Welcome to Sailing Uncharted Waters …
This site is about stepping out. It’s about hitting the pause button. It’s about freedom, seeing volcanos and whales, having more time together as a family, and slowing down. It’s about getting unplugged for a while, about not waiting until we are 65 to have some fun, and about breaking the chains of what we feel we ‘ought’ to be doing. We are a family of four who decided to cut the cords of our previous life (i.e., sell the house, sell the car, take a leave of absence from work) to embark on a year-long sailing adventure. The details of how we actually got to that point are below. Please subscribe to our website on the lower right side of the page to get an email when we post new updates.
On Tuesday, June 4th 2013, I (Diane) asked for (and thereafter shortly received) a one-year leave of absence from work to set off to see the world in a 41’ sailboat (Tashtego) with my husband (Matt) and our two sons (Malachi, 7 ½ and Joshua, 5 ½). Let me say that this was not a planned trip – such trips can take a full year or even two to plan. As I said to Matt, if we had actually sat down to plan this trip, I never would have gone through with it. It started as a joke. I was going up for promotion at my university. In academe, if you don’t get promoted, you are given a year to pack up and leave. Clearly, this can be stressful. I had to submit my promotion packet in the summer of 2012, with the decision being made late in the year by my department and then again later by the university.In order to calm me down, Matt said, “What’s the worst that can happen? If you don’t make it, we’ll sell the house, buy a sailboat and sail around for a year until we figure out what to do.” We jokingly called it ‘The Lose Cruise.’ Eventually, the promotion process went swimmingly and we all relaxed a bit.
Fast forward to March-May 2013. My department assigned me to teach a leadership course and, as part of the course preparation, I had to attend an executive education course designed by one of my colleagues. Ironically, all of this happened because of that requirement. Essentially, the course involved being coached (and learning to coach others) about their vision, dreams, etc. When I sat down to do the assigned pre-work for the course, the fact that I found thinking about my dreams and future vision to be depressing was a wake-up call for me. I couldn’t even list out any dreams (does ‘get more sleep’ count as a dream?). In filling in the section about my values and priorities, part of what came up was the importance of my role as a mother. I don’t think I had realized this before but the desire to spend more time with the boys had been building for a while – in part because I sensed that my older son needed me more. Even though Matt has been home full-time with the boys since they were born, it’s been increasingly apparent that Malachi really needs me full-time right now. There were a few times within the past few months when I was putting him to bed that he just clung to me and said, “I wish you could just be with me all the time and we would never be apart.” What do I say to that? “Can you wait a few more years until I earn tenure and can have a sabbatical?” I realized that this was a decision point to either act on my priorities – or not. I recalled what a wise senior colleague once said to me, “There are very few things we do in life that really make a difference in our children. But those few things can change their whole world.’
When I thought about taking a break for a year and how to extricate myself from everything, it all seemed so complicated and impossible. I mentioned this to Matt and he said, ‘I hear everything you are saying but it just seems like vapor to me.’ I was kind of irritated because I felt that he just didn’t understand the political and career-related realities of my job. What would this do to tenure? What if they said ‘no’ – would I just quit? What about money? How can a sole provider for a family of four just stop working (and being paid) for a year? There was a point where, as I was listing out the many things I’d need to think about, all of a sudden I realized that Matt was right. It seemed impossible but it really wasn’t. It was all just external noise. I sat down again to try and do the assigned pre-work for the course. As I was reading it, the thought “You need to let go of what you think is possible” came into my head. All of a sudden, everything shifted. There is a quotation I love that says, ““If not you, who? If not now, when?” It’s us and it’s now.
This is not to say that it has been easy. There were a few frantic weeks of having workers in and out to do repairs and upgrades on the house, putting half of what we own in the garage so that the house was ‘showable’ on the real estate market, listing the house and having 25+ showings (i.e., having to leave the house perfect on an hour’s notice while having two energetic little people living in it), dealing with the fact that Matt’s beloved father was in the final stages of cancer, and continuing to manage work obligations. Things came to a head during a day where I had ridiculous grading pressures (I finished at 1 am) and we were juggling cars and kids. We had an overwhelming list of things to do, and Matt was frazzled and couldn’t seem to figure out what he should do and in what order. I finally got so frustrated that I snapped, “How will you ever be able to navigate an ocean if you can’t even navigate a Saturday?!” (Have I mentioned my temper? Matt, who is much more evolved than I am, will sometimes say ‘Red-hot fiery woman!’ during one of my fits of pique in order to make me laugh). Anyway, … this website is essentially a blog about the upcoming year and the adventures we hope to have. It is, at its core, about sailing uncharted waters – both literal and figurative.