The One-Year Itch

The One-Year Itch

posted in: Cruising Life, Italy, Philosophy | 5

So the Burnetts are currently docked near Rome, jewel of the great Roman Empire, floating in the Tiber River, an eponymous site which gave that famous man his name.

We are talking about James Tiberius Kirk.  Up top, nerds!

Of course, coming to that “Romantic” land of Italy, we are thrilled to be surrounded by ancient ruins, romantic candelight, and pasta.   So what does one do when one finally reaches the nation of rolling vineyards and olive plantations, packed with the brilliant works of the Ancient Romans, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Renzo Piano, and Gucci???

One gets hauled out, of course.  To repair that “ding” experienced with the attempt to dock in 40 knot winds against a rusty barrier.  To indulge in public bathrooms, and share one’s bed, perched 20 feet off of the ground, with Italian mosquitoes.   “Un peccato di gola!” they say, after they suck your blood.

The Burnetts arrived here after staging an offshore for the first time.  That means that instead of just plowing through a two-day trip, they took a few hours’ rest coming from Alghero at a beautiful spot off La Piana, and then again at an anchorage near La Maddalena, off the north coast of Sardinia.  It was quite pleasant.  There, the Burnetts discovered the Italian version of the BVI’s.  Except every boat here has someone who has a tan lounging on it.  Like every.

So the plan is to take a train into Rome on the days we have enough energy to explore.  But, in this seat of Western Civilization, what is Mel thinking about?

The One-Year Itch

She thought it was just her, but a recent post on her Facebook Group, Women Who Sail, confirmed she was not alone.  After a year of cruising around, some people feel…unfulfilled.

This is an exceedingly frustrating feeling, especially since one is “living the dream,” free of work, obligations, responsibilities, …meaning…

Mel has taken this especially hard, transitioning from being a doctor with 12-hour days where, at least once in a while, despite the suffocating paperwork that drove her out, she would make a difference in someone’s life.  Now she listlessly floats.  Pulling out the jib at the appropriate moment or lassoing a piling isn’t nearly as fulfilling to her as figuring out that someone with undiagnosed groin pain for 15 years just has an ilioinguinal neuropathy that can be alleviated with a selective nerve block.  Sure, she homeschools her children, but she is sure an educated and patient teacher would do a better job, and in between the touring around, sailing, and swimming, they have only managed 120 school days in the last year…

The kids are feeling it, too.  They have made that abundantly clear.  While Greg and Mel are thrilled that their travels have slowed down time for them, making each day worth more, the kids express nothing but frustration about this: “It feels like we left home forever ago.  Time drags on.  I hate that,” they say.  They talk vividly about their old school friends as if they were on the boat with us, as if they haven’t changed at all.  The reality is that friendships for cruising kids, which are always with other nomads, are transient and superficial, unless one is willing to work for it.  A brother must get used to the constant companionship of one’s younger sister.  That doesn’t always go smoothly.

And of course one misses the perks of having a fixed home on land, which you never appreciate until they are gone: the ability to buy something large and heavy at a “Home Store,” the possession of glass objects, the ability to acquire a new dress without having to plan where to put it, not having to think about which side of the road you should be driving on, being able to assume that you can always make that family recipe because when one buys “bacon” at a store it always means what you expect it to mean.  Mel also really, really misses gardening.  Not mulching though.

Everyday life, like cleaning and grocery shopping, is more challenging now.  I mean, it is now commonplace to see Mel carry around a paintbrush when she vacuums.  Every load of laundry (Generator/shore power: On.  Starboard water heater: On.  Water tank level: Checked.  Weather if air drying: Checked.  Dryer vent: Open.  Oh wait – clothes…) feels like an accomplishment.  A minor one.  Mel didn’t realize until this trip how important having an occasional major accomplishment (especially the kind that helps people) was to her well-being.

Okay, Mel just had to interrupt this reverie to take a picture of a guy in a Speedo washing his boat.  Speedos – Why??  Must be the support.

Of course, if this sounds like Mel is having a mid-life crisis, at least she is having it in one of the coolest ways possible.

OMG Mel just realized that this whole post just got darker when Marvin got hauled out of the water.  She is writing this after seeing rocks through the escape hatch.  Keep your bad vibes to yourself, rocks!

Once Marvin is back happily in the water, Mel will tell you all about how she is starting to figure out what she wants to do with her life so that she will once again have an occasional major accomplishment.  But the Burnetts still have a little more floating around the world to do before we lock our feet down back on land and finally get some decent Ziploc bags again.  Just saying this has made Mel feel better, as she realizes she now has regained something she left behind, something she carelessly discarded because it was misunderstood, interpreted as an oppressive overlord rather than the gentle encourager it really was.

She is bringing back her Master List of Things to Do.

One needs long-term projects, not just things you can get done in an hour, or a couple of days.  Constantly being on the move, unable to predict the reliability of Wi-Fi access or even how long it will take to grocery shop week-to-week discourages one from setting a goal with time limits that will take weeks, months, or years to achieve.  But those goals are the most rewarding of all, and so Mel will start formulating them ASAP.

Just as soon as she looks up how to say in Italian: “Where can I buy aluminum foil that doesn’t suck?”

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5 Responses

  1. Ken Nellis
    | Reply

    I love the flexibility and resourcefulness of your family. The sewage issue would suck!!! Keep on keepin on!!!!

    • Mel
      | Reply

      Thanks, Ken!

  2. cassie arnold
    | Reply

    i agree with erin. its been a while since i read your blog because we have also been out at sea, song 1 made it all the way to mt. desert island this summer, leaving with the salty dawg rally and slowly wending our way back down to the chesapeake the night before last, i appreciate the honest self-reflection and do fully understand. thank you for sharing the clarity of your quandary and your soul-searching. we out ran the storm that has hit our east coast by just 2 hours and came up the delaware just before the winds came up. people are stuck in cape may now for who knows how long. people who left just those 2 hours after us will be waiting there until who knows when? today the seas in the delaware are reported to be 10 feet. so much more i could say but this is your blog and i am just writing to express appreciation. look forward to seeing you again! cassie

    • Mel
      | Reply

      Great to hear from you, Cassie! Ten-foot waves are way no fun. We’ve never explored that part of the US before — would be interested in your experience from a catamaran’s perspective. Hang in there through the weather! Weather hasn’t been an issue for us at all here, but towards the end of October we should see some more storms — that will be our clue to exit the Med!

  3. Erin Anderson
    | Reply

    Hi Mel… I found your blog on PMG. You are funny. 🙂 I don’t generally post or comment on blogs, but i was touched by the moment of transparent self-reflection in this post. Keep up the awesome and don’t underestimate the quiet life. I’m enjoying your journey and your beautiful and witty photography.

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