On the Horizon Line - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts Blog - Rock Creek Montana

Burning Down the Box

Posted on 7 CommentsPosted in Reflections on Life

I want to burn the box. What box, you wonder? Our new house? Well, yes, some days. But I’m actually referring to the box that many middle-class Americans live within. The 9-to-5, drive-a-sedan, own-a-home box that beckons us to join the masses that do the same.

We’ve been back in the States for almost two months now. That box is firmly overhead. It feels like we suddenly mounted tricycles and are trying to stay within the lines of a track we can’t quite find. “The Loop,” one friend calls it – a circular, never-ending track of mortgage, groceries, errands, bills, and all the income, smiles and tears that makes the wheels spin.

On the Horizon Line - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts Blog - Missoula MontanaWe broke outta The Loop. Hell, we gleefully smashed it to pieces. The problem is that we didn’t leave much left to pick up when we returned. I look around now at our near-empty cupboards and our way-bigger-than-a-boat  living space, and wonder what possessed me to give away my cookie sheet. The paid-off car. The speakers and stereo. The really good job. Our favorite spider plant.

But mostly, I look at what we still have and am overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff we don’t need. Why, for instance, do I have 22 tank tops when I lived in 2 for a year? How could we ever have needed pint glasses and coffee mugs and wine glasses? Sometimes I feel like all the stuff is taunting us as we struggle with merging back into The Loop.

None of the pictures look good on the wall because I don’t like looking at walls instead of horizon. The carpet seems odd because it’s not sand. The nights are too quiet to sleep without hearing roosters calling or wind in the stays.  The Loop feels eerily desolate, even as our favorite friends pedal alongside.

On the Horizon Line - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts Blog - Missoula MontanaLast weekend, I joined a few girlfriends for an overnight in the Rattlesnake National Forest. I packed a pad, a one-person tent, my ukelele and some food. Off I rode from the front yard, belly as my bowsprit. A mere six miles later, I stopped at a divine creekside camp spot. I rejoiced at how lucky we are to live so close to these familiar mountains. I felt light again. Free. Like Bri. It felt safer to have only the belongings on my back. To look at a panorama of sky instead of a landscape of unsatisfying walls.

When I turned home the next day, I felt stronger and more inspired than ever to trash the tricycle and burn down the box. The problem is that I don’t quite know what to replace them with. At seven months pregnant, I can’t exactly wander into the sunset with a backpack. Supposedly, that fabled “nesting” instinct is going to kick in soon. But right now, I long to be a gypsy still. To be the family that never has going-away or welcome-home parties because you never know if we are coming or going.

On the Horizon Line - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts Blog - Missoula MontanaRob and I are learning our way back home through a thicket of expectations, new and old. We prop each other up. On good days, we find morels in river bottoms and sheep skulls beneath pine logs. We appreciate the wildflowers and have dinner with friends who listen well and hug us hard.

On bad days, we try to stagger which one of us wobbles on this new track. We alternate between who wants to burn down the house and who can deal with the daily chores. We dwell too often on “should haves,” even though we know full well that “can dos” will serve us better.

Would we take our sailing trip again? Of course. Would we have done things a bit differently? No question. Hindsight is the clearest vision of all. Now we’re working on not letting it blind our way forward.

On the Horizon Line Blog - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts

Transitions Suck

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Reflections on Life, Traveling

Yesterday we sent our lack of responsibility up in flames. After almost a month back in Missoula, we awoke too early yet again with our brains swimming in a sea of “should haves” and “need tos”. We seem to be constantly spinning these days, whether its from trying to find a job, trying to move into a new house, trying to figure out how to have a kid, or trying to remember why we left the tropics and returned to a truckload of responsibility.

Transitions suck. They just do. There’s no getting around the fact that changing your life completely is going to be stressful. Or the fact that you’re bound to question the decisions that led you into that stressful situation. Sure, change is exciting, stimulating, and a critical component for personal growth. But it’s also a cause for anxiety, uncertainty and losing sleep.

We’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, starting blindly into the dark, too wired to sleep. Our minds are full to bursting, circling through the hundreds of details required to re-assimilate into the life we left. The days fly by in a rush of searching for used cars, researching how to install vents for the bathroom fan, building a business website, calling old contacts, looking for possessions buried in storage, and on and boringly on. It’s exhausting. It feels like we’re hamsters in a wheel.

