“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” –Mark Twain
“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quiestest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy
Recently, I spent a week enjoying the family vacation of a lifetime — on the island of Saint Martin — with my Dad, his wife, three siblings, their spouses, and mine. I feel indescribably fortunate for the chance to experience several firsts, thanks to the generosity of my father. I’d never traveled outside of the U.S., and it was a pleasure to find that whatever the language, whatever the culture, people are more similar than we are different. I enjoyed conversations and stories with several really beautiful souls; and I was reminded that the world is truly smaller than it looks.
I had never been sailing before, and was a little nervous, but ultimately thrilled to share a sunset cruise — on a catamaran — with a delightfully funny and friendly crew, where I got my first taste of salt-spray, racing seagulls, and the rise and fall of gorgeous, blue-green ocean waves. I’d never swam in the ocean, and not only was it incredible, it was exhausting, in the most challenging and wonderful ways! The sand was gorgeous, the water clear, and in order to remember this first, for a very long time, I gathered a tiny handful of sand and bits of rock and shell to bring home with me. I’d never eaten lobster thermidor, or snails, or several of the delicious vegan dishes my brother whipped up during our stay in a luxury, open-air villa — with breathtaking views of the water, the distant volcano, fiery flamboyant trees and other lush vegetation, two gorgeous, wild kestrels nesting in the corner of the dining patio, and a very loud, wild parrot that greeted the day — and all of us, at five a.m. — with a dozen or more hellos.
There were some things I have wanted to do for many years, like having my passport stamped, swimming in the sea, and experiencing island dining at it’s finest. However, there were other opportunities which I’d not imagined I’d ever have:
I opted out of the extreme sports experience with the water jet propelled boots. I’m not that crazy. But, I did go with my family on a speed boat day trip around the island. We waded through the ocean up to my chest, to eat delicious mahi and drink pina coladas on another beach, and when the option came to get into the water, with fins and a mask, and swim with gorgeous fish and majestic sea turtles, I was nervous. However, there was a wolf’s voice in my head… the same voice that has pushed me and cheered me for nearly a year, to hike and climb, to stretch and challenge myself. She reminded me that I’m stronger than I used to be. I’m braver than I think, and I might never again get the chance to snorkel with my strong and courageous, seventy-one year old father. She wouldn’t let me stay seated and let this opportunity pass me by. So I stepped off the end of the boat into the ocean. I put my feet in flippers, and strapped on a snorkeling mask. I ducked my head into the water and swam. Within a couple of minutes, I was watching a school of bright blue and perhaps yellow fish, and a few minutes later, three different sea turtles! It was an amazing experience, and one I know I’ll remember for the rest of my life!
The opportunities for courage didn’t end there. Because I realized it was time for my husband and I to step out on a limb and tell some of my family about my amazing, wonderful, polyamorous world, and specifically the two people who’ve become such a huge part of our daily lives that we’ve become one family living in two homes. I did sit down with my brother who lives in L.A. and share my happiness with him, and then later we spoke both to my dad and step-mom. They were surprised, and incredibly loving. Mom had a few questions about jealousy, and logistics. Dad wanted to be sure we were happy, and though he doesn’t agree with our choices, he supports our right to make them our own. It was both a scary and wonderful set of conversations. When we returned home, Dad called and invited the four of us to come to dinner this weekend, and I was amazed at how wonderful it felt to share my whole truth with family. I’d never expected to do that, or to really want to as badly as I did. Our little quad is part of the family, and at least two of my parents are welcoming and glad to get to know them. I can’t imagine being happier with the outcome of this chance to take a risk and be vulnerable.
I knew when I boarded the plane to leave the country for the first time, I’d come home a little different. I hoped to have my pale-and-freckled-skin version of a tan, a little more salt in my blood. I expected to come home a lot more relaxed and refreshed, with beach hair and a suitcase full of laundry and souvenirs. What I didn’t expect was to come home changed, stronger for having been vulnerable, for having challenged myself to do things that were scary. This week that I’ve been back has been punctuated by trips to the pool and the creek, in a relentless search for sun and water. It’s also been accented by a growing realization that I am made better, stronger, and happier by the relationships in my life, and the people who make up my family.
This gypsy, wanderer, part island-girl poet is grateful, and that, so very much.