What 2020 Taught Us

Change.  Uncertainty.  Creativity.  Perseverance.  2020 taught us many things.  For Phillip and I, it was truly a wake-up call, in that we have always been committed to traveling as far and as broad as our work, lifestyles, and incomes allow, but we never dreamed the end-goal that we are committed to (international travel) could simply disappear, be shut down, like the flip of a switch.  *click*. “Sorry we’re closed,” said The World.  The pandemic showed Phillip and me many of the things we thought would always be there—open ports of call, the ability to travel anywhere as long you have a passport, the freedom of it all—just might not be there tomorrow.  What a revelation.  As I’m sure it was for many of you with all of the things you had planned to do: start a business perhaps, start cruising, finally take that trip to Jordan, or South Africa, or Peru, take your kids overseas, finally attend that once in a lifetime concert, go to a Super Bowl game, finally make that trip you’ve been promising for years to visit a friend or family member who lives abroad.  We all thought we would have plenty of time to do those things.  But, with the change and uncertainty that 2020 brought to those plans, it also pushed us all towards creativity and perseverance. 

Out of COVID, I was delighted to see people dig deep creatively and start creating art they had been holding back for a lifetime.  People got creative in businesses and services they offered.  Entrepreneur opportunities they felt they never had time for before—when their world was full to the brim with all of their regular, everyday “stuff to do”—now people suddenly had time and a mad desire to finally tackle those things way down on their list.  It was inspiring to watch many people shift and change direction under the pressure.  Like diamonds forming, I saw brave, new artists and musicians emerge.  People who had never really written before were now finally trying to write their first book (and coming to me for self-publishing advice) or finally starting that blog they felt they always had in them.  People built new structures, created new products, took up new hobbies, and designed new systems and solutions to problems they had previously always faced but never—in the mad swirl of life as normal—had time to try to address. 

It all reminded me of an observation the dockmaster, Steven, in Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands, Bahamas pointed out to Phillip and me when we were keeping our boat there for hurricane season 2019.  If any of you have traversed the Berry Islands in the last few decades as well as more recently, you have surely noticed the sad atrocity that has become of Little Stirrup Cay, now known as Carnival Cruiseline’s “Coco Cay.”  It is an absolute circus.  A monstrosity of money, forced distraction, and shallow entertainment.  It is USA’s version of the typical American “vacation” on steroids.  Where there was once untouched, pristine Bahamian beauty to explore, enjoy and use creatively, entertainment is now shoved in your face on a platter. You don’t have to put any thought into how you spend your time. Just slide down the stories-tall, super-powered water slide, go for a hot air balloon ride, thump to ear-busting electric music, down five sugary Coco Crash drinks, alongside a pile of processed, fried some-kinda fish (we think), and then lie down and bake on a crowded, loud beach … with 2,000 of your closest friends.  Then head back to your enclosed, air-conditioned cabin on your oil-guzzling cruise ship so big it blocks the sun.  Sign me up.  NOT!

Seeing the very visual transition from untouched island to multi-colored madhouse makes me think Coco Cay is a metaphor for the world—a wild, distracting circus that has consumed its own resources.

Little Stirrup Cay pre-Coco
Coco Cay
Little Stirrup Cay’s pristine, isolated beach pre-Coco
A beach day, Coco-style, with 2,000 of your close friends : (

While I will readily admit the “circus” is good for the tourist economy of the Berry Islands, and it certainly employs hundreds of Bahamians who live around Coco Cay and who ferry over every day to “clock in” and man the monkeys, when I asked Steven how he felt about Coco Cay, he was very candid.  “It sucked da creativity outta da locals,” he said.  Steven explained those who had been bringing in lobsters or other fish to sell, weaving palm frond baskets to bring to the market, playing live music for tips, braiding hair in their own home-built pop-up salon, cooking and selling their homemade heirloom recipes to cruisers or marina transients simply stopped when they all found work at Coco Cay.  “Now dey jus get up, go to Coco, work ‘n come back.  No time for anyting creative.  Too busy on the clock,” as he tapped his watch with a frown and a shrug.  That really stuck with me when Steven said it (back in 2019, mind you, well before any of us had ever heard the word “Coronavirus” or “social distancing”).  Then, when I saw what COVID did globally—shutting down the Coco Cay employment factories of the world if you will—I was reminded of Steven’s words as I watched people find their creativity again and find new methods to express themselves and earn an income.  That part of COVID was actually very cool.  The creativity and the perseverance that resulted. Where previously, the world, functioning normally, simply handed us all a platter of things to do everyday without any room for choice as to how we were actually spending our time. Once COVID hit, many of us found all of this time now available to make a more conscious, intentional decision as to how we spent it. And, in that space, many of us got creative and far more careful about how we spent our time.

All of that said, 2020 definitely made Phillip and I scrutinize our own future plans through a much different lens, basing our decisions now on the possibility that everything could change in a moment.  Because we now know it can.  In 2021 or the years to come ports could shut down, borders could close, travel as we knew it, pre-COVID, may not always be as open as we had always simply expected it to be.  With that mindset, Phillip and I started asking ourselves some really intense questions about how we wanted to spend our time over the next 5-10 years (probably our best, healthiest remaining cruising years) and what we would need to do to make that happen, particularly in the face of a still-lingering, and perhaps re-igniting, pandemic.  Our simple answer:

IT IS TIME TO GO.

WE NEED TO GET THE BOAT READY TO TRULY SHOVE OFF AND TRAVERSE THE WORLD.

To do this, we needed to prepare the boat to make the long voyages we have always dreamed of, and enable her to stay off the grid as long as possible (because the grid may be shut down from time to time), while allowing us to work comfortably aboard as that is now easier than ever to do post-pandemic.  In essence, it was time to finally make our boat all that we had dreamed her to be when we first bought her and start making concrete plans and goals to get us to the point where Phillip and I could cross the Atlantic, just the two of us, and begin cruising all over Europe, to Spain, Portugal, back to the Azores, France, the UK, the Med, Italy, Greece, all of it.  As far as the boat could go, capably and comfortably, became our immediate goal.

With all of the change and uncertainty it brought to the world, COVID taught us: It is time to make our own future and go. 

Hurricane Sally, having survived her, told us—pandemic or peril—we would persevere, if we got creative.

On our “Coronavirus Cruise” we called it, sailing our limping boat back home from the Berry Islands in March, 2020.

And, so we now begin the telling of the tale that will turn the page in our scripts, as 2020 did for many of us.  The year of the pandemic and the hurricane that brought us to the brink set Phillip and I spinning on a new trajectory.  Next, we’ll start sharing with you the creation of our Atlantic-crossing, live-aboard list, the needs, the wants, the desires, the headaches, the worries, the fears.  We were contemplating a re-power, a water maker, a new auto, more solar, more tankage, satellite wifi, heat, AC?  There were only a thousand things to consider and start tallying up.  It is an exciting new chapter, followers, that we are chomping at the bit to share with you.  And, it all ignited as a result of the change, uncertainty, creativity, and perseverance that sprouted out of that weird, wild year.  Stay tuned and, tell us, what did 2020 teach you?

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