Live the cliche

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Reflections on Life

You never know when miniature disasters or major catastrophes will change the landscape of your life forever. I’ve been thinking a lot about life landscapes this week, as we got word that a past river adventure buddy passed away unexpectedly and another friend lost his wife.

It’s so cliche to say, isn’t it? Be present. Enjoy every minute. Don’t take this life for granted. We read the axioms on Facebook and greeting cards, say them to each other off-the-cuff and in deadly serious circumstances. But the cliches slip away in the tougher spells. And in the daily grind. And even, sometimes, during the magical, memory-making experiences.

My sister, Cassidy, who inspires me every day to take more risks and laugh more often.
My sister, Cassidy, who inspires me every day to take more risks and laugh more often. Follow her at www.directionaldetour.org

It’s just damned hard to be present. To enjoy every single minute. To not take for granted the body, emotions, friends, food, sunsets, breath that infuse each day. To make the most of this one precious life.

Weeks like this one make me more determined, though. They bring back the urge to stop for a full inhale to appreciate the rare warmth of sun in Montana’s usually frigid February. To exhale completely to celebrate my lungs and my muscles and my blood for supporting me. To close my eyes and savor the sound of my husband reading a bedtime story to his son.

The unexpected catastrophes also make me question the landscape of my life, and to examine it a little more closely. Is this what I want? Am I being true to myself and my loved ones? And the biggest question of all: am I strong enough to change the landscape if the answers are no? Some things are easier to change–turning off the work emails after 6PM, for instance. But others–like setting sail again–feel like moving mountains.

Talon with Auntie Katie, another role model for casting off bow lines and making the most of life.
Talon with Auntie Katie in Kauai, another role model for casting off bow lines and making the most of life. Follow her at www.controlledjibe.com

So, how do you move mountains? One rock at a time. Lately, lines from this poem by Mark Twain’s keep popping up in my head. It’s on our blog’s “about” page, but it deserves another place of honor here and now:

Twenty years from now
you will be more disappointed
by the things that you didn’t do
than by the ones you did do.

So throw off the bowlines. 
Sail away from the safe harbor. 
Catch the trade winds in your sails. 
Explore. Dream. Discover.

In other words, let this post be a reminder to all of you (as the recent events were for me) to hack away at those lines that keep you tethered to places of unease or distress.  Go forth and be present. Let yourself be free to be happy, in safe harbors or in rocky seas. Breathe. Smile. Kiss the ones you love. Live the cliche.

Talon sure does help pull me back to the present, and it's damn hard not to smile when he's around.
Talon sure does help pull me back to the present, and it’s damn hard not to smile when he’s around.
Buying a house in Missoula - On the Horizon Line Blog - Brianna Randall

We bought a house! (Anyone have a car?)

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Some people might call us hasty.  Others might say impetuous.  We like to call ourselves decisive.  Rob and I put an offer on a house exactly one week after touching down in Missoula, Montana.  If all goes according to plan, we’ll move in to the new digs on May 8th, less than one month after returning to our mountain home.

Buying a house in Missoula - On the Horizon Line Blog - Brianna RandallYeah, sure, we only looked at one house, total, before signing on the dotted line.  But to be fair, we’ve actually had our eye on it since February, when a rainy day in New Zealand found us surfing online for real estate options in Missoula.  We found it immediately: grandma’s house.  A 1970s rancher that hasn’t been updated.  Ever.  It has wallpaper and a laundry chute and a carpeted bathroom.  It’s a perfect fixer-upper for Rob, who loves nothing more than having projects to putter through.  And the only home within our budget in the fabulous Rattlesnake neighborhood near downtown Missoula.

Why did we leap in and buy a house so fast?  Well, Rob and I have been discussing the best way to keep our cost of living low while maintaining the quality of life we’ve enjoyed the past year.  For us, the biggest monthly expense is shelter.  We wanted to find a place we could settle into while not breaking the bank.  Renting seemed like a less desirable option, since we’ve been homeowners for years.

