The right time for adventure

What a great story on the ABC this week. My Crazy Gap Year followed a couple and their two young boys as they set sail from England in a catamaran to find paradise in the Pacific.

Their adventure got off to a very shaky start, with the two and four year old boys behaving like typical pre-schoolers (not ideal on a yacht), the Bay of Biscay throwing up a storm and everyone generally getting on each others’ nerves. But by the end of the year they had made it to Sydney and looked like classic laid-back grottie yachties – all smiles and no intention of rejoining the real world any time soon. Despite the challenges they faced they didn’t regret a moment of their gap year.

Enough to inspire a mini boom in ocean-going yachts, you’d think – who wouldn’t want to give up the day job and set sail for the Pacific.

A Queensland sailing adventure (1977)

My parents did something similar when they were in their mid forties. They spent five years circumnavigating the world in a 40 ft yacht – pottering around Asia, drifting through the Mediterranean, travelling the French canals and island-hopping across the Pacific.

I was already working by the time they left Brisbane, but I spent holidays with them – sailing the English Channel to France, exploring Turkey, sightseeing in Tunisia and cruising the islands of Fiji. It sounds idyllic and mostly it was. But sailing can be hard work and things go wrong.

Things get broken – including masts, stuff falls overboard – a lot. Even people fall overboard – more than you’d think. Then there are pirates, storms, unfriendly locals, overfriendly locals and injuries to worry about. (It doesn’t matter how long you live on a boat, you’re still going to bang your head and trip over cleats every single day.) The idea of facing all of those challenges and dealing with pre-schoolers is quite an unpleasant prospect.

But when is the right time for a life-changing adventure? Before the kids go to school, they’re too young to benefit from travel. Once they get to high school they just want to be with their friends. Wait until they finish school and leave them behind? It’s an attractive option, but what if your health fails before the kids leave the nest?

There’s probably never a perfect time for a life-changing adventure, but I guess the challenge is an integral part of it. Wait too long and you might miss the opportunity completely.

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