Family Magazine

Privileged Cruisers

By Behan Gifford @sailingtotem

Privileged cruisers

beautiful png

Turquoise water, white sand, the stretch of a tropical island…contrast of our dinghy and a local outrigger. We are so tremendously privileged in our experiences. But our privilege extends far beyond this: most importantly, our privileged lives stem from the place in the world we were just plain lucky to have been born in. A place with a wealth of opportunities and support. Not always easy, but nearly endless possibilities.

My last post, about how cruising wrecks lives, speaks plain truths of uncomfortable differences in the way we look at our culture now, through the lens of the last eight years. It shouldn’t be interpreted as it a rejection of our home. As more than one commenter (friends, thank you!) pointed out – you can be perfectly happy living differently. We don’t have to “go back”…as if we could! But we’re all impacted by our experiences in life, we can use that to make choices or changes.

Sunfish and a sunset sail, Mystic River

Sunfish and a sunset sail, Mystic River

But it also shouldn’t minimize how our experiences have pushed to the fore of our minds how incredibly well-off “we” (anyone in the developed world) are. The consumption I reacted against is just one symptom. More importantly, we have dramatic control over our individual destinies compared to people in so much of the world. There’s enough to eat, and education, and medical care. We are rich enough not to worry about meeting base needs and instead contemplate luxuries like progress toward self-actualization, or benefits of the newest iPhone.

Last night I received an email from a boat that had recently arrived in the Ninigo atoll, Papua New Guinea. Longer term readers know that Ninigo is one of those very special places that’s remain close to our hearts—we’ll never forget our stay there in 2012. As usual, it was because of the people who touched our lives.

Why yes, that IS  a tree kangaroo on Siobhan's head

Why yes, that IS a tree kangaroo on Siobhan’s head! Mal island, Ninigo, PNG: 2012

We only get news from the friends we made on Ninigo’s Mal island when a cruising boat stops in, because they have no communication to the outside world—just a radio to contact another island. Visiting cruisers like Carina’s crew offer a golden opportunity to trade updates. This boat in particular contacted us before they left from Palau for Ninigo, so we were able to ship a small care package, photos, and letters via the good ol’ USPS.

But the news wasn’t good: my friend Mollina, who I call sister, hasn’t recovered from her baby’s birth earlier this year. She’s struggling badly enough that she can’t work in the vegetable garden that feeds her family. She can’t hold her children for long.

Mollina and her firstborn, Finn, madonna and child

Mollina and her firstborn, Finn; Madonna and child

Mal looks like an island paradise, and in many ways it is, but it is a difficult life that shouldn’t be romanticized. Let me put it into a bit of perspective. On Mal, there aren’t any roads; just some footpaths. There’s no electricity. There’s no fresh water piped in, and no sewage piped out. There are no grocery stores or hardware stores or regular supply ships. People get by with what they forage or build. There are very few ways to earn currency.

This family just sailed outrigger back from their vegetable garden, an overnight trip in open ocean

This family just sailed outrigger back from their vegetable garden, an overnight trip in open ocean

Mollina’s illness is much more than a setback or an inconvenience. Health care is very limited: Mollina’s husband has a deep cut on his arm, thanks to chasing a wild pig from their garden with a spear, and it’s not healing well because the local health ‘clinic’ doesn’t have enough clean bandages. At least that’s an obvious problem. I can’t tell from Mollina’s message what’s afflicting her. It’s impossible to know whether she could use the anti-fungals or antibiotics on Carina, or if what she needs is actually surgical. Oh, and surgery, or access to a trained medical professional? The nearest hospital is a two-day ride in an open boat, and it’s probably not a place that you or I would want anyone we love to go for medical treatment. There is a reason we met very few people with gray hair on Ninigo.

