The first thing you learn onboard a 46-footer yacht is that your entire world is just that; 46 feet of wood and steel. The second thing you realise is that out here, there is no escaping your choices. No planes or buses to take you away, should you grow tired of the endless rocking and rolling of the world under your feet or the monotone expanse of blue.
I lock my jaw to fight off another surge of nausea as the small yacht rides another wave and lurches. Igor smiles with the entirety of his broad Icelandic face and gives me a pat on the shoulder; ‘Don’t worry mate. We’ve only got a few thousand kilometres to go.’
I had met Igor dancing in the rain at my hostel in Panama City. I was bored and the rain mirrored my restless mood. He approached my table claiming he had bought too many beers and would I like one? Igor was a solid unit, with short hair and an angular face. But his laugh was contagious and he liked my weird sense of humour. As the hours passed, we bought each other more beers, boogied to the pulsating beats of salsa and drifted through the night air which was alive with the sounds of laughter, chatter of familiar strangers and the smell of damp earth.
I remember at some point, inebriated and spurred on by the thumping, swirling energy of a thousand adventurous souls around us, Igor and I agreed that I should join him and his uncle on their sailing trip across the Atlantic from Panama to their homeland. Was this the universe telling me where to go?
The third thing you realise onboard a 46-footer yacht is that after weeks on water, the very idea of land existing seems almost absurd and fantastical. So you let go of your memories of shore. As the wind untangles your mind and sets it free, the nausea eventually gives way to steady feet, the monotony to spectacular sunsets and finally, doubt to triumph.
Except that for me, it never did.
The next morning, hungover and scattered, I let my fears and doubts get the best of me. I thought of how that yacht would be my entire world and how there wouldn’t be any planes or buses to take me away. The universe had gone quiet. Igor and his uncle left Panama a week later. I made my way down to Brazil and after a few months headed home from there.
But to this day, I still wonder how Igor and his uncle fared. I think of that night, and how the trips which we never take, the fears we never face, and the decisions we never make, shape us as much as the ones we do.
And how, that ocean that I never crossed, is one of the places I’ll never forget.