Buying a house in Missoula - On the Horizon Line Blog - Brianna Randall

Luckily for our budget, crewing on other people’s sailboats was an extremely affordable way to travel the world.  We were able to use the money we saved by not buying our own sailboat to buy a new nest of our own.  Sometimes I feel a little queasy about the fact that nest is landlocked.  But having a lower mortgage will allow us to travel more easily when the longing for the sea strikes again.

We feel unbelievably fortunate to have found a new home.  A place that we can rent out when we’re ready for the next big adventure.  A place our soon-to-born son can toddle down the street safely, wander the woods at will, and walk to his grandparents’ house in a jiffy.

Buying a house in Missoula - On the Horizon Line Blog - Brianna Randall

Now all we need is a vehicle so we don’t have to move our belongings via bike.  Anyone in Missoula have an old car, van or truck they wanna sell?  Give us a shout if so!

 

Brianna's grandparents at their renewal of vows ceremony in San Diego.

Dreams of Grandpa on an Overnight Train from Bangkok

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My grandpa loved trains. And by ‘love,’ I mean a borderline obsession. He grew up in Connecticut, raised by a florist and a Congregational minister in a pedigreed line that dated back to the original founders of New England, and of America. Grandpa became the sixth Congregational minister in that line.

But first, he grew up near the train, in a time when trains were still an elegant means of traversing the grand American continent. Frederick Bradley worked on his family’s flower farm, and looked forward to hearing the train’s whistle. To running alongside it, waving at the people inside, wondering where their journey would lead.

Grandpa told me plenty of stories about trains. As a child, I could hear the whistle, picture the dining car, watch the caboose fading away, feel the wonder of being carried to new horizons. Each Christmas for nearly forty years, my grandma would give her husband some type of train memorabilia: a model car, a painting, railroad tracks. They had a veritable fleet of electric train sets when I was a kid.

Each Christmas, Grandpa would make sure there was a six-foot-long train choo-chooing around the tree, complete with a model conductor, the dining car, fake smoke from the engine stack, and shiny red caboose. He loved to watch it go. So did I. Or maybe I simply got excited because Grandpa got so excited about the trains.

Now I’m on a real train. A train complete with a conductor, a dining car, a caboose, and people waving out the window as they journey to new horizons. I’ve been on trains before, although not often, and usually commuter trains that carry me from one big city to the next. Fancy and fast trains that don’t have the rocking rhythm of their more clunky ancestors.

train from bangkok to chiang mai brianna and rob on the horizon line travel blog

This train is in Thailand, and is neither fast nor fancy by modern standards. Yet it is still elegant. The railway from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was completed in 1921, and I can feel the history in this train car. The pair of facing seats neatly fold into sleeping berths. The ladder to the upper bunk doubles as the luggage storage. The doors between the train cars slide open and shut, and the step between them leaves you with a bubble of adrenaline as you step above the tracks. Polite Thai workers walk between the cars offering coffee, juice, beer, snacks. The bathrooms are shockingly spartan, but also efficient – a hole in the floor through the toilet, a shower hose and a sink to wash up.

You must talk to the people in your berth. You can’t fade away into a wifi world of virtual communication. I met two Germans, a Chinese Thai man, a French family. We muddle our way through various languages to learn a little about each other. Rob improbably strikes up a conversation in Malagasy with a woman from Madagascar, where he lived for two years.

Then it’s time to pull the curtains around each bunk. Lay under the blanket provided, and let the train rock you gently to sleep, lulled by the knowledge that you will wake up to a new landscape, with new opportunities just beyond the tracks.

I thought about my grandpa for most of the train ride, even in my train-rocked dreams. I miss him, and my grandmother who both died too young. I can hear their voices now, as if I could call them up from Chiang Mai to tell them about my journey. About their very first great-grandchild who is riding inside of me on this train.

“Brianna,” my grandma would say, in her warm but precise speech. “Do you really have enough clothes in that tiny bag of yours? ”

“Bri,” my grandpa would exclaim. “How are you? Where are you? Tell me about the train.” And so I did. In my dreams.

