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.


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

Riding the Mae Hong Son Loop with 2 1/2 in Thailand. On the Horizon Line Blog with Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts on motorcycle.

I Never Wanted A Crotch Rocket

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Mamalode, Outdoor Adventures, Pregnancy

My husband says that having a pregnant wife is like riding on the back of a motorcycle—you give up control, replace it with trust, and hold on for dear life. He told me that after I declared that riding on the back of our rented motorcycle for a week in northern Thailand was an exercise in letting go.

Let me be clear, here: I am not a motorcycle chick. I harbor no fantasies of riding crotch rockets around tight turns. I have been on the back of a bike only once before, during our honeymoon in Niue—a tiny island with one very flat road. Yet, somehow, it still seemed like a good idea to rent a bike for a week to see more remote reaches of Thailand. Keep reading by clicking here!

This story appears on my Mamalode monthly column. I earn a few dimes for each person that visits this online article, so click away!

Traveling through Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma) - On the Horizon Line with Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts

The Wilderness of Mandalay

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Community and Culture, Traveling

The Republic of the Union of Myanmar, a.k.a. Burma. Our 11th country this year, and by far the least developed. This country is truly a melting pot of hundreds of ethnic groups and religions, it’s borders hugging Bangladesh, India, Laos, Thailand, and China. Burma was a colony of Great Britain until 1948, lumped together with India for the majority of English rule. It just opened to tourists after Myanmar’s brutal 50-year dictatorship formally ended in 2011. Many parts of the country are still “off limits” to visitors, and all foreigners must get a visa from a Myanmar embassy before arriving.

We flew from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Mandalay, Myanmar’s northern urban center. Rob and I wanted to see Asia’s second largest country in Asia before tourism whitewashed its culture. And we were searching for a less trendy, more gritty destination than Thailand, which is overrun by foreigners looking for elephant rides, tiger-petting, and/or easy access to sex, drugs and alcohol.

Traveling through Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma) - On the Horizon Line with Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts

Our arrival in Mandalay’s deserted airport was heralded by enthusiastic taxi drivers in longyi, the traditional cloth wrap that men and women wear around their hips. We serenaded a half-dozen of these taxi drivers with a Johnny Cash song on our trusty Panamanian guitar in the parking lot. The men’s remaining teeth were stained blood red with beetlenut juice when they smiled, clapping along to the song.

In Thailand, we were constantly trying to escape the smoke of the summer burn season. We rode our rented motorcycle into the mountains near Chiang Mai, hoping to find moist forest and blue skies – to no avail. But when we drove into Mandalay at dusk, Thailand suddenly seemed like an environmental paradise. The dusky light of sunset revealed a scene more like India than Asia: a free-for-all of swerving traffic, people bathing in canals along the highway, food vendors selling from trays balanced on their heads, men pulling wooden carts loaded high and heavy. A cloud of choking dust from the dirt roads hung suspended in the air, mixing with wood-fire smoke and black exhaust.

Traveling through Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma) - On the Horizon Line with Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts

After chucking our bags into a government-approved tourist hotel room (ET Hotel), we set off to find dinner. Walking amidst the traffic and dust was an adventure, with no sidewalks and no streetlights to help navigate potholes, trash piles and the ubiquitous motorbikes. Breathing was a challenge, too, and our eyes stung as we watched the street scene over our fried rice and veggie platters.

Amidst the traffic and poor air quality, we made the potentially ridiculous choice to rent bikes to pedal through Mandalay the next day. They were hilarious bikes, old single-speed cruisers made for the barely-five-foot-tall tiny people that populate Myanmar. I felt like I was riding a unicycle, since the seat and pedals were so close together. Rob looked like two giant knees.

Turns out that it’s actually easier to bike than to walk in Mandalay. You feel a part of the impenetrable flow of traffic rather than at war with it. Setting off early, we headed to the ancient walled city to see the palace of King Mindon. We went slowly, taking in the sights: tiny stools where locals sat and spat beetlenut, tea houses, oily chapatis, orange juice stands, millions of scooters, a parade of Burmese girls with painted faces sitting in flatbed trucks, a game of hacky-sack volleyball. Everyone smiled and waved as we passed, still enamored by the novelty of white tourists in their midst.

