I celebrated my birthday on Sunday and was absolutely overwhelmed by the birthday wishes I received from you guys/gals via Social media.
Probably the hardest part of my liveaboard lifestyle with Baz is missing friends, colleagues and family.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Now this isn’t new to me. When I chose to move out from the UK to Australia in 1991 it was heart-wrenching to leave my mum and sister behind, knowing that I would only be seeing them infrequently due to the long distance that separated us. I never regretted the move – Australia is an absolute gem of a country with wide open orange-, sage- and straw-coloured spaces; bright hot sun; elegant tall eucalyptus trees that buzz in summer with cicadas; an endless azure coastline with white powdery sand; and warm welcomes from those who live there.
Every now and then though, I’d get a yearning to return to my country of birth and catch up with close family and school friends. When I could afford time and cash, I’d honour the desire and take a 24 hour plane journey back to visit the cool, green land, filled with tradition and layers of culture and get to hug those special folks in my life.
So that sense of holding the bittersweet blend of knowledge that I’m in the right place at the right time, together with the heart’s tug to see loved ones isn’t new to me now that I’m living and travelling aboard our yacht. It’s just different.
I’ve swapped Australia’s wild beauty for the Mediterranean’s vibrant blend of cultures and vistas. I’ve exchanged a longing for my sister who is now only a short flight away from me, for the distance that now separates me from Aussie mates and my strong, mature, good-natured, lovable son Luke. Still nineteen years old as I write this, our incredible son chose to discover his own path and stay behind in Australia when we sold our family home. I give thanks daily for social media that allows us to remain in contact so we can still have family group chats and keep up with his life and watch him follow his own plans and carve out his own life. And that is as it should be.
So near and yet so far - and yet so near
It doesn’t stop me missing giving him a hug and socialising with my Aussie friends though. Not all the time of course. Most of the time I’m captivated by the sensory experiences of my new surroundings. But there are those days …
Changing our lifestyle and becoming bloggers and vloggers so we could share our incredible journey with others has taken Barry and me away from what’s familiar, known and loved. But it has also brought us closer to the wider world, new acquaintances and more friends who we meet along the way and via our social media outlets. There is a richness to be had in this lifestyle. Not as intimate perhaps. But it is heart-warming to receive comments and form bonds with other folk from around the world. And it was through social media that I received a level of fuzzy heart-warmth on my birthday that I simply didn’t expect!
You guys rock! I love to take photos and document my life with you. That in itself is immensely rewarding. But when you take time and go out of your way to send us comments and feedback, I feel a real sense of connection and gratitude that there is such an abundant form of interacting available to us in the 21st century. Not only that but it sure feels good to know that you’re enjoying what we’re doing!
A glassful of bubbles
Along with the feel good feedback from so many of you, Baz and I also had a cracker of a day in Formentera on my birthday!
When I woke up, Barry stunned me with his perceptiveness and choice of beautiful pendant that he commissioned from a talented silversmith girlfriend of ours – Kaz, of Birdsong Silver. He followed up with a full English breakfast and then took me in our tender to Savina town. I mooched around the dockside craft markets while he got a syphon from an amazing chandlery that is like Santa’s workshop for yachties. After that, I found a beautiful blue and green sarong, then a short aqua dress that I treated myself to.
Of course, we needed refreshments after such a busy morning! We had tapas and beer at one little place, then found another bakery/café where I had coffee and a delicious buttery almond/jam tart as my birthday cake, while Baz cooled himself down with another beer.
Back on board, we chilled out to a playlist of songs that a DJ girlfriend Helene had made for me when we both worked in a fruit shop in Beerwah, and watched the world go by, lazily sunning in the afternoon sun.
When it all got too much to bear, we just had to make ourselves feel better with a bottle of Moet & Chandon that Jose and his team from Marina Estrella Murcia had given us at our boat naming ceremony. I tell you, this French champers still tastes good out of plastic flute ‘glasses’!
I might have got a little tipsy, which you may see in a future video lol, especially after two young bronzed guys puttered by in their little boat waving a “Mojito” sign at anchored boats. How could we resist? I ordered a caipirinha (cocktail made with rum and wedges of lime, muddled with brown sugar and served over ice). I bloomin’ love this drink and can’t believe I’m going to share this with you, but I waived my rights to the rest of the Moet so I could comfortably drink the caipirinha without getting sloshed!
That night, I retired (early) to bed counting my blessings for such a memorable birthday.
Stand on the edge, he said
You may remember that in last week’s blog I shared:
“That experience in itself was all very nerve wracking and I think in part why we haven’t thought about moving to another site in the last week, never mind me considering getting back into scuba diving just yet, which for me is also a brand new activity full of learning curves.”
