Tuamotus

On the third day at sea, we arrived to an atoll in the north of the Tuamotus. To give you an idea of what we’re talking about, if you don’t already know, an atoll  (from wikipedia) is a ring-shaped coral reef that encircles a lagoon partially or completely. There may be coral islands or cays on the rim. The coral of the atoll often sits atop the rim of an extinct seamount or volcano which has eroded or subsided partially beneath the water. The Tuamotu archipelago that belongs to French Polynesia consists of 75 atolls. It was a rainy and windy morning and the only entrance to the atoll looked even more scary than what we had imagined.

Luckily, maybe by some divine intervention, at the same time of our arrival, another sailboat was there, a catamaran, navigating the pass without any problems as to letting us know, that everything was going to be ok. That gave us enough encouragement to try it ourselves, and without waiting any longer, we motored through the narrow pass, and made it through safely.

Inside the atoll to the left of the pass, we saw two other boats at anchor and decided to find our own spot behind them. We set the anchor safely and sat in the cockpit to take in this amazingly different place.

In front of us we could see 4 or 5 small houses set between palm trees and sand. To the left and right, we could see a narrow rim of sand, reef and palm trees. Behind us and all around us, all there was was water.  I felt so remote.

We went downstairs, had long showers, cooked a wonderful hot breakfast and fell asleep. It was 24th of December. We had finally arrived to a destination that we had always dreamt about. It felt surreal. The wind was still howling but we were protected in our anchorage.

For the next 3 and a half months we stayed in this part of the world. Every day we got more and more used to our surroundings. The weather would sometimes change and become calm and so glassy we could see our reflections on the water’s surface. We quickly learned to coexist  with our neighbours the millions of fish that visited us to get some little scraps of our food , the noisy birds that were on a constant feeding frenzy and the many sharks that came to do the rounds every day.

We met our human neighbours too, we didn’t have too many of those but thankfully the ones we had, were really nice, and being in such an isolated place, made our newly made bonds even stronger. We shared some good surf sessions with them, had bonfires on the beach, went spear fishing and  sailed together to other parts of the atoll.

We spent most of our time in this one atoll. We didn’t feel the need to move from it because we found everything we liked here: good waves, beautiful beaches and amazing ocean life. After almost two months here, we decided to explore some of the other atolls.

We sailed south through the atoll chain and arrived to one of the most visited, a Unesco World Heritage site, known for the biggest concentration of sharks in its south pass. Fakarava didn’t dissapoint. It was quite impressive and we spent almost two weeks sailing the lagoon, visiting different spots along the way and getting our minds blown away by watching all those sharks cruising around on the south pass.

We also visited the uninhabited atoll of Tahanea, where we saw a completely different behaviour by the sharks. Maybe there were a bit too curious, but we felt a bit intimidated by the closeness they wanted to have with us. Many times we decided to jump back to the dinghy because we felt that they were getting to close to our liking.

And in the atoll of Toau, we experienced our first real interaction with locals. We met Regis and Katie, two of the friendliest people we’ve ever met, welcoming us with freshly caught fish and cold coconut water.

Every day they would give us something that they had around ; some kind of local fruit called kava, bread fruit, coconut bread. They invited us one day to eat coconut crab, Mick even went with Regis to catch the crab. So we tried to reciprocate their generosity and invited them over to our boat for lunch and shared with them some magazines, clothes and fishing gear. When we said good bye they sent us off with gifts of black pearls and big smiles that we will never forget.

These months in the atolls were the icing on the cake.  We improved our free diving, wave riding, coconut harvesting, cooking and baking skills, bonfire building, we became more crafty, better at untangling the anchor from coral heads and navigating through the mazes of coral gardens across the atolls….Being in such a testing environment, where you’re so exposed to nature, so far away from everywhere, gave us so many new lessons and we felt our lives so enriched afterwards. It was an unbelievable time, that we will never forget.

Back on land

Nine months ago we left Ondular safely packed and out of the water in French Polynesia and we came back to Australia. It was a difficult decision to make but a necessary one, due to personal and financial reasons. We were confronted with having to resettle again, look for a place to live, look for work and change our mindsets of relaxation and enjoyment into productivity and routine.

The first few weeks or maybe months were a bit shocking. The Gold Coast seemed to have grown and changed so much; so many people everywhere, crowded surf, crowded shopping centres, busyness, everyone seemed trendy and in style and then there was us, trying to fit in again or at least function among it all.

It definitely was overwhelming. From our tranquil and easy-going life on the boat, in our little cocoon, just the two of us, spending everyday and all day together, to a full time job, sharing an apartment with a friend, having no time for anything.

But it has been a very positive time as well. We’ve been so lucky that we have such good friends; our friend Henk, letting us share his apartment with him for cheap rent, only a block and a half away from the ocean, simply priceless! Our friends Junior and Lisa, so thoughtfully kept their mother’s car which was going to go the wreckers, for us to use when we got home. And my friend Jenny, helping me get a job back at the school I used to work for, so yes, we’ve been so very lucky!

I started working a 10 hour day job straight away in a Language School teaching English to adults. Mick got jobs here and there, but nothing too good, until December when he landed a good job but unfortunately it was a  FIFO (fly in fly out) job, so since then we’ve only seen each other for 3 weeks because he comes home for one week and goes away again for three. It hasn’t been easy but it’s  a means to an end and it’s not forever.

On one hand, it’s been great because I really love my job. In the past, I used to teach children and although I love children for their innocence and creativity , I’m enjoying interacting with adult students so much and with this age group I don’t have to worry about behavior management which makes it all so much easier. I’ve been blessed with meeting some wonderful people who happened to be my students and to have some amazing co-workers.