We joined the endless streams of bikes and cars and tractors that edged out in clumps from intersections, using critical mass to cross main streets in lieu of a traffic light. A teak monastery was the highlight of our tour, intricately carved with thousands of buddhas and gargoyles and who knows what. After a lunch of delicious Shan noodles (khao suey), we beat a hasty retreat to the hotel before the 100-degree heat set in.

Traveling through Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma) - On the Horizon Line with Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts

That evening, we resumed the bike tour and headed west from downtown to find the Ayerwaddy River, the largest in the country. Rudyard Kipling called the river the “road to Mandalay” in his famous 1890 poem about Burma. And a road it is – a network of irrigation canals and transportation routes that link the north and south. This watery road was full of boats, people bathing, pipes collecting water and dumping waste, thatch huts lining the sandy shores. A busy and overwhelming place, far removed from my Montana-girl’s mental and emotional definition of “river.”

I realized as we biked home, coughing, in the growing darkness that Rob and I keep searching for the Southeast Asian version of “wilderness,” just as we searched out the South Pacific’s underwater version of “wilderness.” We seek out untouched nature to explore. But the pristine places we associate with our definition of wilderness – the back woods, remote rivers, uninhabited peaks of Montana – don’t exist here. People have been using every scrap of land and water for millennia to simply survive.

Traveling through Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma) - On the Horizon Line with Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts

The real wilderness in Asia lies within its seething cities. This is where the raw, primal, impenetrable and vast exist – in the region’s humming mass of people who are, after all, very much a part of nature. The wilderness of Mandalay or Bangkok or Yangon is just as challenging to navigate as the wilderness of Montana. We need a different set of survival skills, but many of our tools are the same: a water purifier, a headlamp, a med kit, a map, a sense of humor, patience.

This realization was both humbling and helpful. It let me ease into the city just a bit, rather than hold it at bay. But it still didn’t make me want to stay in Mandalay. As we returned the bikes for the day and paid our $2 each, I was undeniably relieved to be getting on a train to Kyaukme in the morning to begin a trek through tea-growing villages in the mountains of Myanmar. Even if they are a hard-working landscape rather than a wilderness, mountains will always feel more like home than a city.

The Baby Picture Mission

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Mamalode, Pregnancy, Traveling

Rob and I piled into the 1990 mauve sedan with a Kiwi, a Brit, three ukeleles, two guitars and a mandolin. The car pointed southwest for the three-hour drive from Auckland to Tauranga, windows down, keeping time with our own clapping and strumming since the radio didn’t work.

We were mid-stream through the Rob-entitled “Baby Picture Mission.” This road trip was neither short nor impromptu – the planning began in early November, after I peed on a stick to confirm I was knocked up. The trip itself kicked off on February 3rd aboard a tiny plane carrying us away from Vava’u, our Tongan home for almost six months. The goal? To get to some first-world medical professionals for my first trimester pregnancy testing.

You can’t get an ultrasound or a blood test done in Vava’u. Hell, I couldn’t even get a urine culture done when I had an infection at 8 weeks pregnant – they had to send it 100+ miles away to Tongatapu. That meant we had to figure out a new country and a new medical system, pronto.

Let me make a big, bold note here: Rob and I are not usually planners when it comes to traveling. We like last-minute, see-what-happens kind of adventures. No booking hotels in advance. No renting cars or buying bus tickets months ahead. Just go.

But we spent hours and hours planning ahead for the Baby Picture Mission. We called midwives and doctors, radiology centers and pathology labs, trying to get price quotes and procedures for non-residents. We booked tickets and contacted everyone we knew in New Zealand to try to find housing.

