There’s nothing like the experience of an adventure that is different to your normal life to give you a good dose of perspective. At times and places in your life you may feel comfortable and relaxed whereas at other times happiness can feel like a distant and unattainble state of mind. Either way, it often boils down to perspective. Adventures, little or big, near or far, can provide you with enough distance to look at your ‘comfortable’ life in a new light facilitating possibilities of a renewed appreciation of some hidden joys of ‘normal’ life; of fueling you with motivation to move away from old, familiar patterns towards a more fulfilling life, or can provide an alternate viewpoint into your own life that enables an enhanced understanding of the true scale of any less desirable elements. I often find myself retelling Julia Donaldson’s children’s story ‘A Squash and a Squeeze’, in which a lady moans to an old man about how her house is a squash and a squeeze. The man tells her to take in various animals, at which she protests each time that it is getting to be even more of a squash and a squeeze. Eventually, when the house is crammed full, the old man tells the old lady to take out each of the animals. When the final animal is out the lady feels very happy and says that her house is no longer a squash and a squeeze! Seeing the same things from a different perspective can be an empowering tool, yet it can be incredibly hard to convince yourself that your view is not the absolute truth.
“For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are” (‘The Magician’s Nephew’, C.S.Lewis).
Earlier this year we uphauled our family from our comfortable, relaxed life to quest forth into an adventure of unknown dimensions. There were no guarantees that we would enjoy the cruising life or that our newly purchased yacht would suit us as our home and vehicle. There was a steep adaptation curve to this new lifestyle with many things initially feeling far from enjoyable. The combination of time, experience and a heavy dose of excitement and fun continues to help us become more proficient at some tasks, better at recognising and avoiding harsh conditions and adept at enduring others. This adventure has provided us with a insightful perspective of both the assumed idyllic sailing life and the comfortable groove that was our life on land. There are things we used to take for granted that we can now remember with desire, such as a warm shower only a few steps away from a motionless bed made-up with non-salty sheets, but equally as many things that we will have to become reaccustomed to and undoubtedly find frustrating until we once again build up tolerance to. There are many skills that we have learned during this adventure that we will utilise to enhance our land lubber life and I believe that when we forget to use these new skills and lapse back into old habits or when we lose appreciation of our simple luxuries it’ll be time to plan another little adventure. An adventure, gettting out of your comfort zone or a degree of hardship from time to time can be all that is required to reset your appreciation levels or give you the confidence that you need to make the necessary move towards happiness.
“It is almost worth going away because it is so lovely coming back”, Roald Dahl recollected in ‘Boy’ after returning home from his harsh boarding school life.
Perspectives of children can often be quite insightful, although at other times can be equally frustrating and funny. On several occasions we have heard, in combination with a protruding lower lip, folded arms, stomping feet and copious tears, the dramatic statement, “This is the worst day of my life”. On a yacht, surrounded by turquoise water, anchored near a beautiful tropical island, it is both with sadness and joy that I listen to this comment. Sadness because it is such a self centered, spoilt thing that I can’t believe any of my children are ungrateful enough to say and joy because I am very happy that forcing them to explore an island when they would rather be making something out of selloptape and cardboard rates as one of the worst events in their otherwise happy lives. At least children seem to find it very easy to flip 180 degrees in their perspective and emotional state without any hesitation or shame and are often already immersed in the new adventure while the parents still have their minds focussed on the stress of getting there.
“This is the worst day of my life”, said six year old Beatrix after we said that we were getting off the boat to explore a little tropical island.
10 minutes later … what a terrible day!
Sometimes it can be difficult to clarify your own persepective of a situation when you hear many convincing opinions from other people. It is easy to lose sight of your own views when an alternative belief of a situation is continually repeated. Before embarking on this 10 month adventure we were mostly hearing comments such as “Wow, that’s a long holiday!” and we left Australia relishing in our imminent adventure that felt long in both time and distance. Now, surrounded by other cruisers we find that we are mostly met with opposing opinions of the length of our journey, along the lines of “You’re only doing this for one sailing season and exploring only such a small area of the Pacific?”, and so we must now try hard not to get disheartened that we are only able to experience such a little adventure!