Mystic Adventure Sails

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California

California truly has some gorgeous beaches – miles and miles and miles of it. I’ve been fortunate to spend a long weekend in the San Diego area every New Years for the last five years. It may have been a little too cold to spend much time swimming, but nothing in California feels cold in December when you’re coming from the Midwest.

 

I seldom vacation without some water element incorporated!



Kribi

Kribi is a beach community in the southwest region of Cameroon. By “western standards,” it’s a pretty unimpressive beach resort town – a waterfall, a lighthouse, a couple of decent resorts – but to me it was paradise. I was a Peace Corps volunteer living about six hours away. My life was defined by having “given up” many things I had previously considered luxuries in my life. In my home, I barely had running water, I barely had electricity, there was no water anywhere nearby that wasn’t infected with schisto, and my sources of entertainment were scarce.

 

Spending a daylong journey to Kribi was my escape – and I escaped often.  I probably spent every eighth weekend at Kribi, for my entire two and a half years of service. Sometimes I’d stay at the fancy resort with a pool and a restaurant and air-conditioned rooms. Sometimes I’d stay at a hut a short motorcycle ride away with no amenities, but comfortable beds and fans in the rooms.

 

But every time I would post myself up at the seafood market where mommies would set up grill stations and grill seafood to order. I would sit and gorge myself on prawns, lobster, fish, octopus, all freshly caught, beers, prunes and plaintains and mysterious microgreens. When I’d get the bill at the end of the day – for about $15 – I’d make my way back to where I was staying to swim and nap.

 

It was truly the best escape. I’m so lucky to have had it!



Swamps

The Lafitte Swamps in New Orleans showed me an entirely new kind of water. These massive, peaceful swamps are home to feral little swamp pigs, gators who look just like modern dinosaurs, and natural elements that one can see moving as one. As the green algae and grass atop the swamp moves and grinds, so too do the branches hanging overhead. I could almost feel the swamp come alive, a beating heart, lungs.

 

And to see the gators slowly moving about within this body, eyes the only part visible but ominously foreboding about the body beneath, is breathtaking. They rise up from the water, straight up, powered by that thunderous tail. And the wild little piggies climbing over one another greedily snorting towards anything edible.

 

These waters represent danger and caution rather than the passive clear waters of Minnesota.



Minnesota

I grew up in Minnesota, tagged The Land of 10,000 Lakes when really we have like 50% more than that, and I attribute my love of being on water to that. I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, my grandparents and later aunt and uncle had/have a house on Lake Minnetonka where we’d spend much of each summer swimming, boating, and fishing.

 

Eventually my parents bought their own lake house. “House” is perhaps too generous of a term – it was more of a double-wide trailer but on a huge double-lot right on a beautiful little lake in Central Minnesota. Eventually, many years later, they built their dream house, donated the trailer, sold the house near the city, and became full-time lake folks. So now when I visit home, it’s actually a visit to my childhood cabin.

 

So maybe water is just my element because of concentrated times spent in or at it. But I’ve spent a lot of my adult life travelling to and by water. It offers me clarity, the ability to focus, and nothing is ever as clear to me as it is when I’m underwater.



Greek Isles

I spent a month in the Greek Islands with my cousin when I finished undergrad and she finished high school. We each brought a backpack, we had first night accommodations and return flights booked but not other plans. We felt young and free and excited!

 

We spent a few days in Athens before heading to Santorini and Mykonos. My god these places are breathtakingly beautiful. They are also incredibly crowded. The streets and homes and plants are gorgeous, such a stark white bold canvas. But they are infested with party tourists – the kind of tourists who get up around noon, hungover and sunburnt, and spend the afternoon kicking the effects before rallying around dinnertime and getting ready for another party night.

 

Techno dance music pours out of every bar on the island, drunk Americans and Australians poured into them.

 

The boys loved it and continued planning their trip aiming to hit all of the most popular islands. My cousin and I politely let them know we would be breaking off from the group to find something more our speed. In a travel agency, we opened a map of the islands, pointed to the smallest most remote one, and the agent arranged the full day of travel it would take us to reach the island.

 

We exceeded the two nights we planned to spend on Schoinoussa and stayed for four nights before returning to Athens to meet the boys. We woke up early each morning, visited the island’s small market and god that day’s snacks before heading off on a hike. Because it was such a small island, all hikes ended at the water where we’d sit, chat, eat, and take turns swimming before hiking back to our hotel to take dinner. We were the only people staying at the hotel and the only tourists we saw on the island.



Calanques

I travelled with some friends from Marseilles’s main port to the nearby Calanques. The Calanques are narrow inlets on a tall, rugged, limestone island. We took a ferry from the port of Marseilles to the island’s port and spent about twenty minutes hiking over stone, no shade, on a hundred-degree day and still, somehow, the view ta the end was worth it.

We sat for a couple hours, the boys swam, I sat on a towel under an umbrella looking out at the sailboats as they pulled in and dropped anchor, those aboard laughed and swam and had drinks and looked free of troubles. My feet and hands were sore from using them on the hot jagged ground on our journey up here. And I was uncomfortably hot but not comfortable getting in the water.

 

It was beautiful, truly beautiful. And worth the long journey.

 

The day started with a stroll through Marseilles, stopping in shops, spending almost two hours in one huge homegoods shop, and finding some little sandwiches for lunch. We then spent several hours getting to and enjoying the calanques before returning to the main land to drink many beers at a public square.

 

I love it here!




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