And I was looking for someone who also saw life as an opportunity for non-stop adventure.
And then, when I was teaching English in Qatar, I met an Englishman named Ryan.
My mother never really offered any dating or relationship advice when I was fumbling around in my twenties. But in a fit of wisdom one day, she said to me, “Try to find someone who eats the same things as you.”
“What?” It wasn’t find someone with a career or someone who makes you laugh. Someone who likes the same food. That was all she came up with.
To understand my mother, though, you’d have to know she was born in South Korea and met my American dad in Seoul. Having fallen in love with my dad, she moved to the U.S., where she was faced with the difficult task of adjusting to a new life in a different culture.
She had Korean food to make her feel at home – kimchee, rice, bulgogi, anchovies, hot bean paste, daikon radishes – foods that my father absolutely would not touch. He was a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. There was nothing adventurous about the way he ate. And then there was me, the half-Korean misfit, who sometimes mixed her mom’s kimchee with her dad’s potatoes.
It wasn’t until much later that I finally understood my mother’s advice. She had spent years compensating for an incompatibility in her marriage. As small as this particular problem was – my dad refusing to eat Korean food – it created years of hard work and additional cooking for her. My mom’s advice probably stemmed from an intense desire to share the things she loved with the person she loved.
When I met Ryan, I imagined a life where we could travel the world together, picking up and getting a new job in another country whenever we fancied it. I didn’t imagine then that I’d be weighing anchor and moving our floating home from one country to the next. But now that I know the power of two adventurous minds working together, this life we’ve built makes total sense.
I try to imagine now what it would have been like if I’d married someone who wanted the cubicle career, two-car garage and a house in the suburbs. What it would have been like if I didn’t marry someone who loved travel as much as I do.
Where my mother needed to cook double-time to make my parents’ culinary lives more compatible, what would I have had to compromise for someone who didn’t want a life of constant travel?
Ryan’s stated dream to sail around the world seemed like an imposition when I first met him and knew nothing about sailing. But then we bought a boat and started traveling to new harbors, and I started dreaming of far-off ports with palm trees, tropical fruit and quaint fishing villages. And the further afield we went on our boat, the further I wanted to go.
Now, more than ever, I realize just how compatible Ryan and I are. Not just because we want the same things in life, but because we each have our own unique passions. Those passions over the years have convinced Ryan to run marathons and take on ski racing with me, while I’ve learned to sail and am now racing across the world on a 70-foot yacht.
These days we are ravenous for adventure. We devour it together and go out looking for more with a hunger that every new experience only intensifies. Individually, our schemes are hair-brained enough, but when we put our heads together it’s delicious madness spiraling towards an insatiable appetite for…
Ahh – so that’s what my mother meant.
Tasha Hacker is an English teacher, owner of International House New York Language School, freelance writer and blogger. Turf to Surf is where Tasha writes stories about her travels around the world, both on and off sailboats.
Tasha and her husband, Ryan, are competing in two legs of the Clipper Round the World Race, starting September 1st, 2013. Their circumnavigation includes racing yachts from London, UK to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and from Cape Town, South Africa to Perth, Australia. Follow Tasha’s travels on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
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