Here’s what we learned: the test HAD to be done between 11 and 13 weeks. No exception. Which, based on flight availability, weekends and lots of random public holidays, left us with a two-day window to get all the visits done. And we also learned that doctors and midwives don’t like to see patients for a “one-off” prenatal appointment. In New Zealand, the government pays for all health care costs, but that isn’t the case with non-residents. We create an unnecessary headache for medical professionals used to doing things a certain way.

We decided to do the tests in Tauranaga instead of Auckland, partly because we finally found someone willing to see us there. And partly because a friend of ours offered us her parents’ house as a base camp in Tauranga, since they were traveling the week. Perfect.

We settled into road trip mentality as we lifted off from Vava’u. Unfortunately, our 4pm flight was one of the hottest, most uncomfortable plane flights ever experienced. Not only was it a 12-seater mini-plane dating from 1964 with no air conditioning, it was also full of Tongans – the humans with the highest body mass ratio on the planet. This did not help the heat situation in the plane. No one passed out, luckily.

Next up on the road trip: spending the night in a hostel in Nuku’alofa, the capitol city of Tonga, since the mini-plane didn’t arrive in time to catch the daily Air New Zealand flight. Rob had a fever all night from a coral-infected cut, making it almost as hot in the shitty bed as it had been in the plane. Our arrival in Auckland had us drinking in the cool southern breezes like camels in the desert.

Phase two of the road trip involved meeting up with our friends, Billy and Magenta, and driving from Auckland to Tauranga the day after we arrived in New Zealand. Enter the Mauve Mobile and musical instruments. Everyone was jolly and excited, ready to see the baby on the big screen … until the message came in a few miles outside of Auckland. “So sorry, Bri, but you can’t stay at my parents’ house anymore.” Screech!

The music halted and jolliness ceased as our foursome discussed options. None were great. I was stressed. Tears were starting to leak. We stayed at a hostel (again) in Tauranga instead, adding another $100 to the bill. And then another $75, since we decided to lift our spirits with dinner out for 4 at an Indian restaurant, which refreshed our Tongan-weary palates.

The next morning, bright and chipper, Rob and I walked to our doctor appointment at 8:30 AM. Only they had NO record of our appointment. At all. And the ultrasound was scheduled for 10:00 AM, which can’t happen without a doctor’s referral. I was stressed. More tears leaked. Rob remained calm. We happened to be in the lobby of an “Accident Health Care Center.” A pregnancy could potentially be considered an accident, right? First come, first serve, said the sign. We were first. We forked over $80 and went in to see the unsuspecting Dr. Scott.

He was slightly confused, but obliging. After a quick blood pressure and urine check, along with the requisite “don’t drink or smoke while pregnant” speech, we walked out with two referrals in hand: one for the baby picture and one for blood work.

Billy and Magenta picked us up in the Mauve Mobile, swooping us over to the radiology center. Giddy with excitement, all four of us piled into the itsy-bitsy scan room. The Kiwi radiologist was less than impressed with our giddiness. She made Rob turn the camera off, and glared at Billy every time he made me giggle, since it bounced her wand off my uterus. Magenta asked how big the baby was, and got a frigid stare , along with the clipped answer, “I will tell you once I accurately measure it.” Rob broached a tentative, “So, um, can you tell me what, exactly, we’re looking at here?” He was answered with her exasperated sigh along with a contemptuous, “The baby, sir.”

We persevered through her disdain, crying and laughing and exclaiming over the alien chicken in my belly. It sure looked, um, cute? But, seriously, it was miraculous and mind-blowing to see the baby moving inside of me. Truly surreal, and worth every penny of the $226 fee.

It was also quite a relief:. At almost 13 weeks pregnant, no one had actually checked to make sure that I was pregnant yet. (Besides that one made-in-China pee stick I bought at the only pharmacy in Tonga.) The baby picture team members high-fived outside the office. We saw it! It worked! Only one task left: get the blood work finished so they could send the scan and the blood in for a statistical analysis of the likelihood of chromosomal diseases. Except … you guessed it.

Something went wrong.

Dr. Scott didn’t order the right blood tests. So, back we went to see him. And waited for an hour while he called all kinds of people, trying to figure out what form he needed to sign “in triplicate” for the test. Then we had to drive to another medical center to get the correct form, since he didn’t have it, and bring it back for him to fill out.

