The Fourth of July marks America’s Independence from Great Britain, and, as it so happens, the Burnett’s independence from land and “people supposedly in charge of them.” Hooray!
We left Dania Beach, Florida, exactly one year ago. Yup, two nubes with just four ASA courses under our belts, two tweeny kids, and NCR (Noble Captain Richard) in tow. Over the subsequent year, we sailed over 7400 nm. The bulk of that number includes about 3500 nm in the Caribbean and about 3700 crossing the Atlantic. Mel has invented a new vanity bumper sticker, in fact. It says, “3700.1.” Yup, one time crossing the Atlantic. If our plans hold out, by 2017 we will have a new bumper sticker: “3700.2.” Mel can imagine the looks she’ll get when she gets out of her car at Target. She imagines a lot of people puzzling over her spindly legs. Yeah, baby!
Of course, those in the know realize that the big number doesn’t reflect bravery or athletic skill so much as patience, good planning, a little luck, and a damn good boat. But no one else need know that, capisci?
Mel is practicing her Italian. She will be in Italy soon.
And so for Independence Day we flew our flags and ate pasta salad and the closest thing Mel could find to American hot dogs (not the jar ones – egad!) on our beautiful boat in Gibraltar…a British territory…it was a bit awkward.
So one may ask, “But you guys are cosmopolitan nomads now, wandering the world, never staying too long – why celebrate the holidays of any country?” Well, the funny thing is, travel doesn’t rip out your roots – it enhances them. On a daily basis we are running a compare/contrast dialogue in our brains: “The tea is better here, but the bacon is horrible,” “They have clean streets, but they need more recycling,” “The buildings are fabulously preserved, but their signage grammar is universally bad,” “These guys are very patriotic, but their traditional soup is awful!” In the end you can’t get too judgey, because after a while you realize none of us has figured everything out. But every country teaches us more about America, activating that tingly part of the brain that only fires when you are learning something so new that you can actually feel it sink in. So we fly our flags today not because we think America is awesome about everything, as certainly we realize it has plenty of shortcomings, but because we understand it better now that it is in a broader context, and we can more easily recognize what parts of ourselves are distinctly American. So far, these parts apparently include higher expectations for the service industry, a deeper mistrust of authority, more respect for a competent bureaucracy than an efficient one, shorter greeting rituals that don’t involve lip-to-cheek contact, and a surprising tolerance of inferior chocolate. This self-discovery has been so fun this last year, we are going to sail Marvin around for another one. Go USA!