My big indulgence during our last weeks in Mystic is attending sessions at a nearby yoga studio. I felt the absurdity of my privilege there this morning, lying on a high-end all natural rubber mat, in a purpose-heated room that mimics Ninigo’s near-equatorial position, worrying about Mollina. It felt obscene. It felt so f*cking unfair. Tears running down my cheeks remain private, indistinguishable from the sweat dripping down my face. I have no right to be so worried about whatever the h3$% is keeping my shoulder from being as mobile lately, about whatever little problems exist in my world, because they really aren’t problems at all in the scheme of things. We have ALL THE POSSIBILITIES. We have so many lifelines to call on in a time of need.

The lovely Caper...Cuttyhunk, MA

The lovely Caper…Cuttyhunk, MA

We may find some aspects of the abundance here at home to be distasteful, or uncomfortable, or whatever it is. But ultimately, cruising brings a new appreciation for how spectacularly lucky “we” are: we have so many options. We should just hope to avoid the sickness of entitlement.

Meanwhile, I asked friends for help with Mollina’s illness, and friends showed up in spades: people offering what they have, whether it is knowledge or connections or funds. With guidance, I have a set of specific questions about symptoms that hopefully can get to a likely diagnosis. In those moments, our world shrinks in the most beautiful ways: friends from Boston, Seattle, New Zealand, Australia and more, connecting through the ionosphere in my text message to a sailing boat anchored in Ninigo. And I wait, and hope, that there will be a feasible path to help her heal.

Sunset watercolors

Sunset watercolors


You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Kotte Kadubu: a Symbol of Tradition Wrapped in Moulds of Faith

    Kotte Kadubu: Symbol Tradition Wrapped Moulds Faith

    Having celebrated Ganesh Chathurthi last week with all the religious fervour, this post is a look at one of the traditions followed each year on the day of the... Read more

    The 19 September 2018 by   Rashmi Gopal Rao
    TRAVEL
  • Mintd Box + Oskia London

    Mintd Oskia London

    What happens when a luxury beauty box joins forces with a very famous skincare brand? This month's box is what! This September, Mintd Box have collaborated... Read more

    The 19 September 2018 by   Kellilash
    HAIR & BEAUTY, LIFESTYLE
  • North American T-6D Texan/Harvard

    North American T-6D Texan/Harvard

    @ Madras, OR August 2015 First flown in 1935, more than 15,000 of these iconic warbirds were produced and served in air forces around the world as late as 1995. Read more

    The 19 September 2018 by   Htam
    PHOTOGRAPHY, SOCIETY
  • The 2-week Keto Challenge: “I’m Amazed at How Satisfied I Feel”

    2-week Keto Challenge: “I’m Amazed Satisfied Feel”

    Over people have signed up for our free two-week keto low-carb challenge. You'll get free guidance, meal plans, recipes, shopping lists and troubleshooting... Read more

    The 19 September 2018 by   Dietdoctor
    DIET & WEIGHT, HEALTH, HEALTHY LIVING, MEDICINE
  • My Journey to Becoming a Special Education Teacher

    Journey Becoming Special Education Teacher

    Allyson Schwartzman at her graduation from Hofstra University School of Education.By Allyson SchwartzmanWhen I was graduating from elementary school, someone... Read more

    The 19 September 2018 by   Autismsciencefoundation
    HEALTH, PSYCHOLOGY
  • 7 Tips For Building The Right People Relationships

    Tips Building Right People Relationships

    In big business, as well as startups, I have found that your effectiveness can be highly correlated to your ability to build and maintain people relationships,... Read more

    The 19 September 2018 by   Martin Zwilling
    BUSINESS, CAREER
  • Keto News Highlights: Teicholz, PURE and Kerrygold

    Keto News Highlights: Teicholz, PURE Kerrygold

    This week, we summarize the top five news articles and studies in the low-carb realm, plus some success stories. The Wall Street Journal runs an op-ed... Read more

    The 19 September 2018 by   Dietdoctor
    DIET & WEIGHT, HEALTH, HEALTHY LIVING, MEDICINE