On the other hand, it’s definitely hard to be apart from Mick  but we’re both so busy that time is flying by and we know that soon enough we’ll be able to be together again. This experience back on land has made our will even stronger that we definitely want to get back on Ondular and continue our journey and has made it even clearer for us that we’d like our time on board not only to be an adventure but our way of living.

Mick has been able to meet people that have been doing the same job that he’s doing now for years, spending more time apart from their families than with them, all because of money and having to pay bills; but wouldn’t you rather be broke and being able to spend time together than having money but being apart. What is life for if you’re not spending it with the people you love the most?

More and more I think the world is upside down. That our belief system is completely wrong and that we go on in life chasing the wrong things, not stopping to think for a minute and wonder, is this right? Could I do things differently?

This time on land has been testing and challenging but very enriching and has reassured us that we’d like to continue doing things differently and this time around we would see Ondular not only as a journey but as a long term lifestyle.

We get trapped by our own choices and without realizing we set ourselves for failure. The moment you make the decision that you don’t need all that stuff to be happy, that nothing that is outside of you will ever give you happiness, that’s the moment you become freer. When we stop wanting so much, we find contentment in little things and that in itself gives us freedom.

Our time on land is slowly coming to an end and soon enough we’ll be back among the ocean, falling asleep with the sound of the water caressing the hull of Ondular and rocked by the waves. We’ll be back to our simple life and away from the cars, the noise, the alarm clocks and the big shopping centres. It’ll be difficult to say good-bye to friends and family, the ones that we hold dear, but we can’t ignore our spirits calling, calling us back to sea.

 

 

 

Be as simple as you can be..

“Be as simple as you can be; you will be astonished to see how uncomplicated and happy your life can become.” Yogananda Paramahansa

I’m a true believer that we need to change our way of living. Our attitude towards achieving things and consumerism has to change. We have to definitely start asking ourselves the question: DO I REALLY NEED THIS? And I know for some of us, if we see a nice pair of shoes, although we have 5 or 10 others similar to the one that we are admiring, we would still think..yes I need that! But do we really?

Why do we need to have so much? Why do we always need to upgrade things or have the latest of everything? I know sometimes we feel pressured by society. I’ve often been in situations where I’ve been questioned about getting a new phone or a new computer because it’s already a few years old. For me, if something it’s still good and working, why do I need to change it?

Our resources are ending, we are making too much of everything and that is showing in the rubbish we produce. Electronic waste, plastic waste, it’s everywhere. There’s no where to put it and rubbish does not magically disappear; it’s now becoming a big issue, like ending in our oceans and becoming part of our food chain. The oceans are a plastic soup that we have yet to figure out how to clean.

Some people may ask, but why should I care about the oceans being polluted, that doesn’t affect me, but it does! Oceans provide so many benefits to humans, including essential nutrition, climate regulation, oxygen generation and the provision of food. We are all linked and interconnected, if the oceans are sick, we are sick as well.

It’s time for us to be the change. We are the ones who can make the right decisions towards a better world. Of course, we would hope that the leaders from all the countries in the world could take a part in this change and focus on what’s important and necessary: saving the Earth; but until they do, we can all make small changes that would create a big difference.

Let’s think before we buy. Let’s reuse, repurpose things, fix things, use them until they completely die; let’s make our lives simpler. I know, I’m talking here to a part of society that has the choice to make choices. I know there’s another part that can’t afford to make these choices, the part of society who is just surviving, day to day, figuring out what they’re going to eat, how they are going to make ends meet. But they are not really the problem, because they’re already reusing, fixing, and utilizing their resources the best way they can. It’s the other people, the people who have money to spend as they please; this is the part of society who needs to change and make more conscious choices.

This is one of the reasons why we have chosen to live on a boat. We have chosen “voluntary simplicity” (I’ve just learned that new expression from listening the other day to Teresa Carey’s TED talk, very inspiring writer and sailor) “Voluntary simplicity, or simple living, is a way of life that rejects the high-consumption, materialistic lifestyles of consumer cultures and affirms what is often just called ‘the simple life’ or ‘downshifting”. (www.simplicity collective.com)

Living simply doesn’t mean being poor, it just means living with what’s necessary, using resources wisely, desiring less. I found a quote the other day that I really believe in “the less you own, the less that owns you”. It’s just easier to have less and by wanting less or acquiring less you stop desiring. Desiring things can be tiring and I really think that the more you get the more you are going to want. Humans, we are never completely satisfied.

Before making the move, we were living in a flat, waking up, going to work, coming home, cooking, going to sleep, and starting all over again the next day. We found ourselves being richer in our bank accounts but poorer with our time. That’s not the life we wanted to live for the rest of our lives; we needed to make a change so that we could still be productive, but have more time to do the things that we enjoy the most, to concentrate on things that we really care about.

Living on a boat makes this concept of simplicity simpler. We’re going to be living closer to nature, watching our water and electricity use closely and stocking ahead our food supply and resources. It’s a confined space, we won’t have many places to put things into, and that means having less things. It will mean being frugal, learning to fix things and do things for ourselves as sometimes we will be in the middle of the ocean far from anyone to give us a hand. But you don’t have to go live on a boat like us to achieve this kind of life or try to simplify yours. Small steps towards change, conscious choices, asking questions, seeing the bigger picture, this should be our goal.

We can all make a difference thinking about what our environmental footprint is; how much rubbish are we producing a day, how much stuff (that we really don’t need) are we buying each month, how much single use plastic are we buying each week? How much food are we wasting? We need to start thinking about these things, is our human responsibility and as Mother Teresa said it: “Live simply so that others may simply live”.