So it’s been just over a month since the mighty Visit Seattle arrived into London. Yep, 4 weeks in the real world, back on land. As you might expect, it’s been a period of adjustment: the joy of being back with my family and friends, the sadness that my Clipper experience is over. 18 months of build up and adventure: over…*sniff*…
Since racing, I’ve managed to cling on to some tan, although every day I’m a little bit closer to returning to my “Siberian glow” look. Arriving back at work, everyone said I looked “well”: that’s the beauty of not working for 4 months! There’s a lot to be said for it.
One of the things I’ve found most difficult to adjust to is the lack of my Clipper family in my daily life. For nearly 4 months straight, I was never really apart from some people. Yes, there are people-moments I won’t miss. But on the whole, it’s weird without my Clipper-buddies. I’ve been lucky enough to see a few of them in the month since, but it felt like it had been a long time since I’d seen them. With them, I can let go and be my true-crazy self so it’s great to be reunited. WOOOOOOOO!
Unsurprisingly, there are lots of things I miss from the race and some things not so much. What I really miss is experiencing days in their entirety, witnessing sunrises and sunsets. In an office, on land, I miss the cycle of the sun. I’m inside all day and when outside, there are trees and buildings blocking my horizon. Naughty trees. Gone is the endless blue and the many types of moon, but gone too are the 1.30am wake-ups to go on deck at 2am. What a shame. I am also definitely not missing wearing a life jacket and tether for all my waking hours. Nor am I missing having to hang on when trying to go to the loo. Simple pleasures and all that.
Returning to work has been a shock: my perspective on things are really quite different. After months of laughter, singing and dancing to keep us going, I find work so, so serious. I really have to resist opportunities for mischief (to be fair, I had this problem before) and the new problem of not laughing at impromptu innuendo. My daily life is not quite as fun as it was, but I suppose it’s hard to beat an Ocean yacht race! I’m also now finding it hard to maintain the mental clarity I had during the race. I’m not meditating for hours at a time anymore by looking to out to sea. Already, I can feel myself forgetting the adventure. Talking about it helps, and on the first few nights after work, I hurriedly finished my race blogs. “What was the best bit?”, “What was the worst bit?”, “Were you scared?”: I give a different answer to everyone. It was such a varied experience. I also had flash backs the other day as I finally unpacked my kit (well, most of it). School uniform – I won’t be wearing that again. A gilet reminding me of the weather before it got super hot. A hot water bottle reminding me of my icy icy feet.
Bizarrely, there have been times when I think I’m still on the boat. For example:
- 3 days off the boat, I woke up in the middle of the night, flung my “sleeping bag” (bedding) off me and stuffed it into the “cubby hole” (gap in a chest of drawers) next to my bed. I have absolutely no recollection of doing this.
- The first time I heard a plane flying overhead, I automatically assumed that it was thunder. Thunder! Aaaaaah! Oh…no…planes…
- Seeing someone wash their hands, I immediately thought they had burnt themselves (why else would you wash them? Get the antibac gel out!). No, turns out washing hands is perfectly normal in the real world whereas on the boat, that would have meant something a little more serious.
- Anytime I have to move stuff with other people, I automatically want to call “2, 6 heave!” Rather than “on 3”. Got to get back into rowing lingo now rather than sailing.
- This one is a bit odd, but babies in prams; I kind of get what they are going through. Tucked in, being shaken about and rocked in a noisy environment – a Clipper Bunk is pretty much the same.
- Anytime I’ve got cold, I crack out the midlayers as I would on the boat. This is a habit I am never going to lose, my duvet suit is just so good. After all the heat, 22c inside is freezing!
When on the boat, I didn’t think that I’d been changed by this experience. I didn’t experience any “epiphanies” of awareness, but now I realise I was wrong. I’ve come away from the race more confident, more sure of what I value and believe is best. I’m a better version of myself now, less afraid of what others think, more sure of what I think. And I’m probably even more bouncy, now totally freed by having the space to bounce and be silly at home.
“Would you do it again?” has been the most commonly asked question of me. I adored the Clipper Race and at the same time was ready to leave the boat. If I was in the same shoes back in 2014, I would not hesitate to make the decision to apply to the race. It’s been the best decision of my life. And yet, at the same time I was ready for it to end, the time length being just right for me. What this experience has made me realise is that I’m hungry for more adventures, that there are so many alternative ways to live my life that I’d have never believed were possible before.
I want to keep sailing in my life, but the Clipper Race on Visit Seattle was a unique experience. I couldn’t do it again because the people would be different, it would always be a comparison to my first race. What will my next adventure be instead? Who knows. But whatever they may be, I know I’m onto bigger and better things.