The grass is always greener. That’s one of the takeaways from our transition. When we were in Tonga, we thought we wanted the cultural stimulation of Southeast Asia. When we were in Thailand, we craved quiet mountains and remote rivers. When we were constantly on the move, we longed for a place to unpack our bags. Now that we can unpack, we are overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we own. Now that we’re back in the mountains, we miss the sea. It’s confusing, since we’re usually pretty decisive about what we want and why.

It’s just human nature to feel confused after so much change, we tell ourselves. This transition stress was inevitable, we console each other. But it still sucks.

At 6:30am on a snowy Sunday morning (yes, snowing in May in Montana), Rob brought our tea to the couch – the only furniture in our seemingly-vast new living room – and said, “Let’s have a ceremony. We need to break this cycle.”

We talked for an hour about how to summarize and memorialize the last year of our lives. About how to officially let that year go. About how to find a center point after so much mental spinning. About the why behind our transition anxiety. Rob hit the nail on the head: this particular transition is a mourning period for our lack of responsibility.

We’ve been clinging to our glorious, selfish, unfettered, unbounded year of shirking all duty. We’ve been trying to cram that carefree model into “real life” here in Missoula, a place where “should haves” and “need tos” are central tenets of the life we used to live.

So, we burned that selfish and glorious lack of responsibility in the cold, wet Montana morning. And we began redefining the term responsibility as a frame for holding together all that we hold dear: each other, family, friends, creativity, autonomy, flexibility, adventure, a home.

As I started writing this post, it felt like deja vu. I remembered writing about similar transition-angst just before we left. I wrote about the “pinch point” where it feels like too much life is trying to rush through too small a space. That’s how we feel again, 18 months later. We’ll come through it, hopefully soon. This pinch point too shall pass. Thanks to all of the friends and family who have listened to our anxieties and soothed our stress during the transition. With your help – and a little fire ceremony – we will slowly start to center again.

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Rob takes in the sunset on a dinghy ride back to the 40 foot sloop, Wizard, owned by John and Sue out of California.

From Sailor to Stunned

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in Fishing, Reflections on Life

Two months ago I woke up every morning to the sound of large fish splashing against the hull of a sailboat, took morning swims in the nude and read books against the backdrop of coconut trees and sandy shores.  For some reason, I decided I didn’t like that any more.  It seemed too boring. Not challenging enough.

Ironically enough, I had similar reasons for leaving Missoula in the first place.  Although I had a well-paid job and worked for a cause I believed in… Although I had the comfortable existence that comes with a salary, health insurance, and a routine that included annual paid vacations to interesting places… And although I had good friends, fun toys, caring neighbors, and a trunkful of costumes for impromptu dance parties…  We left.

On the Horizon Line - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts

Two weeks into our return home and sometimes I want that all back. I don’t want to be looking for income, searching for a decent car, or a place to live. I want a child and am glad that we will have one, but it doesn’t make things any easier.  Any one of these life events, these tasks or milestones, can be stressful for some people.   We decided to twist them together and swallow the damn bundle whole.

“Decided,” right?  We sat on the deck of a boat, bathed in tropical heat, and sun made the conscious decision to leave. We were jaded by slow days, easy meals of fish and fruit, and the peacefulness that comes from living on water.  I know what you’re thinking.  I wouldn’t have pity for us either.  Because I will never forget how fortunate we were and how fortunate we are.  To have the opportunity to leave in the first place, to meet amazing people along the way, to swim with sharks more times than I can count, walk barren flats of white sand, form a band at a beachside bar, laugh, stretch, breathe.

On the Horizon Line - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts

But to be honest I wasn’t prepared for this.  Bills, meetings, insurance, loans, jobs, schedules.  Just swimming through this muddled mass of minor tasks and major decisions.  Like a little minnow hiding underneath the hull of a sailboat.  A big ocean all around.  The tuna attack in formation, stunning their prey through the blunt force of tooth, body and splash.  Then they circle back around and pick through the spoils.