Brianna's grandparents at their renewal of vows ceremony in San Diego.

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Peeing on a Stick

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Mamalode, Reflections on Life

I always thought I’d pee on the stick in my own familiar bathroom, in my own comfortable home, at just the right moment. I pictured a sleepy weekend morning, rolling out of our cozy, king-size bed and pulling the pregnancy test out of a drawer where I’d cleverly stowed it for that perfect moment. Instead, I peed on a stick in a public bathroom in the Kingdom of Tonga.  …  Click here to find out what the pregnancy test said! 

To read more of Brianna’s monthly Mamalode articles, click here.

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Click here to see sunset picture of a beach in Tonga.

2013 – One Incredible Year in Review

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends, Fishing, Ocean Tales, Outdoor Adventures, Reflections on Life, Sailing, Traveling

Click here to see sunset picture of a beach in Tonga.

6,000 nautical miles
26 tropical islands
8 countries
7 sailboats
6 months living on the sea
3 months living in Tonga
2 careers put on hold
2 big backpacks
1 incredible year

In some ways, it feels like 2013 was the longest year in ages. Probably because a lot happened. We quit our jobs, packed up our house, kissed friends and family goodbye. We sailed one-quarter of the way around the planet, and met countless new people living a range of different lifestyles. Here are some highlights from our journey this year:

Favorite Places:

Palmerston Atoll, an island in the Cooks with only 60 people divided into three governing families, no roads, and abundant fish. Fakarava, for its unspoiled wildlife where we dove with 200­+ sharks. Bora Bora for its sheer beauty and sandy anchorages. Niue, the smallest country on earth, where Rob saved a woman’s life (stay tuned for that story!) and every resident waves as you pass by. The Kingdom of Tonga, where we have taken up temporary residence, for the sense of community, the accessible water sports, and the local culture.

Favorite Wildlife Moments:
We’ve spent hundreds of hours underwater and thousands of hours floating on top of it. The most memorable sightings include: a lone Orca whale breaching alongside our boat; floating next to 7 sea turtles in the Galapagos; snorkeling with sea lions in Baja; diving with manta rays in Bora Bora; jumping into the deep blue and seeing dozens of curious sharks; listening to the humpback whales sing underwater and watching a mama and her baby play; cheering as dolphins ride the bow wave of our sailboat; and swimming at night through bioluminescent plankton that glow and sparkle.

Biggest Challenges:

  • Nothing is ever still while sailing from place to place, which means dealing with seasickness, a rocking stove while you cook, and always having to brace yourself as you sit or walk or sleep.
  • Tight quarters and communal living arrangements can be tough at times.
  • Wind, waves and currents control when and where you go, testing your patience and flexibility.
  • Bringing the right stuff with you and anticipating what you need during long passages at sea.
  • Reconciling the illusion of paradise with the reality of bugs, heat, storms, and the inevitable list of chores and repairs that come with living on a boat.
  • Meeting like-minded people and finding friendships as close as those we left behind.

Best Parts of Living At Sea:

  • Nights where the stars are endless and bright.
  • Shades of infinite blues.
  • Syncing your daily life with the rhythm of the sun, the wind, the moon.
  • Watching birds and fish and dolphins and whales from the bow.
  • Visiting remote and spectacular places that are inaccessible by plane or car.
  • Spending time with yourself and each other.

Click here to see photo of Bri and Rob in the South Pacific.

bri and cass at the wedding in Missoula - on the horizon line

I’m so excited!

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends

bri and cass at the wedding in Missoula - on the horizon line

Ko hoku tokoua tu ne ha’u heni ahoni.

In Tongan, that means: my sister is coming here tomorrow. After eight long months, I finally get to see my favorite person again. She’s my other half. (Luckily, Rob is totally cool with sharing those two descriptors with Cassidy.)

