Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Which Came First, Wander or Wonder?

The weekend night concierge at our condo building suggested a book to me that one of his friends wrote, "Three Years in a 12-Foot Boat" by Stephen G. Ladd. It is an adventure story of 37 year old Ladd's three year journey in a very small. home built sailing/rowing, vessel down United States Rivers to the Gulf Of Mexico and eventually through the Panama Canal to the Pacific coast of Columbia. Then onward across South America's rivers to the Caribbean and then Northward through the Leeward and Windward island chain to Florida where he secured a car and trailer to return to his home in Bremerton, Washington. Ladd was no stranger to taking off on a seemingly crazy adventure. Right after graduating high school he traveled around alone throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. He even spent a month in a Moroccan Prison. When he returned home at the age of 20 he entered Harvard and eventually became a City Planner in communities near his hometown in Washington State.
His account of his three years in a 12-foot boat was sort of the feather that broke the camel's back. After reading so many adventure sailing stories, cruising blogs and, historical explorations such as Earnest Shackleton's my brain demanded that I just stop and try to find the common elements that seem to encourage persons from all types of background to leave their everyday lives to seek out their own adventure.
Ladd describes his want to take off on such adventures in many ways throughout his book but "wanderlust" is the word that he continues to return to. The short definition: wanderlust is a strong desire for or an impulse to wander. As you are in the quest to understand the desire you also run into "wonderlust". As a noun wonderlust is a desire for something strange and surprising, astonishment or admiration. This can cause an obsession with traveling to find adventure, excitement or escape from routine and responsibility, the desire to be in a constant state of wonder as in "Joe had a serious case of wonderlust: he was bored of anything ordinary."

Still trying to understand wander and wonder as it relates to humankind. I feel that it is somehow just innate in our DNA. Early man had to wander around just to get a bite to eat, not sure if they wondered about anything but surely at some point they had to wonder. Slow but surely humans wandered in search of food, water and more inhabitable environments long enough to populate most of the earths surface. Surely there must be a place to get a bite to eat that is not always extremely cold or extremely hot year round. Groups or tribes wandered together. Someone wondered enough to find a way to make a fire, then some dude made a wheel and and people stopped wandering around so much. They built more or less permanent shelter and communities. Once they exhausted the food and other stuff they began to need  in their neighborhood they sent out explorers to find more to bring back to the Queen Ant. The thing about the explorers though is that they were organized groups that had a mission. Many had large commissions that came with promised wealth and large support teams. They sort of wandered around till they found stuff and then brought it home to the Queen Ant. Humankind seem to evolve out of the pressing need to wander, especially since if they crossed the other tribes borders they could get killed. Economies developed to the extent that the tribes could trade their stuff for other tribes stuff. But there were still some pioneers, explorers and some mysterious lands like the Arctic, Antarctic and other far away lands. The expeditions led by Sir Earnest Shackelton to the Antarctic is certainly among the top survival stories. Shackelton and his men endured extreme hardships yet he was able to bring all his men back alive. I certainly have not read all the accounts from the explorers of planet earth but I have a hard time imagining anyone else who had to endure a more difficult mission than Earnest Shackleton and come out alive. Shackleton had a crew of able bodied men to help accomplish their feat. Large expeditions certainly had the elements of wander and wonder, but most had the additional motivations of riches, power, and/or notoriety. 

What about all the people who wander alone? 
Of course my recent blogs about Jousha Slocum sailing around the world alone contributed to this diatribe but there are all sorts of humans that have survived and died doing all sorts of incredible adventures from flying (where's Amelia?) , hiking, climbing, swimming, rowing, and many fruit cake ideas that bring into to play the need for the Darwin Awards:

Reza Beluchi is one of those fruitcakes but he did not even come close to a Darwin Award, after his first failed attempt and rescue he tried again:

What separates those that succeed in their endeavor and those that fail?
1. Preparedness? Bob Bitchin said "The difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude".
2. Luck? See number 6
3. Is it a matter of tolerance/intolerance? Either physical, mental , and/or cultural
4. Fear or Courage?  Fear and courage that is healthy or fear and courage that puts one at risk.
5. Cultural Responsivity?
6. Perhaps the "Laws of Attraction" are in play?

Stephen Ladd and Joshua Slocum certainly had the appropriate attitudes to end their quest successfully, One could argue that Slocum was much better prepared due to his long career commanding ships sailing the worlds ocean. When it came to tolerance I think Slocum and Ladd were pretty much equal, however Ladd shared much more of this side of him in his book than did Slocum. I believe they were pretty well matched on cultural responsivity, appropriate fear and courage as well . They both new and understood their own limits when it came to surviving in and among desperate communities. When they were challenged they each found a solution to their own survival.

How does all this translate to the cruising couple?
There are a lot of couples out there cruising the worlds waterways and oceans. Most are not on an expedition, they are just out there wandering around and often wondering at their own ability to actually be so independent far away from  the modern resources we all become accustomed to and take for granted on a daily basis. They develop a shared tolerance for each challenge they come upon in their travels. The person that is least tolerant tempers the other, the one that is most tolerant stretches the other. They sort of meet somewhere in the middle, thus the shared tolerance for anything perceived as different. They will also form some type of shared cultural responsivity. I think both fear and courage come into play. If that is true then certainly the Laws of Attraction have a big foothold in anyone's experience.

For instance due to the "Cruisers Net" many sailing around from island to island form a image of what to expect at their next destination due to the advice and warnings from those that come before them. The cruisers net is most helpful for navigation and weather reports but less valuable when it comes to how to interact with the culture that you are about to experience. Often the advice comes from some arrogance or fear rather than acceptance and respect. It is not uncommon to read sailing blogs that complain of the treatment they received on some Caribbean island and then read another's account who had a fantastic experience. Cruisers as a class are pretty tolerant and resourceful in general but sometimes they allow their "privilege" to rear its ugly head in someone else's country. Here comes the Law of Attraction.

In a more extreme example there are certainly countries where extreme poverty and or lack of government create hostile environments for your average cruising couple. Here is a map for 2016 on Piracy risk by nation:  A few  years ago there were a couple of reported incidents on private yachts in Venezuela. The SSCA or Seven Seas Cruisers Association issued a bulletin warning all cruisers to avoid Venezuela. However I read in in the same year some cruisers had uneventful and even excellent experiences cruising Venezuela. One couple cruised Venezuela purposely, the other couple were forced into Venezuela by storms when they intended not to. My guess is these people had the tolerance of Slocum and Ladd and fit into the Venezuelan culture without pissing anyone off and they were smart enough not to put themselves in compromising positions.

The Royal Caribbean's "Explorer of the Seas" leaving May 18,  Seattle to Alaska. At 1,025' it is the largest cruise ship to visit the West coast.
With 3,114 passengers the Explorer of the Seas will be a lifetime experience for many who take the Seven day cruise to Alaska. To some of them this will be a huge adventure on a ship in the ocean for the first time in their lives going to a distant corner on planet Earth. Each find their own comfort level when it comes to wandering.

Soon we will be able to restart our wandering aboard Wand'rin Star. For at least the next year or so our wandering will be confined to day or weekend trips as our second Pacific Northwest grandchild is due in November. We may even squeeze out a short voyage up to the San Juan Islands in the not to distant future.

Lee can tell you about it:

Just taking a stab but I think the wonder comes before the wander

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