Family Magazine

The Spark to See the World

By Behan Gifford @sailingtotem

When my husband Jamie was 11, he received a copy of “The Boy Who Sailed Alone Around the World” – the story of teenager Robin Lee Graham’s solo circumnavigation. This book was that spark for him: the awakening that irrevocably instilled a desire to see the world under sail. For me, it was a high school teacher who embedded in me a love for experiencing, and trying to understand, the world through the eyes of different cultures. It took a surprisingly long time to realize this could be accomplished through my other great love- sailing!- to which I owe Jamie.

What was the spark for you?

This week, I’ve been trading email with Bo from Sailing B+A. He and his wife Allie are newlyweds gearing up for their own cruising adventures: to share expereinces from afar and help fund their adventures, they’ve started a program called Junior Captains as a vehicle to share their experiences from remote locations with kids at home: to bring them the world, and hopefully be that spark.

Bo told me about the origin of his spark to go cruising. He has articulated it beautifully, so instead of paraphrasing– with Bo’s permission, I’m sharing it in his words below.

I was never really the cool kid growing up. When I got to college, I really didn’t have a direction or purpose. I had no clue what I wanted to do when I grew up. Over Christmas Break that year, I discovered an old 19′ sailboat under a foot of pine straw in the woods behind my family’s lake cabin.

I’d never been into sailing, but it seemed cool, so I convinced my parents to let me live at the lake for a month that next summer. I picked up a book from Barnes and Noble to learn how to sail, and a friend and I fixed up the old sailboat.

That summer started something awesome. I read Tania Aebi’s Maiden Voyage detailing her circumnavigation at age 18. I was 18 and I didn’t even know sailing around the world was still even a thing!

A couple of summers later I’d bought a 25′ sailboat and decided to take a semester off of college to sail around Florida. I sailed 1300 miles singlehanded that summer from Orange Beach, Alabama to Key West & back. My first day offshore to begin that trip to Key West was my first time offshore ever. It was incredible, and even though I almost died a few times, I made it.

That summer I went from being a shy, purposeless teen to a confident, outgoing adult. I suddenly had an identity and a purpose!

A few months later, having finished the trip, I was back in class trying to graduate. I was totally over school, doodling in my notebook when I wrote this…”If I turn 28 and I’m not married with kids and a house, I’m going to sell everything, buy another boat, and go sailing again–this time around the world.”

Granted, I was 21 at the time, fully expecting to be married with kids and a house by 28, just like any good southern boy is. Hah.

So life happened, I got a good corporate job and did the biweekly paycheck thing for a few years. Which was great, until I wrote out a bucket list and quickly realized I wasn’t getting closer to any of the goals and dreams I wanted to accomplish in my life.

So on my 27th birthday, I woke up remembering what I’d promised myself, and quit my job. It’s taken a few years to figure it out, but as you know, I’ve since found the boat (and a wife!) and began the trip. Coincidentally, quitting my job was the best move I could’ve ever made in my career, and I’ve gotten the chance to work some incredible events (like the super bowls & olympics we’ve talked about…).

I tell you all of that to get to this. When I was 18, Tania Aebi’s story taught me to dream big. By dreaming big, I’ve been able to discover my passions, which allow me to become a confident and successful adult. And I’m not special…I’m just a chunky kid from a small town in Georgia.

So by sharing my story–and the stories of the people and places we encounter–I hope that we’re able to introduce kids back home to a world they didn’t know existed. A world where normal people are doing incredible things.

By doing this, I hope that I can do what Tania did for me. Inspire kids to dream big–and live it.

Sharing the inspiration

I love the story of the spark for Bo, and I REALLY love that it’s his goal to help share that with other kids. Helping other families through the hurdles to share the world with their kids was a huge motivating factor for writing Voyaging With Kids: is there a better way to raise our children than helping them appreciate how big the world is, how varied and colorful and precious, so they can be more responsible stewards in our wake?

To help kickstart their program, Bo & Alli have a giveaway that will get at least three kids started as Junior Captains (you can also win a copy of The Boat Galley Cookbook, or Voyaging With Kids).

The giveaway ends really soon- like TOMORROW, Sunday October 25. So if you think you might even possibly be interested: go for it, enter here! Nothing to lose, and the world to gain.


1st Prize: A real life sailing trip + a free lifetime subscription to the Junior Captains program. (We’ll take them sailing with us for a day, or pay for them to go on a daysail on a charter boat in the location of their choice if it isn’t feasible for them to sail wherever we are.)

2nd Prize: 1 year free subscription to the Junior Captains program + free copy of The Boat Galley Cookbook

3rd Prize: 3 months free subscription to the Junior Captains program + free copy of Voyaging with Kids

I want to bring around the question I asked above. What was the spark for you? A person a book, a movie, an experience? I’d love to hear about it- add to post comments, submit a blog contact form, or tell me on Totem’s Facebook page.


thanks to the other cruising bloggers who helped share Bo and Allie’s program: Brittany (Windtraveler), Carolyn (The Boat Galley), Genevieve (Necesse), Jody (Where the Coconuts Grow), and Jessica (Matt & Jessica). Grateful to be part of the tribe.


Links to Bo’s giveaway in this post are tagged, so Bo will know I sent him your way. If you sign up, he tips me a portion. But just get there however you want (the Junior Captains home page is, and pass it along! This is a cool way to share the world with kids.

This post is syndicated on Sailfeed.

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