He thought of the many roads he had traveled and of the strange way God had chosen to show him his treasure. – Coelho, The Alchemist
Lahue Family Adventures July 2016 – April 2018:
7591 Nautical Miles
639 Days Living Aboard (1 year and 9 months)
8 US States and Territories
24 + International Countries and Territories
When our family began our journey in 2016 leaving from Annapolis, Maryland, I couldn’t imagine that we would still be sailing in April 2018. The most common question we fielded was: “Why are you doing this?”
Originally, I imagined our adventure as a way to enlighten the children. My attitude was quickly adjusted with daily reminders of how much the “grown-ups” also needed to learn! Somewhere in the middle of our journey, after having explored the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, the Eastern and Southern Caribbean Islands, we paused in Santa Marta, Colombia. With hurricane season approaching, we had to decide if we were headed back to the U.S. or whether to travel further. We decided to stay flexible and see how the traveling spirit might move us. It ended up carrying us to ports and cities in Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Cuba and Mexico. We encountered cultures and native groups who showed us dramatic examples of simple living in harmony with nature. Strangers invited us into their homes and inspired us.
As our journey now comes to a close in Key West, Florida, it is clear that more important than “why” we chose to take this time to travel as a family is “what” we learned and “how” we’ll apply this going forward. This blog will share the insights we’ll take with us off the boat now that Alkemi is soon to be sailed by a new owner.
Imagine an idyllic vacation: Are you lounging in a hammock on a white sand beach? Perhaps children’s laughter is heard softly in the distance. Or better yet, the children are busy surfing or paddle boarding. No, scratch that, you are the one surfing. There is time for long walks and quiet conversation. And time to snorkel for hours on spectacular reef with brightly colored fish swimming by and large, swaying purple coral fans. Yes, time also to hang out in a hammock tossing around ideas. Carefree days spent doing whatever seems right, day after day: hanging out, reading, or exploring the outdoors, etc. These are the images of my former daydreams when I was delayed at an airport (again) or stuck in a tedious budget meeting.
This past summer, I had a chance to spend a whole month in this type of dream vacation. But it felt different! Now I know what some (maybe all?) of you are thinking: “Good one Betsy! Isn’t your life one big vacation at the moment?” Yes, I get it. I am not reporting into an office, no longer taking 12+ hour flights every few months, and the backdrop for our family’s travels over the past year has generally been the Caribbean islands fitting this narrative. But a major difference, and new insight for me, was that vacation is a state of mind. And moreover, it is a cerebral condition, that when I am honest with myself seems a bit like a foreign country. This place of tranquility sounds exotic and attractive, yet I do not spend nearly enough time exploring it.
This blog will share my journey to this revelation and enticing photos of our month or so in and around indigenous areas of Panama.
We each have our comfort zones, right? Our life on the high seas involves embracing change and adjusting our sails to the wind. That said, I still prefer to plan first and then execute a well crafted plan. For that reason, I’m nearly always thinking several days in advance and how make the most of our time. Imagine, please, my angst when Bobby and I decided to take a spur of the moment 9-day trip.
How spur of the moment? On a Wednesday afternoon, Bobby and boys headed to the town on the water taxi for Spanish class. Bobby called out “I’ll either buy us tickets to the mountains (Boquete, Panama) or to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica this afternoon.” We’d talked briefly, meaning someone floated the idea vaguely, about heading to Costa Rica and renting a camper van to tour the country. A few hours later, Bobby and boys returned and confirmed that we would be picked up on a water taxi to start our trip at 8 am the next morning. The trip would entail water taxis, buses and border crossings at a minimum.
What? The countdown had begun! With only a few hours, the priority was to pack and book our rental vehicle “Campervan” for the week. Where would we actually drive this van once we arrived in the new country? Where would we stay or camp each night? How many surf boards should we bring? Which school supplies would be best suited to “on the road” assignments? I wanted to research the national parks and surfing beaches but given the limited time, I multi-tasked by downloading the Lonely Planet Guide to Costa Rica on the family Kindle. There would be time later to freak out about which roads might be washed out or actually crumble as we drove along them given we were taking this trip during rainy season. There were so many questions to answer before taking this road trip. Or maybe not… perhaps it is possible to start a trip and not know what the plan will be for each day. We could try to take it one day at a time and live with the uncertainty.
So that is precisely what we did! Here is a brief photo recap of our trip and the unexpected surprises. For the record, it is not a good idea to take this ad hoc approach for a sailing trip. Sailors need to be watching wind, waves and other weather for at least a week prior and plan out many options for safe harbors. But for a road trip, even an international adventure (just check that your passport is current first), it is possible. Am I more likely to push myself out of my comfort zone again? Definitely. Take the spur of the moment travel challenge – I double dog dare you!
We did it! Alkemi Boat School is officially in recess for the summer break. I asked each boy to share what they learned or liked studying this year as well as to reflect on what they missed out on back home. This blog contains a brief recap of our year by the numbers and some thoughts by the boys and their teacher on how it went. And for those of you wondering if I ever got that rowdy classroom in check, the answer is "nope!"
Summary of Alkemi School Year
Days in Session: 183
Field Trips: 8*
Publishing Parties: 3
Art Shows: 1
*Only full day excursions aligned to school assignments counted here. If I counted afternoon sight seeing, dives on wrecks and hikes to old forts, the tally might be 10 times higher.
The subject I liked most was history because we got to experience history in many of the islands we visited. For example, I learned about the triangle trade: Europeans traded guns to Africa for slaves, colonial crops were grown for cash (supported by slave labor) and then the colonial powers in Europe using their cash to make weapons to trade with Africa. It was a daily fieldtrip to see the plantations and old colonial buildings in the Caribbean that were the result of this period of history. Overall, I liked having more free time in my afternoons to freedive and play in pick-up sports games on beach.
My favorite topic this year was World War II. I liked reading books about the war from a kid’s perspective and learning about how the Allies defeated the Nazi party. The best thing about our boat school day was that it was a short day so I could swim. I also liked all the field trip we took like going to Medellin and Bogota in Colombia. But I missed playing soccer with my friends at recess the most.
This was a fun year! My favorite subject was Reading! I liked Reading because I got to read many books including In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and "The Marble Champ." I also wrote my own books in composition including The Despicable Teddy Bear, The Super Cheeseburger, and The New Galaxy. One of the things I miss from my main-land school is all my friends. I play with my brothers but they are not as fun the whole entire 3rd grade in my old school, Calvin Coolidge School.
And finally, the teacher's perspective on Alkemi Boat School (see pro and con lists below). In the final wrap-up, we accomplished tons and, like the boys, I am looking forward to our summer vacation with a child's excitement!
The Lahue Family moved onto a sailboat in Summer 2016. This blog tells our story of adventure.