I tell myself that I’m not a little fish. I tell myself that this was a conscious decision, to challenge ourselves, reinvent, and open the way to new ideas and revelations. Sometimes it helps. But I’ve certainly found the challenge I was looking for.

desert ocean - fishing in the south pacific ocean - tropical reefs and fisheries

Spring traveling through the Northwest US - On the Horizon Line Travel Blog - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts

Melding Back Into Missoula

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Reflections on Life, Traveling

Transitions can be exciting or scary, slow or abrupt.  But rarely are they comfortable.  As Rob and I transition back into “real life” on land here in Missoula, Montana, we are attempting to accept the discomfort that comes with change.  Our life is full of unknowns right now: where will we live?  What will we do next?  Who do we want to be when we grow up?

Luckily, even while immersed in the unknown, it feels good to be surrounded by familiar sights and our favorite people.   Our transition back to the States was buffered by spending two weeks wandering the Northwest before settling back in Montana.  We reconnected with friends from Bellingham to Bend, stopping in Seattle, Portland and Mosier in between.

Spring traveling through the Northwest US - On the Horizon Line Travel Blog - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts

We saw balsam root flowers springing up along the Columbia River, and mushrooms poking out amid the cedar forests near Canada.  We played with doggies and goats and chickens, told stories, caught up.  And we bought warm clothes at Goodwill to ease our heat-soaked bodies into the cold northern spring.

Now, vacation is over.  By choice, for sure, although the ending is no less poignant. Rob and I are both ready to delve into new projects, new passions, new challenges.  We’ve been back home for a week now, living in my parents’ very comfortable house and reacquainting ourselves with Missoula.  When we get overwhelmed by all the “to do’s” in front of us — find a house, a car, insurance, income — we call a friend we haven’t seen in over a year and go for a walk in the hills.

Spring traveling through the Northwest US - On the Horizon Line Travel Blog - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts

It’s almost too easy to slip back into old habits.  But that slip seems to make the transition even harder, as we struggle to hold on to those hard-earned travel lessons.  We are working to find the balance between embracing our old lifestyle and carving out a new one that accommodates our expanded horizons.  Mostly, we’re just taking the good advice of a wise friend: be kind to ourselves, and forgive ourselves when we hit rough spots on the road as meld back into our home.

Spring traveling through the Northwest US - On the Horizon Line Travel Blog - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts

brianna randall mamalode pregnant

Watermelon Bellies

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Reflections on Life

brianna randall mamalode pregnant

Sometimes, I think about what it would be like to swim until I can’t go any further. To hold my breath underwater until I get past the fear that I’ll run out of air. I think about running as fast as I can without worrying about pitfalls and holes. About closing my eyes and not stopping myself from flying out of my skin, up and away…and about trusting myself to come back.  Read more here.

 

This story was published in Mamalode in November 2013.

on the horizon line - sailing and traveling blog in mexico

The Unexpected Treasures

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends, Traveling

“May you find light even in darkness.

May the arc of your narrative be full of unexpected treasures.

Be open.

Be vulnerable.

Be you.”

on the horizon line - sailing and traveling blog in mexico

These wise words appeared in our mailbox the day we locked the door of our home to set sail for new adventures.  Our good friend, Kipper, wrote them in a card, which we read as we lifted off from Montana toward western shores.

Today, I’m re-reading them and finding new meaning.  It’s been one week since one of our bags was stolen, along with most of the gadgets we’d amassed to take on this voyage.  It left us feeling extremely vulnerable.  But over the course of the week, we learned that the gadgets we wanted to bring along were not what we truly needed to reach our goals for this two-year trip.  We’ve replaced them tenfold already – not with new computers and cameras, but with an abundance of human kindness and the soothing balm of generous friends.

The loss of our expensive gear revealed an unexpected treasure: reminding us that the most valuable asset on earth is connecting with the people around you.  Since we reached Mexico, Rob and I have been lucky enough to sync rhythms with new friends, and fall into well-loved grooves with those we haven’t seen in years.  It’s remarkable how quickly we can become a tribe tied together by story-sharing, fireside chats, and the games and music that fill the space between sunset and bedtime.

katie and mark on boat

For instance: we’d spent about 3 waking hours with Mark and Katie after a year apart before we were all happily crammed in their little Subaru.  We headed to the beach with no plan, 2 sleeping bags, 1 sleeping pad, a dog, a cooler, 5 gallons of water, some field guides, fishing gear, a change of clothes and a lot of willingness to explore.  We ended up in Todos Santos looking for Missoula friends, and managed to track them down with no cell phone or email, and only Rob’s vague memory of visiting their plot of land 5 years ago.

