Sailing Towards A Growth Mindset

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Following Content Also Features as a Guest Blog Post from Practice Balance.

Learning new things and letting go of limiting beliefs on a cruising catamaran

I stood on the deck at Starboard staring out. The sun was setting while the full moon was simultaneously rising, equidistant across the horizon. The sky was painted in oranges on the one side and purples on the other. A few fish jumped on the water’s surface, and a group of pelicans flew over them in V formation, low to the water. It was a feeling of complete stillness.

After the holiday bustle and wading through a long to-do list, I was finally able again to do nothing. To take a scene like this all in with my whole body. To just… notice.

My gaze was broken by Krista’s voice: “Hey, what day is it?” I smiled.

If you don’t know what day of the week it is, you’re winning.

We’ve been interested in learning about sailing and what it’s like to be a live-aboard sailing family for a couple years now, ever since our motivation to pursue rock climbing with the same vigor has waned and we came across this couple on YouTube transitioning from a life of full-time RVing to full-time sailing. I remember when my husband first suggested that we consider doing it ourselves someday: You want to do WHAT? With a child? When we’ve never lived in any state that’s not landlocked? And I get sick even reading a map in the car?

As usual, I tried not to panic while I stewed in my husband’s pie-in-the-sky ideas by watching more YouTube videos. The life, though simple and wild, was appealing: they could go to places only feasibly reached by boat and see nature we hadn’t ever even conjured in a dream. Soon, we were following other YouTube families doing the same thing. Some with children. Which is how we found Trio Travels and their unique sailing charter opportunity – a perfect way for us to see first-hand what it’s like.

We just completed a week aboard Saltair3 with the family behind Trio in the Pearl Islands off the Pacific coast of Panama. For a full trip report and details on what was involved in making this trip, please read my recent blog post on our family blog, Stealth Wealth Family. I wanted to share with you some things I realized during this life-changing adventure.

Being uncomfortable leads to great insight

I was so worried about this trip. Would I spend the entire week throwing up off the edge? Would Aspen? What if she got extremely scared? What would the food be like? Would we get along with Trio?

We could have easily just kept watching YouTube videos of these families, daydreaming about what it might be like to live in their shoes but too timid to actually try it. But I’m so glad we didn’t. With exception of the long sail and an anchorage in rolling water on the first day, I felt pretty good. Any nausea I experienced could be easily managed. Aspen took to it like a pro and didn’t even seem phased by the close quarters, undulating seas, or vastness of blue. Trent survived the nights under deck without air conditioning.  

Living on a sailboat is not easy. It’s a small space with lots of moving parts (read: lots of things that have the potential to stop working). Power and water sources are finite at sea. The toilets operated via a manual pump. The sun and wind exposure are real. And the concepts are complicated… yet as a Questioner and former engineer, I reveled in learning about the first principles of how to get a catamaran to cruise across the water in wind from point A to point B.

Experiencing something this unique first-hand creates a completely different level of understanding, and potentially passion, than just passively learning about it. It’s kind of like how going to a conference for some niche group and connecting with other attendees – in a Community with shared interests – benefits and inspires you more than just reading a book on the same subject.

Community is community

Time and again during our week aboard Saltair3, we were struck by how many similarities we saw between sailing and rock climbing, particularly between the communities that immerse themselves in both activities. It goes beyond the obvious parallels in rope management. We saw familiar knots on deck, but we also noticed the assertive, DIY nature of sailors (something always needs attention or maintenance). We witnessed their close relationship with nature – from catching their own fish to eat for dinner to changing itineraries based upon weather conditions. With climbing, you chase sun/shade patterns, avoiding wind and humidity; with sailing, it’s all about the wind, and how it interacts with current and tide.

Similar to traveling climbers, sailing families from all over the world meet, then part ways, then meet again in some other exotic locale. They have intricate groups who keep in touch based on the age of their children or current destination (especially when crossing potentially hostile waters). It gave me a comforting feeling of familiarity among all the new things we were learning.

Why be afraid?

To be honest, my biggest fear was not about my own self-perceived extreme seasickness. It was this:

What if we REALLY liked it… what then?

I countered my fears internally with the idea that we could handle anything for as short of a time period as one week. And I was right. Except none of the bad stuff I was worried about ever happened. And the fact that it didn’t happen made me feel strong, resilient, and confident. It reinforced the growth mindset that I constantly practice myself and try so diligently to instill in my child.

  • I always thought I was too uncoordinated to do anything athletic. I was afraid of heights… Yet I’ve climbed all sorts of rock at an advanced level all over the world.
  • I feared I was too squeamish to be a doctor. I fainted multiple times during medical school and thought seriously about quitting… But now I’m a board-certified anesthesiologist.
  • I saw myself as weak sauce, an un-fighter… Yet I survived a cancer and fought its subsequent infertility to become a mother: my greatest role of all.
  • I’ve never lived near water. I don’t have any sailing experience…

Blog Post Excerpt from Practice Balance.

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