At the beginning of this summer, I acquired a small brass sailboat sculpture from my grandpa. I wrapped it up and put it away in a box to be untouched; until I figured out my next move. Summer went on, COVID-19 ravaged the land, now autumn was in full swing and I was still in total limbo. I had ended my nannying career, not knowing where I wanted to live, not sure of how to step into a new life direction. I was tired from moving multiple times in recent years and everything was up in the air - Even this sailing trip (with IVY) which was really the only thing I had planned for the whole year, was in question whether we were able to go or whether I should go!
I was ready to give up my spot on this trip. Ready to hand it over to my fear of COVID-19 – or more so to a feeling that I was supposed to give up on this trip. This strange new collective idea of traveling being taboo in a time of pandemic was overpowering my thought process. I kept telling myself it was a valid reason to back out of the trip and I sought advice from people who affirmed it. Honestly, it was a facade; for a truer fear, that I was hiding from myself and others. I was afraid of a good thing falling apart. I would rather be the creator of my destruction than to be victim to something demolished by 2020.
This sick and twisted human inside of me wants so badly for things to be good that I would gladly wreak havoc if I have a feeling that a nice thing could be taken from me. It’s a natural human response I suppose; to be in your own way. My list of fears are short and all come back to this construct of yummy turning sour. I fear in my best and favorite moments of life everything will fall apart and turn to shit. This childhood fear is valid but I nearly let it stop me from sailing— something I’ve wanted to try since childhood. Pushing past fear is an exercise in letting go of the illusion of control. It is giving in to whatever winds come through. Sailing is also a strange magical balance of acceptance and strategy.
An inkling of a feeling told me to keep my spot on the trip. By some miracle the trip didn’t get cancelled and the last week of October we were all on the way to meet one another in St. Thomas. The chaos of meeting up with strangers for the first time in a new place was the most thrilled I’ve felt in months. My travels in March were cut short by the beginnings of coronavirus — I had no idea it would be my last time traveling the rest of the year. Additionally, it was one of the last times I was able to meet new people due to our new normal. Even normal little travel anxieties were treasures to a person like me — who doesn’t love a bit of chaos for the sake of experience?
The vibe of the group was so immediately palpable. Everyone had waited for this individually and collectively, for so long. The first night on the boat was joy-filled. We were so eager to connect deeply with one another. I was pleased that everyone was more intentional than I could have imagined yet light and ready to have fun. Over the course of a week, I watched strangers become friends in their own moments of surrender. Dropping many sunglasses into the water, cutting open a foot and dancing anyway, sleeping on the front of the catamaran only to get rained out and find out no one was really asleep, reading hours of poetry that was once private, sharing secret traumas and forging to create healthy future families, shedding clothes down to skin and jumping into moonlit shallows, dancing to loud music all day and night, sound bath meditation with group facials, hiking in the rain, even fully embodying Baywatch Pamela Anderson for a night. It’s a testament to the ease of group when stuck together on the same vessel - you have to make it work or you’re stuck in each other’s miserable company.
Photos by Karoline Banasik
It’s the traits of these people I want to emulate for the rest of my life.
Their ability to beautifully embrace the odd or bad outcomes. They inspire me to retire from sabotaging good outcomes. The tiny glimpse into their neural networks and suddenly it feels hard to leave unchanged.
Societally, the year has been an onslaught of events. Collective tragedy, political polarization, social distancing, and loss have become common experiences within a short span of time. The worst year ever; what nightmares are made of, 2020.
With destruction and tragedy constantly bombarding and imposing on our lives it seems easy to stick with the negative narrative. Ugliness doesn’t terminate beauty. In facing all the grotesque parts of our lives there is a chance to create something better, even fantastic. Being on a boat with strangers doesn’t need to be life altering— but if you want it to be, it can and will be. Our existence within this ‘horrible’ year can keep us the same or if we let it; it can completely change our perspective.
Let’s ponder souvenirs; tiny travel tokens—I find them to be super dumb. I don’t buy them for me or anyone- pretty much ever. They feel inauthentic in comparison to the trip and experiences they become associated with. Being able to travel is about the experiences and being a witness to undeniable beauty. It’s about having stories to tell for the rest of your life or a good memory to think fondly of on a bad day.
People are the souvenirs.
They are what I hold on to, they are the memories I want to remember the trip by. No matter how many times I may move and purge my material possessions; I still have the people. They outlast the dinky tourist crap. They encapsulate the beauty, they are the cast of characters to shape stories, they are part fear/trust surrendering and showing up in fleshy humanness to be on a boat.
We might spend the rest of our lives calculating ways to be together and be reunited. I might spend the rest of my life trying to identify how this trip changed me. Because in a short amount of time we were suddenly presented with an opportunity to have something irreversible; belonging. To one another, to a moment, to a memory, to something so unbound by words and tucked into feelings. Feelings of deep joy, contentment, empathy, and connection. It can’t be undone and it can’t be relived, but occasionally revived and revised in the folds of your pink head mush.
I can’t convince you; the reader, to see or feel the world the way I do. l would love to persuade you of this: create good outcomes when it seems like there aren’t supposed to be any. In the most negative moments find ways to share beauty with others. Do it with fear. Do it with strangers.
Take the trip (safely) in a time where travel seems like (and is) a big blessed privilege.
I finally unpacked the box with my brass sailboat. I have a home for the first time in over year that is truly mine. I’ve been withholding goodness from myself. Putting it away in boxes and saving it for a better day. Allowing the limbo to always define what I feel I don’t deserve. Deciding to go on the trip, was an act of rebellion to my fear. It was me standing up for goodness in my life to be constant- not saved for later or expected to be ruined. I wake up no longer on the sailboat but looking at a little boat reminding me of the trip that I was supposed to take all along.
**Samantha is an amazing artist releasing projects under the name Neon Pioneer. You can see and purchase her work at neonpioneer.com