Hugh Howey: Don’t Wait

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This post originally appeared on Hugh Howey‘s blog, The Wayfinder, on January 11th, 2016. For more posts by Hugh, please visit his website (and buy his amazing books).  

I’m sitting on my boat in Georgetown, Exumas, watching the sun rise. The last time this was true was seventeen years ago. My boat then was Xerxes, a 27′ Watkins that served as my home for five years. I dropped out of college after my junior year and sailed south. It was one of the defining moments of my life, that decision. I’ll never forget the terror I felt selling everything I owned and tossing my dock lines. It was petrifying, but I trusted that the rewards on the other side would be worth it.

They were. In spades. Sailing the islands put me in touch with nature, gave me time to contemplate myself and life, filled me with the adventures that would later fuel my writing, introduced me to a lifestyle that would help me shun possessions and debt for the rest of my life, and imbued me with the larger dream of sailing around the world, which kept me focused and gave me direction.

Here in Georgetown, you meet lots of people with similar trajectories, but their stories are so different and so inspiring. On a hike yesterday, I met three nineteen year old boys who sailed from Maine on their father’s old wooden boat. They took a year off after high school to sail to the Caribbean and back. We talked about where they’ve been and where they are headed next. With just a little dinghy-sailing experience when they set out, these are now three wizened and salty experts. I pegged them as being in their mid-20s before they revealed their age or mentioned school. Their eyes were already older. They stood more upright. They didn’t bounce around like teenagers. They weren’t relentlessly checking their phones. There is a calmness and patience that traveling at 5mph for thousands of miles instills.

On the beach, I met another couple via their awesome dog, Safron. After flopping into my lap, and lots of apologies, and my having to explain that their dog just made my week, I got their story. In their mid-30s, this young couple set off from Canada just this year to sail around the world. But it’s the genesis of their trip that blew my mind. They had flown to Georgetown last February to stay at a resort here. They saw all the sailboats, got to talking to some of the people who lived and traveled on them, and they went home with a plan.

In this, they aren’t unusual. Lots of people hear about living aboard and sailing the world, and they dream of doing the same. They read articles, subscribe to magazines, follow the blogs of those who are doing it. But this Canadian couple didn’t waste time. They sold everything they owned, bought a 34′ Hunter (an imminently affordable boat), and they set off. Like the boys from Maine, they are now experts, even if they didn’t feel like it and are humble about their abilities. By this time next year, they will be wrapping up a Pacific crossing. All because they didn’t wait.

It doesn’t have to be this particular dream. You have your own dream. Of writing a novel. Of learning a musical instrument. Of driving coast to coast. Of moving to be closer to family. Of getting a different job. Of going back to school. Whatever excuses you are using to protect yourself, stop. The beach here buzzes with children who are sailing with their parents. Kids of all ages. Each one is a perfect reason why it would be impossible for their parents to go sail around the world. Instead, they became the best reason to. You don’t think you have time to write for thirty minutes every day? Or practice strumming that guitar? Or brushing up on your French? Or getting some exercise? Or honing that job skill? Or putting that sweat equity into your home? I say you do. You have all the time in the world. As long as you don’t wait.

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