Yes, I’d been feeling a tad nervous about getting back in the water for my eighth scuba dive. It is nearly a year since my last dive, I’m a noob, jumping off the back of the boat scared me and up until the other day, it had been a tad too much to think about along with all the other sailing learning curves we’d been facing!
So when Baz suggested diving on Thursday, I was a little nervous, but also excited because I’d get to try out my new dive gear. All I’d brought with me from Australia was my mask and I have to say I was looking forward to seeing how all my gear worked. The diving gear I’d learned in had been borrowed and was either leaky or didn’t fit properly and I think had coloured my scuba experiences as well as making my first scuba dives a tad more challenging than they already were.
“Just stand on the edge, then jump,” Baz said in as encouraging a voice as he could muster.
Well, I’ve had this thing about jumping into water all my life. I honestly think it’s a past life thing, or a very strong memory of drowning that’s embedded in my ancestral DNA, but I don’t have any proof of that. All I’ll say is that when I stood on the back of the boat looking at the water the day before we got our scuba gear on so I could practise doing a giant stride in just my bathers, mask and fins, my stomach clenched, my throat tightened, my heart began to pound and all I could think was how high up from the water I was. Considering I was on the swim platform on the transom, in all honesty, the water was really only 163 cm away (5ft 4in) – my height. But when you have an irrational fear gnawing at you, logics don’t come into it. I discovered as I stood there quaking, that the main thing I was afraid of was not having enough air to breath once I was underwater. But I’d only discover the answer to that if I jumped in.
Baz waited patiently in the water and I stood there frozen still.
Of course, we all know that the longer you stay on the edge, the harder it is to jump. I’ve been there, done that before. I knew it would get worse, and my high pitched nervous giggle confirmed the irony of standing, staring and waiting to jump!
My right foot clad in blue and black fin, hovered backwards and forwards like a frog waving semaphore.
Baz kept waiting patiently.
In the end, covering my mask with the flat of my hand, I sucked up all the courage that remained from deep in my belly, took a giant stride and plunged in. Then I realised that it wasn’t so bad. It was only a small step for me, but the fear I overcame to do it was huge. I gave myself kudos for that giant step.
I did it once more for proof and knew I’d be okay with my scuba gear on. I knew I’d be okay, because I’d have my regulator in my mouth and air flowing into my lungs from the tank on my back.
Scuba bubbles on my first dive in the Med
The next day we began kitting up for our scuba dive when Barry discovered an air leak where his power inflator hose connected to his first stage. Dive cancelled, we headed to Savina town, Formentera to have it fixed.
The following day we kitted up again, and this time I found myself standing on the swim platform with fins, mask and wetsuit on, tank on back, with a fully inflated BCD, all ready to take that giant leap.
I looked at the water. I put the flat of my hand over my regulator and held my mask with fingertips. Then, fully confident I would breathe and float, I took one giant stride off the back of the boat into the water.
Because my gear fitted me perfectly, all the issues I’d had on previous dives (including leaking mask, struggling with the BCD floating above my head), were non-existent and soon Baz and I were 6.8m under the boat, checking out the anchor chain, discovering a few small marine life living in the powdery white sand. After 29 minutes and with 110 bar of air still in my tank, I ascended to the surface with Baz. Getting back on board wasn’t too difficult as we had tethers for our BCDs that we let float on the water while we stepped back on deck. The only thing I couldn’t manage was to pull my BCD plus tank back up the ladder and onto the transom. Baz did that for me. If push came to shove, I could use one of the davits and haul it up that way, but Baz reckoned it was easier if he did it. I’m hoping that as we sail more and I dive more, my upper body strength will increase and I’ll be able to do it myself one day.
All buoyed up
As I type this, I feel much buoyed up by warm memories of my birthday and the knowledge that I’m overcoming lifelong fears that have prevented me from enjoying water.
Actually, on my birthday before we opened the champers, Baz prompted me to get back into purely diving off the back of the boat just in my swimsuit. It took me two or three sitting attempts, but I soon managed to do a couple of half-decent dives, which I’ll practise daily until it becomes natural for me.
So you can teach an old dog new tricks
I may be way closer to 60 than 30 years of age, but I feel as young as I did then and despite living certain areas of my life in shadowy limitations, I’m gaining confidence in my abilities in several areas of my life, thanks to this change of lifestyle.
So to end this blog, I just want to say, if this old dog (don’t say bitch please!) can do this, anyone can. I just want to encourage anyone to find a way to face any fear they may hold, take a few baby steps, or perhaps one giant leap towards goals, despite their anxiety. Looking at life through a shadow can seem daunting, but on the other side, it’s so much easier to see the sun shining, and with courageous efforts comes a sense of well-earned pride and increasing self-confidence.
It’s never too late to embrace the dream!
Link to Aannsha’s next blog