I was stressed. Tears were now deluging. The team was running in circles trying to calm me down.

I sent them all for kebabs while I waited (and waited) for the blood work. My name was called, and I handed in my form … only to be told it was the wrong form. Dr. F-ing Scott had filled out the wrong part of the triplicate form. I was stressed. Tears gushed forth. My story of woe came out in a rush, and convinced the very nice grandmother taking my blood that she would take matters into her own hands: she forged the doctor’s signature. Thank the lord. Four vials of blood and another $220 later, I was eating my own kebab and staring at the picture of the baby.

“Thanks, you guys. That was not an easy day, and I appreciate all of your support,” I said to Rob and our friends. “Check it out – the baby totally has Rob’s nose.”

“Rob, is there something you wanna tell us?” asked Billy, in mock seriousness.

“Yeah, Rob,” said Magenta. “Are you an alien chicken, or what?”

“No, but you are,” replied my mature husband.

And we were back to road trip priorities: practicing what it’s like to be a five-year-old so that we’re well-rehearsed when we have one of our own.



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Farewell, Tonga

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Reflections on Life, Traveling

Dear Tonga,

It’s been a fabulous five months.  You really pulled out all of the stops for our stay here, from pretty fish and sandy beaches to dance parties and band performances.  We particularly loved living on a sailboat in Vava’u’s flat, calm waters (nicknamed “lolo,” or oil, in Tongan).

Maybe next time you can hold off on the cyclone, though, ok?

Diving, fishing, kayaking and snorkeling every day around many of your lush green islands was rad.  Riding a quad bike through Neiafu for the weekly grocery runs was way more fun than using a car, and eating ice cream cones along the main drag was pretty cool, too.  Your people welcomed us with open arms, gathering us right into the fold.  It’s nice to live in a community where everyone knows your name.

In Vava’u, we learned to play two new musical instruments (the ukulele and mandolin), hosted my sister for a month, learned to windsurf (well, one of us did), and tried out kite-boarding.  We also got to be pretend-parents for a couple of weeks.  We learned to slow down some, too, and just sit still with friends.

Sadly, we have to say goodbye now.  Or at least “toki sio,” until our next visit.  Why are we leaving your warm waters and happy shores?  Because we’re crazy?  Maybe.  But it’s time to move on.  Rob and I promised ourselves adventure on this voyage across the seas, and it’s gotten just a tad too comfortable here in Tonga.  We’re ready to challenge ourselves again, to be thrilled by foreign languages and customs, and to immerse ourselves in slightly uncomfortable sensations.

We’re ready for a new country.  A new continent.  New sights, sounds, tastes, textures.  Tomorrow we leave for New Zealand, where we’ll spend a few weeks catching up with many of the friends we made as we sailed through the South Pacific.  After that, Rob and I are gonna spend a few months in Southeast Asia, a place that’s new to us both.  We plan to explore by land and by sea, via boats, buses, scooters and our trusty feet.

Thanks for everything, Tonga.  We already miss you.  We hope to be back again soon.  Nofo a!

Readers: go to our Facebook page for a “Best of Tonga” photo album.  And stay tuned for a “Best of the South Pacific” album, too!

Click here to see our "Best of Tonga" photo album.

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.

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

Happy 4th from Tahiti!

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends, Traveling

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

Happy 4th of July, friends and family!

First off, Tahiti says hello. She asked me to reach out palm fronds and rainbows, and blow wet sandy kisses toward you. It’s a cool volcanic island. Big. And way more crowded than we’re used to, after our month at sea and another month in more remote and deserted islands east of here. We’re overwhelmed by the choices at the magasin, where food offerings include more than pancake syrup and canned sausage. The hub of the South Pacific.

