In the last week I’ve had three ambulance rides, a trip in a private plane, visited two hospitals – staying in one for five days and a commercial flight from the Caribbean to London, England where I’m now situated.
But let’s go back to last Saturday. The day started like all others. I woke up, looked out my port window and saw a white sandy beach lined with palm trees. Pelicans were darting into the water to pick out their breakfast. The smell of freshly brewed coffee filled the salty tropical air. A fresh breeze came in from that hatch that was the perfect strength and temperature. I blinked my eye’s a few times and as usual thought, ‘Gosh, I love my life.’
And then I heard one big thump followed by a smaller and quicker thump, thump, thump. Our daughter Sienna had jumped down from her bunkbed and was making her way to me for a hug and tickle fight, our morning ritual. Being able to leisurely hug my baby girl (age 8) every day provides me with an incredible sense of love.
Sounds perfect – doesn’t it? Well it’s pretty awesome but it’s not utopia.
After the tickle fight I usually have to endure a multitude of reasons as to why we should not do homeschooling. Sometimes it flows but usually it’s quite a battle. Due to the fact that Sienna is severely dyslexic I have to work with her side-by-side on every subject as she can’t read the instructions let alone the subject matter. When you sit back to think about it, everything in school involves reading – even Math has instructions. Sienna is in third grade with a kindergarten reading ability.
You have to walk a fine line with a child with Dyslexia – they can’t see letters and words the way we do. To them, it looks like a jumbled mess. I have special materials to teach with and they’re brilliant but the hardest part is getting Sienna to bypass the pain she feels when she looks at text and can’t ‘get it.’
So, my early morning routine includes waking up, coffee, and very carefully transitioning our daughter from cuddles to homeschooling.
And as my awakening awareness increases my mind starts to prioritize all the things that need to be accomplished. There are always a series of boat jobs including routine maintenance (clean the freezer secondary filter), routine cleaning (deep clean the forward berth), things to fix (sew the rip in the Bimini cockpit cover), and special projects (make a screen for the companion way to keep the mosquitos out). There’s also making breakfast, cleaning up and then making lunch, cleaning up and then there’s dinner.
In between the previously mentioned activities, I visit with other boat friends, go on an excursion, enjoy some snorkeling, discuss with my husband, Simon, our next passage and always, always, always gain a full understanding of what the weather is doing.
For the time I have left in the day, I make videos, write blogs/books/guides, update my website and answer emails. Simon is brilliant with looking after the boat, me and Sienna but unfortunately he’s Dyslexic too and can’t help me with the guides, website, social media posts, etc. And although he is the star of the show on our YouTube channel, he has the easy part – he just acts normal, I record video and then have quite a job to transform it from live action to something viewable.
If you’ve seen any of my videos, they each take two to three days to make.
You just can’t imagine how laborious it is to make a five or twenty-five minute video. Whether it’s short or long the process is the same – create a storyline (what’s the video going to be about?), take the footage (preferably from 5 different angles), download the clips to a computer (that can take hours to organize when using several cameras) and then deciding on the clips to use.
Once the clips are chosen, I then have to load them into a movie editing package usually starting with three hours of footage. Then the first round of cuts are made (aiming for less than one hour) and eventually I refine until the video is around five to 25 minutes. Simon say’s ‘UMMMMMMM’ a lot…but you wouldn’t know that 😉
Then, I add voice overs. After that, I add music and then have to cut each clip to make sure it times with a beat change in the tune I’ve selected. Finally, I add a beginning and and end and hope that I can find good enough wifi to upload my labor of love.
So, I don’t live in a Utopia – life is hardwork on a boat.
But let’s get back on point and we’ll come back to why I spent so long describing my daily actions.
I was rushed to hospital last week because my heart started to beat at 233 beats per minute and wouldn’t stop. All in all, I had to endure those 233 beats per minute for over two hours. It took time to get from my bed to our dinghy. From the dinghy to the beach. From the beach to a local guys car. From a local guys car to the ambulance. From the ambulance to the hospital bed. And then the wait while the doctor weighed up what drug had the least possibility to potentially terminate my life.
All the while my chest was increasing in discomfort. The middle of my back, behind my heart, felt coiled like a tight spring. I think my back muscles were straining as they tried to alleviate the pain of my racing heart. I was getting tired. I felt my desire to live weaken. When it first started I thought, ‘just hold on,’ but towards the end of the two hours I didn’t necessarily want to die but I wanted relief. I wanted to sleep.
The drugs that the doctor used slowed my heart rate down. I was transferred to a larger hospital on another island and spent five days looking out a beautiful harbor where my boat was eventually anchored. Every test was done on me – blood samples taken. Shots in my arm, in my stomach and a needle port in the top vein of my right hand. I was poked and prodded.
One day before my release the final test was completed – I was told that I did not have a heart attack.
All my tests came back perfectly. Every organ was fine. The doctors shook their head in disbelief saying, ‘You are in perfect health – there’s nothing to indicate why this could have happened.’
The doctor released me from the hospital under the premise that I flew to either New York or London to see a heart specialist. They suspect that my issue is Atrioventricular Modal Reentry Tachycardia. It’s apparently a very common condition. Many people live with it their entire lives. Interestingly, there’s even tricks to get your heart back into the correct rhythm. Some include plunging your face into cold water or dropping down on your knees. To ready the full account, check out Medical Emergency On A Deserted Island.
My meeting with the specialist is tomorrow. I’m going to London Bridge Hospital.
Those are the details. Let’s get into the more meaningful stuff.