The Tongan word for a sibling of the same sex is “tokoua.” You use different words when referring to your borther if you’re a woman, or your sister if you’re a man. But for Cass and me, “tokoua” applies in more ways than one. It literally translates to “second person,” since “toko” is person and “ua” is two. We’ve always been two peas in a pod, mistaken for twins, and best friends. She is my second person. With her around, I feel more complete.

It feels like Rob and I have been planning for Cassidy’s visit for about 6 of the 8 months we’ve been traveling through the South Pacific. We would discuss the ideal location to be in December while sailing a multi-day passage in July. We would dive on a reef in Bora Bora and say, “Cass would love it here.” We scoped out beaches in Tonga to map out the best spots to bring her. We busted ass cleaning and repairing Waking Dream to make sure it was a lovely home for her stay (her bed’s been made for over a week, since I’m so excited).

And now she’s flying in. Today. To Tonga. It seems surreal, in many ways, to have our Montana life and our American family pop up in this new home with our new friends. But it also feels exactly right. I can’t wait to have Cassidy meet Vava’u, and for Vava’u to embrace Cassidy.

Ko hoku tokoua tu ne ha’u heni ahoni. Oku ou lahi aupito fiefia!

My sister is coming here tomorrow. I’m so very happy!

sailing in south pacific on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall and rob roberts

I Don’t Speak French – Just “Bike”

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Community and Culture, Traveling

sailing in south pacific on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall and rob roberts

I don’t speak French. This makes me unpopular with French people, and makes it tough to get around by myself here in French Polynesia. My husband is trying to teach me the basics as we sail from one island to the next. But my Spanish-soaked brain rebels against silent consonants, and my tongue refuses to form words that start in your throat and exhale through your nose.

Instead, I smile and nod as Rob translates, feeling isolated from the culture around us. After a couple of weeks exploring towns on tropical islands, I was itching to join a conversation all by myself. I wanted to feel connected to the communities we visited. Turns out that all I had to do was replace Rob with a half-dozen kids

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You are all with us.

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends, Reflections on Life

Roberts family

We just changed the clocks back again. Every time we gain another hour, I feel a tangible stretch in my connection back home. Our next time change — in just a couple of weeks — will span an entire 25 hours. We’ll lose a whole day as we cross the International Dateline near Tonga, and I’ll be ever further from the daily routine of my loved ones in the States.

I’m approaching the outer limits of time spent away from my family. I can feel that time accumulating in my bones and in my breast, weighing heavy as I dive down to see tropical coral and exotic fish. I’m curious how the weight will change as more months pass — will I just wake up one morning and declare that I simply must fly home? Will I grow used to the separation and learn to live with the weight more easily?

the family

After five months out, everything back home is captured in a lovely rosy glow. A glow that purposefully enhances the good and fuzzes out any ickiness. I can picture our neighborhood, my parents’ kitchen, my sister and her big dog walking by the creek, our king-sized bed that’s bigger than the boat we’re now living on. I miss it all. But I’m not ready to go back yet.

I think about my friends and my family every single day. You are all with us out here: under the water, counting the minutes until the passage is complete, marveling at colors and stars and sharks, bemoaning the rocking stove, exclaiming at the number of sharks, laughing at the absurdness of floating a small boat across a giant s ea, changing the clocks back surely but slowly as that small boat keeps sailing west.

travel south pacific island rob brianna dateline

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Rearview Moon

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends, Reflections on Life

sunset while sailing in polynesia on the horizon line blog brianna randall and rob roberts

Ka-chook, ka-chook. Sshhhh. Sshhhh. Ka-chook, ka-chook. The sound of the paddleboard on the flat, calm surface of the water seems too loud in the so-still night air. I paddle farther from the dark sailboats anchored behind me, looking for more quiet. More alone. More space. More uninterrupted moonlight to glide over.

It’s the solstice. I keep thinking it’s the summer solstice, because that’s what’s supposed to happen in June. But here in the southern hemisphere, it’s the shortest day of the year. It’s confusing. So’s the full moon. Somehow, I feel like I’m in two places at once tonight.