With Mark and Katie, it’s always simple.  No one argues about where or when to eat, who cooks or cleans.  We don’t have to belabor “what we’ll do today,” since we all have the same goals: hang out, enjoy what the land and water has to offer, give thanks for the beauty of our freedom and for each other.  Even in the midst of stressful robberies and chaotic transitions, the four of us made plenty of jokes and took care of the others.

And the next instance: we had dinner with another couple of young cruisers the night after the car was stolen.  After dinner, Sabine and Terry hailed us over the VHF radio inviting us to accompany them to Isla Espiritu Santo on their 60-foot catamaran, Sea Raven.  Rob and I spent 5 days with these strangers-turned-friends, sharing meals, hikes, dives and chores.  Not only did they welcome us in their floating home, they also gave us a small netbook computer they don’t use, which is perfect for staying in touch during our travels.

From the home-front, we’ve felt an outpouring of love and support riding the winds south.  Thanks to all of you for your offers to help out, and your kind words these last few days.  The lightness in the dark sting of last week’s double-whammy thefts was finding the many kindred spirits who live lightly and fully – people who are welcoming and easy, and who look around often to remark: “I’m just happy to be here.”  So are we.

on the horizon line - sailing voyages into the unknown - brianna randall and rob robert's blog - bri and rob sailing

13 interviews video - on the horizon line blog

13 Interviews – A Pennsylvania Perspective on Sailing Away

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Family and Friends, Sailing

Today is the first day of our adventure. As we enter a new country, it seems fitting to reflect a bit on where we’re going, as well as reflect on what others think about our upcoming sailing voyage.

When we went back to visit Philadelphia in February, Bri and I interviewed 13 members of my family to ask them a few key questions about our trip. Check out their insights and advice below.

[framed_video column=”full-width”]13 Interviews – A Pennsylvania Perspective on Sailing Away [/framed_video]

 

Turning a Dragon into a Princess

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in The M.U.P. Files

Note:  The M.U.P Files are a new community corner of On the Horizon Line.  Look for stories from our friends and family related to expanding their hometown horizons.  Let us know if you want to contribute!

Why “The M.U.P Files”?  Because these dispatches from the desks of our loved ones will be “magical unicorn ponies” that fly across the sea to greet us on distant shores.  Their writing will be our bridge to shore while we sail the world.  

* * *

by Margi

Margi on guitar - South Fork Flathead

I woke up this morning feeling inspired. I am usually good for a pithy quote and a fart joke or two, but this morning when my eyes opened I was thinking about the Mark Twain quote that Bri posted yesterday, about the adventures that each of us take in our lives.   The moments where we just say yes to some newness and an unknown outcome.

I feel the change happening in all of us, lately. Acutely. Like Bri and Rob’s sailing adventure is an allegory for what we all live day to day.  Packing and unpacking, emotional packing and unpacking; I hear their story in myself, I feel their tears and their joy.  It is more fundamental than a change in location, the different cabinet from which one grabs a cup for coffee or tea in the morning, the different route to work. I feel shy in its presence because this road is not a road down which I have walked before. Change is beautiful and it is brave. It can be scary. So when my alarm went off at 7:30 this morning I turned to Rilke’s “Dragon Princess”.  We are all solitary.

For him who becomes solitary all distances, all measures change; of these changes many take place suddenly, and then, as with the man on the mountaintop, extraordinary imaginings and singular sensations arise that seem to grow out beyond all bearing. But it is necessary for us to experience that too. We must assume our existence as broadly as we in any way we can; everything, even the unheard of, must be possible in it. That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular, and the most inexplicable that we may encounter.

Margi high 5 wedding

So, I choose to go forward. To be an explorer in my own mind. To raise the sails in my heart so that they may catch the wind; so that when they do I will wake up on some remote beach I never thought possible; so that when the seas are dark and stormy I can feel them, and when the storm clouds part the sun on my face reminds me that I am human.  So that when we will come together again as friends, with deeper love and maybe slightly better music (we all hope that by the time Penny grows up that at least a few songs will be tight), I will be more me than the person you hug and say goodbye to in a couple of weeks.

We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life according to that principal which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are the beginning if all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.

 

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