Go. Do. Be.
Earlier this month, I attended an Arizona Yacht Club meeting. The guest of honor was a guy who had recently completed a non-stop, single-handed, circumnavigation—he sailed around the world all by himself without stopping in any ports along the way.
His name is Jerome Rand, and he spent 271 days alone, sailing 29,807 miles, from Gloucester, Massachusetts, across the North and South Atlantic oceans, deep into the roaring forties and furious fifties, south of South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa, and back up to Gloucester, on The Mighty Sparrow, a 32-foot Westsail.
The presentation he gave was excellent. It was an evening filled with incredible stories, pictures, and videos; the indomitable human spirit faced with reminders of just how small and insignificant we really are in the grand scheme of things.
During the preso, Jerome made some comparisons with his experience thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) prior to sailing around the world. Specifically, he mentioned how—on the AT—his brain worked through his past, one step at a time. While circumnavigating, though, he said he deliberately ignored the past, keeping his thoughts present-forward.
I friggin’ LOVED this intentionality.
So I tracked him down to ask him about these perspectives. I wanted to know what kind of clarity these incredibly different, yet complementary experiences gave him about life, the universe, and everything.
A good friend of mine thru-hiked the AT and PCT. In between, he told me about how, once you get your legs, you end up working back through your entire life up to that point. Apparently, once you get that all sorted, your brain quiets down, your other senses get turned up—and everything becomes magical.
I can only imagine the highs and lows Jerome experienced out there on his own like that for so long. Looking whales in the eye. Cheering on dolphins from the bowsprit. Sunrises, sunsets, and stars all to himself. Malnourished Master and Commander of his entire world. The freedom to be 100% responsible for his continued existence. (And an epic beard, I might add.)
It’s so easy for us to settle; to go with the flow—and to find ourselves adrift.
Having spent a solid year reflecting back (AT-style) on nine months of forward-focused mindfulness at sea, I wondered if there might be some fundamental truths about life, the universe, and everything that became something of a North Star for him. Could he share that with me? Could I share it with our readers?
Here’s what he told me:
“With regards to my thinking process on the AT vs the Sail. I think that after the AT I realized that I could go over my life as much as I wanted but would end up at the same point when I finished, the present. The problem with that was that I had missed so much while I was thinking about the past. I feel like it is healthy to reflect on the past but to dwell on it and spend large amounts of time thinking about it, all I would do was miss out on what was around me. So on the sail I cut that off and found that I was far happier just letting the world around me send my brain in any direction it wanted to go, except the past. Not easy in the beginning but after a while it was easy.
“If I learned anything from my adventures thus far it would be this; happiness only comes when one is very honest with themselves about what they enjoy in life and how they want to spend the short time we all have. Anytime I have done something that is more for my ego, someone’s expectations, or any other reason, they will never truly be happy. When you follow your dreams there is a sense of purpose that comes with it, so much that the completion of the goal becomes secondary to the act of just going after it. For the five years that I planned the sail, I knew why I was doing everything from working to saving to reading books. Having a goal affects every aspect of one’s life. Without one, I find I am just passing time instead of seizing it!”
He closed by saying, “Hope that answers your questions. I am a sailor not a philosopher. Hahah.”
Indeed it does, sir. Indeed it does. Thank you.
Going with the flow means letting others dictate where we end up—often, downhill. Then again, all rivers eventually flow into the sea, which is filled with opportunity. Something metaphorical to think about, ya know?
Jerome Rand spent five years working toward a goal. His goal was buying a boat and sailing it around the world by himself. His trip was his north star. It was the thing that enabled him to make the right decisions—or at least, better ones—leading up to the date of his departure.
Nine months after he set sail from Gloucester, he returned. A new man? Only he knows for sure—all we know is, life is calling. We must go. And we must do, in order to be.
Check out Jerome’s website. And maybe think about what you might do if you could do anything.
Chances are, if you’re willing to work hard enough, you can do it.