Second, we miss you all like hell. We think about you often, talk about what you’re up to, and how you’re faring. How odd it is that you all have new successes, adventures, challenges that we aren’t apart of. Most often, though, we talk about what it would be like to have one, two, or (best case) ALL of you with us. We bring you into different moments, visualizing how helpful it would be to have you by our side when we’re seasick or cranky, how awesome to snorkel with you through bright, vibrant fish, how cozy to sip coffee with you while anchored in turquoise water, how much we’d laugh at faux pas as we feel our way through the lessons of sailing and traveling. And then Rob and I sigh. We stay quiet for a few moments to savor the vision, and then return to reality.

Reality is pretty f-ing great, too. But know that it would be exponentially more unbelievable to share it with our favorite people.

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

Which brings us to the third point: come share this reality with us. Anyone want to take a winter vacation south of the equator?

Of course, that would mean we would have to know where we’ll be six months from now … and we rarely know where we’ll be six days forward. This morning, though, Rob and I sat with our map of islands and countries west of here. We had a big-kid talk about realistic goals for the rest of this sailing season. Here’s an update on our potential travel schedule for the next several months. Before reading on, however, a word of warning: this is all subject to change at any moment. Most of the fun for us lies in the ability to be completely flexible!

– Our 90-day visa in French Polynesia ends in late August, so we expect to stay in the Society Islands (Moorea, Bora Bora, Raiatea, Tahaa) for another ~6 weeks.

– Then we’ll likely hitchhike (sailhike? hitchsail?) to the Cook Islands, the next closest island chain, and spend 2-4 weeks exploring.

– After that, Tonga is top on the list of must-see countries. It’s the next major hub for cruisers heading west, and sounds like amazing sailing grounds. Rob and I hope to spend up to two months hopping around these islands.

– By then, it’ll be late October or early November, when sailboats are heading to safe spots to weather the hurricane season. Since we don’t have a boat, we’re in no rush to leave the islands. A couple of options for where we might be from November to February:

1) Head to American Samoa to spend some time on land. The Samoan island chain is diverse, with plenty of places to dive, snorkel, explore. We might even look for some temporary work for a few months. (Might be the key word!)
2) We know of lots of boats that plan to end their trip in November once the weather window ends. Many folks cross the Pacific, and then store or sell their boat in Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia or even Fiji. Rob and I will put out feelers to see if anyone needs a “boat sitter” during the off-season.
3) Someone offers us a killer deal on a sweet sailboat and we buy our own floating home and take off into the sunset. This is fairly unlikely, since we’re both still reveling in our lack of responsibilities, and owning a sailboat is a lot of work, money and headaches.

After that? Who the hell knows. We can barely wrap our head around where we might end up in the next 3 days, much less next year. But the current longer-term vision is to keep going. We really want to see Indonesia and Southeast Asia, too, and aren’t at all done exploring the South Pacific yet. We hope to hit up Melanesia (Solomans and Vanuatu) next March through July. And we’re even considering a trip home to Montana next summer before beginning the Indo/Asia portion of our adventure, so we can see your new houses, kiss the babies, and celebrate life with all of you.

There you have it, a rough agenda, which will likely change as quickly as the wind. Next season seems like eons from now, across so much space and time, so many un-met people and unknown circumstances that it makes me laugh to write down plans.

We hope you are all enjoying American independence in beautiful places with glorious people.

We miss you!
-Bri and Rob

sailing to sunrise on the horizon line

We’re Halfway There on This Gyrating Merry-Go-Round

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in Ocean Tales, Reflections on Life, Sailing

A gyrating merry-go-round,
we teeter-totter across the sea.
60,000 pounds of steel turned tiny rubber duckie at the whim of wandering waves.

The American flag whips in tatters, the stripes stripped into ragged ribbons.
Persevering. Presiding. Present.
Like the rest of us.

Each day a repeat of the next or the last
until the uneven rhythm of teeter-tottering echoes through
every cell, meal, word, step, dream.

Until — after 1,000 miles — you want to scream:
At the flogging sails snapping against your sunbaked nerves.
At your sleeping-again seasick husband leaving you to jellyfish stings in seawater dish suds.

