There’s a lot to be said for the beauty of sea travel, but the words get stuck when you’re trying not to barf.
Only a few of my 25 days on the water were spent breathing through my nose in the fetal position, but they were enough to turn my romantic notions of the ocean a pale shade of green.
Still, now that I’ve landed, I like to consider myself only a marginal wimp. In the middle of the North Atlantic, the Irma encountered seas so rough that I smashed my face on a wall and then fell on my ass.
For some reason I decided to restore my confidence in the vessel by wobbling across my cabin to look out the porthole. Eight-meter waves were crashing over the deck and I decided the curtains looked better closed.
The prospect of drowning without a ripple didn’t sit well with my sauerkraut and blood pudding dinner, so I rode out the rest of the storm with eyes squeezed firmly shut, trying to find my happy place.
I never came close – it turns out my happy place looks a lot like land – so I distracted myself with synonym solitaire instead.
Now that it’s over, I can proudly say that not once did I vomit, puke, ralph, upchuck, retch, yack, honk, heave, hurl, charf, spew, chunder, toss cookies, blow chunks or lose my lunch. No calls were made on the flushing phone, no prayers offered to the porcelain gods and I have yet to be named captain of the bowling team. Dream big, I always say.
With the storm over, I soon found that I had plenty of free time on my hands. Enough to finish three puzzles, four novels and more Steven Seagal movies than I care to admit.
I plundered old newspapers for crossword puzzles until finally, bereft of entertainment, I read a sizable chunk of the Bible. Sort of. Before Genesis there was me, trying to teach myself to juggle with three balled-up socks – an unmitigated failure on all levels.
After awhile there wasn’t much to do but stare at the waves and think. Across Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario, past Montréal and Québec and finally Newfoundland itself, I considered why I have no inner monologue when I solve sudoku puzzles, how Moses could possibly climb Mount Sinai in sandals and who painted Steven Seagal’s eyes onto his head.
Then I started contemplating my trip. A lot has happened between Inuvik and Rotterdam, enough to make me feel very different, though exactly what has grown or gone since I left in June is difficult to know.
The changes aren’t entirely physical and I sincerely doubt my virtues are now suddenly cast of gold. More likely, the shift has been in perspective alone.
On the ocean I was constantly reminded of how vast the world really is and how I’ll only be able to tread the smallest of paths on it. Now, finally, I’m okay with that. I think travel is a lot like luck – a little might just be enough.