I met high and low seas during first year of my voyage. Sailing to find surf was exhilarating, but I spent much of my time wracking my brain about how to stay financially afloat. People often wonder how I manage monetarily. Many suppose I’m some sort of trust fund kid. I wish that were true! But truly, every dollar spent since leaving the dock has come from my own efforts. That was the original deal I made with my mentor and sponsor, the late Dr. Barry Schulyer. Barry agreed to prepare Swell for the high seas, but I would have to fend for myself financially once the voyage began. My travels on Swell as a young, female captain earned me considerable attention during my first year of sailing. Covers on adventure magazines like National Geographic Adventure, feature articles in Foam and Wend, shoutouts in Outside, and the opportunity to write monthly columns for Surfing and Latitude 38. In hopes of not draining my savings too quickly, I composed articles and blog posts in a frenzy. I invited adventurous friends as crew who could double as amateur photographers in hopes of attracting sponsors. Every site on the coast of Central America with internet became a happy port of call in my mania to network, produce, and trawl for additional income.
But a year after I sailed away from California, I ran fiscally aground. My only stable sponsor stopped sending money. I panicked. I felt defeated. The window to cross the Pacific had already begun. I kept busy between repairs to Swell in Panama City and writing emails at TGIFridays hoping for new sponsorships. An underlying dread about my finances persisted. A month later, I woke on the cabin sole amidst scattered tools. I began to re-think the entire enterprise, stem to stern. What did I want from this voyage? Why was I really doing this? These unsettling questions flopped around in my mind like a luffing jib.
I realized I had been moving and working at an unsustainable rate for almost two years in an attempt to keep my ‘followers’ entertained. I thought people would get bored and lose interest in my enterprise if I didn’t sail quickly enough to ever-new destinations. I was shaping my whole trip around assumptions about what other people wanted. So I took a deep breath and embraced an actual change in course. I decided to slow down, try to let go of financial anxiety, and really do what I wanted while my savings lasted. While other sailors were choosing to speed across the greatest expanse of ocean on the planet, I decided to let myself enjoy a few of the first south swells of the season in the islands off Panama. Then, at my own pace, I set off toward the South Pacific late in the season of 2007. Upon arrival, I decided to take more time to explore. I stopped worrying about having a photographer with me and started to love sailing solo. Traveling without a lot of money pushed me to connect with more people, use local transportation, waste less, and become more resourceful. Instead of passages planned around scheduled pick-ups for crew, I tuned into my own intuition about when and where to sail. I went remote, didn’t panic about needing an internet connection, and kept writing blogs because I love writing blogs. New places, cultures, and the enthralling natural world around me urged me to stay present, showing me that money doesn’t always have to be first priority. I learned so much. I had more time for simple joys like photography, fishing, cooking, and learning from local people. My savings dwindled, but I felt richer. I became more generous, more compassionate, more confident. I had more time to discover who I was.
Just when I imagined I’d have to pack up and head home to work to fix a problem with Swell’s hull, private donations began trickling in, sponsors started contacting me, and I was even offered payment for my blogs. I saw that my real value lay in my allegiance to my own dreams and desires. My voyage and life took on more meaning as I challenged myself to maintain the faith and fearlessness to prioritize what felt valuable to me: Freedom to surf and adventure. Time to dedicate to environmental issues and awareness. And time to help people along the way.
Now more than ever there are so many unique ways to make a living doing what you love. Despite what I might make it look like on social media, I work hard every day to keep this lifestyle going. I am lucky enough to work with some of the most wonderful, environmentally-dedicated companies in the world now, including Patagonia, Avasol, Mizu, Eco Flex, Firewire Surfboards, Zeal Optics, and Wave Tribe. Plus collaborate with a variety of non-profit organizations like Changing Tides Foundation, 9 For 17 (vegan awareness), Beyond the Surface International, and Boarding for Breast Cancer. I’m also finishing up that book I’ve been promising! I’m not putting away any savings for retirement yet, but I’m living in my values and doing work I believe in. Whenever I doubt myself and my future, I try to remember this lesson. I tell myself to stop doubting and stay true to myself, because, although it may not appear so at first, therein lies our greatest abundance. It’s not easy to do in today’s world, but we must remind ourselves that we have the power to choose where and how we spend our energy, and that when we persistently align ourselves with our deepest callings and desires, we can attract what is needed to do what we really want to do. When we live from heartspace, there is always a way. Turning away from the ‘security’ of a job we don’t love or a situation that no longer suits us is a scary leap, but there is so much to gain when we prioritize our personal values and happiness. So in this new year, I will strive to trust my heart and give myself the liberty to choose again, and choose differently, according to what feels right. And I hope that you will too.
Happy New Year, friends.
P.S. Book comes out March 2018!