Why do I think it happened in the first place? Has this experience caused me to reevaluate whether my family and I should continue with the cruising life? What do I think about people that have health conditions that do want to go cruising? What’s the the future for sailing Britican?
So – Why do I think it happened in the first place?
I’m one of those fruitcakes that thinks there’s a reason for everything. I don’t feel too strongly about karma, or good or bad luck, viewed as resulting from one’s actions. I just think that things happen and when they’re big things (good or bad), we need to take a step back and figure out how we were responsible for making them happen or influencing them to happen.
I’ve only ever been to the hospital twice. Once to have a baby and another time was because the muscles tighten in my neck which cut off my air supply. Why did they tighten?! I was stressed out beyond belief. That…and I have a very long neck! I was in a job that wasn’t right for me any longer. What did I do about it – I quit my job, bought a boat and sailed away.
Now I’m on the boat sailing away, almost six years after my no-air-to-the-brain episode, and something quite dramatic happens once again.
I think it’s stress again. And I absolutely hate to admit that.
Many of us wish for a happier life or a more fulfilling life. We think that changing our situation will change our life. We think that sailing off into the sunset is the answer. (Or…winning the lottery, moving to another country, finding the man/woman of our dreams, having children, fixing our health issues and on and on).
Changing your situation can most certainly help. When you consciously evaluate your habits, choose the one’s you want to keep and discard those that you don’t a new lifestyle works very well. In a new environment you can change the cues that cause negative habits and add cues that create positive ones. Furthermore, if you know what you want to achieve, you’re at least heading for something positive rather than away from something negative (running away).
Buying the boat and sailing away was hands-down the best decision I’ve ever made.
Getting out of corporate London and moving onto Britican probably saved my life. I’ve achieved all the things I wanted – more freedom, a closer bond to my husband and daughter, a life devoid of politics and negative media, healthy local food, constant adventures, a massive sense of community with like-minded people, fresh air and a beautiful view no matter what direction I look.
The only thing I haven’t achieved, however, is an ability to create an income to support the lifestyle we’re living.
And unfortunately that’s a biggie.
I’m doing too much ‘work’ and what I’m doing isn’t effective. My actions are not alleviating one of my innate worries – having enough income to carry on. As a kid I grew up in a family that didn’t have much money and it really bothered me. I didn’t like missing out on things. I didn’t like being picked on because my clothes were hand-me-downs (that didn’t fit). I didn’t like feeling helpless.
So, the drive in me to make an income is massive. Thankfully, I’ve fortunately passed the need to be mega rich – that’s not for me either.
So, let’s come back to my description on making the videos… The reason I included that above is because I spend days making them and the income I make from the videos isn’t contributing enough to the running costs of Britican.
The videos are a labour of love not a labor of income.
I really enjoy making them but on the flip side, I think they’re causing me the most stress. To put so much time and effort into something that isn’t providing the means to sustain ourselves is somewhat crazy. I think that I thought things would change over time – perhaps the channel would grow or we’d get more Patreon supporters?!
It’s funny because my first incident with stress induced hospital visits was actually about making tonnes of money but not enjoying what I was doing to make it. Now, I’ve done a 180 and I love what I’m doing but making very little money.
Do I believe it’s not possible to make money and enjoy it?! That’s something for me to look at – eh?
So, my current gut feeling as to why I ended up in the hospital comes down to stress. And of all the things I do, the one thing that really stresses me out the most are the videos. My plan of action is to stop doing them and find something that I enjoy doing that produces an income instead (that is not stressful).
Has this experience caused me to reevaluate whether my family and I should continue with the cruising life?
Yes – it most certainly has. I’ve reevaluated things. I 100% want to keep cruising but I’m going to change how I spend my time regarding income generation. I’m also starting to urge Simon to get out on the corner and perhaps start selling his body (only joking)…
What do I think about people that have health conditions that do want to go cruising?
That’s a tough question. If it’s going to stress you out worrying about getting sick while you’re cruising that can’t be a good thing. Adding stress on top of the usual anxiety about health is only going to make matters worse. I think you’re asking for trouble.
If, however, you’re more apt to go with the flow and accept that health care might take longer and be at a lower standard then cruising might be just fine.
I have the attitude that when my time is up, it’s up – whether I am next to the best hospital in the world OR on a remote deserted island in the Caribbean. There are people that drink and smoke until they’re 100 years old and live high quality lives. There are people that are a fit as can be and die young. I don’t think we have any control as to our date of departure. Having this attitude makes it easier (for me) to spend time living rather than spend time playing it safe (which I really don’t consider ‘living’ in the fullest sense anyway.)
What’s the the future for sailing Britican?
Who the freak knows. I certainly don’t. We’re getting coded now to take paying guests. That will certainly help with covering our costs AND we do love to have people on the boat. Simon is an amazing teacher and Sienna is a social butterfly. We’ll give it a go and see if we enjoy doing it. If we don’t we’ll pivot.
When I thought I was going to die last Saturday, and I really did think my time was up, I couldn’t think of doing anything other than what we’re doing now (less the stress about making money). I love the boat, the lifestyle, my family, our amazing boat friends, the local people, the food, that challenge of making everything happen…
The only thing I could come up with was that I really wanted to see the Great Wall of China before I died. Isn’t that funny… I have no idea why that’s on my bucket list. In fact, that’s the only thing on my bucket list. I think I put it there to make sure there was something left to do. Hehehehehe.
So…is it time to stop living the dream? Hell no.
If you’ve made it down to the bottom of this article, thank you for reading it. It’s not really an article – it’s just a brain dump. If you have any wise words to pass on please leave them below. I appreciate you 🙂