Until — after 2,000 miles — you want to sing:
To the dolphins dancing in moonlight and the single orca that surfaces alongside.
To the power of passing squalls that bequeath gin-clear drops to drink.

Noise become your constant companion:
The goblin-growl of the groaning auto-pilot, the rattle of loose pots, the whistle of rigging.
The slide of hanging clothes, the swoosh of waves over your head as you sleep.

Back and forth, forth and back. Back. Forward.
My bones rocking, gnawing, rubbing, riding, swiveling.
My brains swishing and sloshing on the gyrating merry-go-round.

We chant to the sails: keep full.
We dance for the wind: don’t leave.
We plead to the waves: stay out.

We’re halfway there: can’t you tell?
The blue water looks bluer, the white clouds whiter.
Halfway is directly below my Montana home.

Over and up, down and around.
We circle a straight course.
I circle my own midline.

It’s all the same: a movie set of false sunsets and frothy whitecaps.
There is no middle, there is no end.
Or perhaps the middle is it’s own end.

I stare at starry skies, searching for my personal revelation.
I listen to waving seas waiting to hear the meaning of life.
I taste the salt on my shoulder, in my hair, hoping it will move me to meditate.

But revelations refuse to alight on our swinging mast.
Meaning can’t break through the noise and movement.
There’s no room for mediation amidst daily survival.

You have to stay still to receive the benefit.
You have to stay still to hear the ending.
We are never still.

Only a salty slingshot slippery sliding
rolling pitching creaking rocking flogging singing laughing
forever blue merry-go-round teeter-tottering across the endless sea.

palapa in baja california on the horizon line blog

Stolen Pride (and lots of other stuff)

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in Traveling

palapa in baja california on the horizon line blogIt’s April Fools Day.  Now, if only someone would pop out and yell, “Just kidding!  Here’s all your stuff back.”  We awoke after our 5th night under the open air palapa at Alan and Bequia’s place in Pescadero to another bright sunny morning in paradise … only to find that the backpack full of our favorite electronics had disappeared.  Yup.  Stolen.

Someone snatched our brand new MacBook Air, iPhone, Hero GoPro, Panasonic camera, sound recording equipment, iTouch and all their assorted accouterments right out from under our feet.  Literally: the bag was two inches from Rob’s left foot.

Rob went into Macgyver mode, finding the out-of-place footprints amidst our Croc and flip-flop prints.  He tracked the thief’s prints for almost a mile through the sand, up an arroyo, and down the road until they disappeared.  Meanwhile, I called bank accounts and dealt with the logistics of changing our online passwords and reorganizing our electronic-dependent lives.  We reported it with the Todos Santos policia, who said, “Yeah, there’s a lot of theft here lately  Buena suerte.”

I keep running through what should’ve been done differently, and how we could’ve prevented this.  I’ve been to Mexico dozens of times, and never been robbed.  I’ve  never had any trouble at all, in fact.  The luck ran out.  It’ll take weeks before we stop blaming ourselves for our carelessness, beating ourselves up for being dumb: why didn’t we separate the valuables better?  Why didn’t we lock them in the car?  Why didn’t we hear the intruder and wake up? ,Why. why, why??

The sting will last for days, but hopefully these lessons learned will last even longer:

– Although we lost much of what we wanted, we are left with everything we need.

– Keeping it simple is less stressful in the long run.

– Bad things will happen.  Anywhere.  And they will serve to highlight the good.

– We only lost things that can replaced with money or time.

– Our friends are solid gold.  Thanks to Katie and Mark (who are letting us use their computer to type this) and Alan and Bequia (who gave us their Olympus camera so we can take photos on our Pacific crossing) for their support, smiles, and footprint-tracking skills.

– Perhaps this voyage will be enriched by lightening our load, and by spending less time viewing our experiences through electronic devices.

– Sometimes you don’t get to choose your donations to society.

Next steps?  Well, we’re not going cold-turkey on the electronics.  We plan to find a cheap laptop in Panama pronto, so that we can keep writing and keep in touch.  I sure loved that MacBook Air, though.  Sigh.



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