Sailor or Traveler?

There is a spectrum that exists between identifying as a sailor, and identifying as traveler. Who is cruising because living aboard a boat and voyaging are core to their being? And who is cruising via sailboat because it is a means to and end- a way to satisfy wanderlust, and just happens to be by boat?

Sailing is part of who I am. 

I find great joy being on any vessel, large or small, powered by the wind though water.

I fell in love with sailing as a teenager. It was the ideal escape from summer boredom or teenage angst to simply take off in our little Sunfish, point straight out from our cottage into Lake Huron and find peaceful solitude on the water. I mastered the art of sailing the little boat from a fully reclined position, nudging the tiller with a toe, browning in midwestern sun. It followed me through college; it was how I met Jamie. There may be some family history at play: my parents had their first date on my father’s sloop. I can’t imagine life without sailing.

Another day, another sunset...
Being on the water makes me happy. Full stop.


Traveling is part of who I am. 

Finding those moments where you cross an invisible bridge into another culture are some of the keenest experiences of really living I can think imagine.

This probably stems from my family’s move from San Francisco to Taipei when I was in high school.  Travels though the island coupled with school trips to Indonesia, Singapore, and Hong Kong infused me with wanderlust. A truly great teacher helped me peel back the layers to find the common bonds and shared humanity between vastly different cultures. For more than two decades have I collected travel guides, many for places I have yet to experience. I can’t imagine life without traveling.

poor man's Galapagos?
Traveling is the gift to see those far corners of the world

So which is it? Sailor or traveler?

For years, these two loves developed on parallel paths. In my early 20s, my sailing world revolved around racing. Jamie was racing, too, but he cracked open the door to a life of traveling by sailing. He introduced me to Robin Lee Graham, and to Joshua Slocum. And even more important, he brought our cruising mentors, the Jessies. Through their actions and their support, I learned how these loves could be intertwined.

There are external factors that have glued sailing and traveling irrevocably together in creating this life I love. It is not just because I love to sail, or because I love to travel. It is the desire to live a more simple life, a place apart from the gross consumption of the modern first world. The desire to teach my children respect for our fragile planet by living with a light footprint. The desire to embrace live in the now, and not postpone it for an amorphous “someday.” And to give my kids crazy fabulous childhood memories, like the time they held a tiger cub.

Once in a lifetime
Siobhan and a small friend- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

I am a sailor, and I am a traveler, and most of all- I am so incredibly lucky to just be here, making my dream a reality.

Click on the monkey’s fist to read others bloggers on this topic.
The Monkey's Fist

5 Responses to Sailor or Traveler?

  1. More Joy Everywhere July 4, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    ok… I’ll put you down as “unwilling to choose.”. ( ; Those of us who love both sailing and traveling are luckiest of all. What about your crewmates – would they identify themselves as more one or the other? or would they ride the fence, as you have here?

  2. Behan Gifford July 5, 2012 at 5:12 am #

    Thanks Jane! What you mean this isn’t all about me?! OK seriously though, I’ll write about my crewmates as a follow up. This was excellent fodder for a discussion by candlelight around over dinner!

  3. Dan N Jaye July 7, 2012 at 5:43 am #

    wonderful post! (Now that I’ve written my own I have the pleasure to catch up on everyone else’s) And like you, Dana’s original question was the source of much interesting conversation around the dinner table!

  4. Tucker Bradford July 8, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    I’m with you, in fact I think I have met very few people who are fully one or the other. Maybe we need a scale with 0 being all sailor, and 7 being all traveler. I would probably be a 3 on such a scale but just because the feeling I get when the engine cuts out and the boat surges with the freshening breeze always seems lead me out of an anchorage that hasn’t been fully explored.

  5. Stef Ryan July 20, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    Okay- now you have me wanting to hold a tiger cub. 🙂

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