It’s probably because of the sudden easy internet access. Yesterday, Facebook, email, blogs, and world news suddenly drew me out of my present and into others’. After almost a month without contact to the outside world, it’s disconcerting. It feels like I have parallell lives: one here in Fakarava, smack in the middle of the ocean at the start of winter. The other in Missoula, surrounded by mountains budding green and bright with the start of summer. It also feels sad, because I want to picture everything in those mountains just as I left it. Like a cupboard neatly stacked, locked frozen in time until I choose to open the doors again.

But life doesn’t work that way. The doors are not mine to open or close.

This full moon is full of change. My loved ones have news of transitions. They are moving to new houses and jobs and towns, and the worst part is that I can’t picture where they are. How they’re sitting on the couch. What their back porch looks like, or the pictures above their new desk. And what happens to the old spaces that they vacate? Or the decade of memories that inhabit those spaces? Is the energy I send to those homes, offices, porches in search of their spirits resting on another person? Weird. Creepy, even.

I stop paddling and stare at the reflection of the moon beyond my little toe. It’s so much smaller reflected on the water than when I look it in the eye. Same goes for the hole in my heart. It’s hard to look longing in the eye. Much easier to peek at it in a rearview mirror, acknowledge it’s general position and then drive the other way. Tonight, though, the moon is holding no prisoners — she’s shoving my longing front and center, telling me to find my anchor rather than drift through fake reflections.

So, I did. I cried tonight. I felt that longing open wide and deep when I saw pictures of the kids looking grown-up, heard my sister’s voice, read that my mom didn’t feel good, reluctantly sent my regrets for not attending a wedding. I took a deep breath, burning down the back of my achy throat. “Look where you are,” I said sternly to myself. “Give thanks for this place, this moment, this moon on this water. The grass is not greener in Montana, merely a different texture.”

Sshhh. Sshhh. I spend a moment on the flat saltwater disengaging my brain and heart from the flurry of my friends, my home, my family back home. I send my love through the wavering moonbeams. And then I paddle back, ka-chook ka-chook, to Wizard, where Rob is drawing pictures of fish and the wonderful couple sharing their boat with us is sleeping soundly.

I paddled through the shortest night of the year on a winter solstice that felt like the warmest summer night I could remember, holding two worlds in the space of a small reflection riding next to my little toe.

 

brianna randall eating a mango - on the horizon line sailing

My Birthday Present From You

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Community and Culture, Family and Friends

brianna randall eating a mango - on the horizon line sailing

Today’s my birthday.  33 years old, just after our 33-day Pacific passage.  I’m in paradise for my birthday, sailing to a tropical island to snorkel with sharks and gorging on mangoes (my favorite fruit) to celebrate.  I feel blessed.

I have only one wish for my birthday from readers: check out Mamalode.com today to read my published story about why Rob and I choose to find friends under age 12.  Other than that, the other items that top my birthday list are a bit more existential.

  1. Cuddling at night. It’s too hot to touch anyone.
  2. IPA, especially Blackfoot IPA. No alcohol onboard during our month-long passage.
  3. Dancing and headstands.
  4. Our sofa.
  5. Girlfriends.  And boyfriends.  And our family community.

Even though all I really need are mangoes, Rob, and a daily rainbow, here are the material things I miss most in the middle of the ocean:

  1. More cotton clothes. Polyester feels icky when it’s salty.
  2. Pictures of family and friends.
  3. Lightweight folding camp chair.
  4. A huge stash of dark chocolate.
  5. Strong tea and espresso.

While I’m at it, I’d like to give thanks for this list of my favorite things I brought with me:

  1. Pillow
  2. Yoga mat
  3. Guitar
  4. Face wipes (thanks, Mom!)
  5. Music

And for the things I left behind and won’t have to deal with in the upcoming year:

  1. To-do lists
  2. Socks and shoes
  3. Jeans
  4. Working
  5. Cold

 

 

 

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