People can have funny preconceived ideas about what sailing is all about, especially when they have never set foot on a boat. It seems that the image they see when I say “I’m sailing in Fiji” is of half-naked bodies lounging on the deck of a luxury yacht, sipping colorful drinks and getting a perfect tan. I’m sure this exist somewhere in the realms of high end tourism and piles of cash. To illustrate the reality of everyday life and what exactly I mean when I say “sailing in Fiji” let me give you a few things to appreciate about the creature comforts of firm land in a first world country:
One of the major things I have learned to appreciate only after spending some time out at sea is long showers. Water is scarce on a boat and so is energy to heat it. It’s so hot outside that you would normally take two showers each day. On the boat that would be pure blasphemy, so to cool off we go swimming instead. This is fun on the occasions when water is clear and perfect, but a lot of the time it’s not (plus sometimes you get attacked by water lice). After the swim you need to rinse off the salty water but since fresh water is scarce you end up being pretty salty all of the time. Let’s just say that being OCD about germs and hygiene would drive you mental here. As for me, I mainly just miss being able to luxuriate under running water and letting the bathroom steam up.
Good hair days
Forget about good hair days. Firstly the limited water supply means you can’t wash it as often as it would take to keep it looking civilized. Secondly your hair is constantly salty because of the water and air. Plus the fact of having to wear a hat and sweating a lot. The humidity doesn’t help either, so really it’s a lost cause from the beginning. Things like hair dryer and straightener? Just forget about those, even if there was enough power to run them there would not be much point. Bad hair all day every day is just the new way of being when you’re living on a boat in the tropics. Unless you’re one of those beauties who look gorgeous with the rugged salty surfer do.
Along with good hair you can forget about wearing your favorite outfits. Or at least I can. Since my wardrobe does not consist of all cotton- and linen items it’s too hot for most of my favorite clothes. And it’s not such a great idea to wear nice things around the boat anyway because the salt, the sun and the physical work destroys everything in no time.
Lounging in the sun
If your idea of sailing is lounging on the deck wearing nothing but bikini (swimmers) and a sexy wide-brimmed hat then you’re about to be very disappointed. Unless you have naturally dark skin then being too naked in the sun is strictly prohibited. I have fair skin and this means I can get a sunburn even in cloudy weather in these parts. I need to cover up, stay in the shade and smother myself in sunscreen. As for stylish headwear: unless it has a string to tie under your chin you can say goodbye to your lovely hat. It will be blown off your head in no time. I don’t think there are any sexy hats that are practical on boats. But you do need to cover your head.
Variety of food, especially fresh produce.
As wonderful as it sounds to be eating fresh papaya, banana, pineapple and coconut straight from the tree, it does get old pretty quickly. Since spending four months living in Fiji in 2012 I still can’t get excited about bananas. There is a serious shortage of fresh produce here. Forget about staples like mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini… Salad ingredients are hard to come by; and so is good bread. The only kind you can get is tasteless white fluff. It’s difficult to find good potatoes, tomatoes or cucumbers. Local foods like cassava, breadfruit and plantains are interesting to experiment with but for us westerners this is still exotic protein and I can not eat too much of it. Going around isolated little islands on the boat is interesting but by now we have nearly run out of fresh produce. There are no markets or villages nearby so all we can get is whatever we find growing on trees. At the moment this means an abundance of green papayas and unripe grapefruit (although I’m quite happy about the latter as it is very rare here!). What I wouldn’t give for a nice crispy salad with french fries right now!
Our current abundance of unripe papaya and grapefruit is nearly the only fresh food we have left.
The great thing about living in a city (perhaps with the exception of Australian cities) is the noticeable lack of insects. We forget they even exist. Here in Fiji we have a constant fly infestation. The mosquitoes are huge and potentially dangerous, and of course they love me and my white skin more than anyone else. Being covered in itchy spots is basically inevitable.
I hope I don’t sound overly pessimistic; I am definitely not complaining about being here. It is all an exciting experience and a learning curve. I just wanted to give a clearer picture of “what it’s really like”. And I haven’t even mentioned the part of actual sailing (wind, reefs, sea sickness…) – let’s leave that for another post.
All this is to say that wherever you are and whatever you are doing – the balance between adventure and luxury is all about your attitude. I hope that outlining all the things I miss will help you see the mundane in a different light and appreciate such delights as long showers a little more.
After all, this is what thinking like a traveler is all about – appreciating beauty in the details and transforming discomforts into exciting adventures.
What did you do today that could be considered a luxury or an adventure? Let me know in the comments!