Thursday, May 21, 2009

4Wheeler sailing update

Home at Last

After wandering around Central America, Mexico and the Bahamas for the last 17 months (496 days), having traveled 12,186 miles, visiting 9 countries and 16 states we have finally arrived home. Our journey, both by land and sea, has been a life changing experience and we remain profoundly humbled by the blessing of such a great family adventure.
The kids have loved moving back into their rooms and seeing our cat Ike. Marshall has constructed every known Lego figure possible and routinely runs up to show off his latest creation. Amy is also enjoying her new elbow room and after going through all her cloths (yes she tried them all on) found only 10 things that still fit. I guess that is what happens when you go from a little girl to a young lady.
Susan and I are overwhelmed by the house and all the stuff. After living on the boat with all our possessions in a closet no bigger than the average entryway closet the excess of our house seems a little silly. Susan assures me that I will turn back into a consumer once again but it is amazing to us how happy and content you can be without all the stuff. Living on a boat, even one as large as ours, may seem spartan to some but we lacked for nothing and we were very content. Perhaps the hardest thing to get used to is how quiet the house is at night and that nothing is moving.
I wanted to close this final "sailing" update by saying thanks again for your thoughts and prayers over the last year. They were much appreciated and tangibly felt. Having been gone for so long we are eager to reconnect with friends, and with no summer plans our schedule is wide open, so put us back on your party invite list and social calendar. We are well rested and ready to kick up our heels again.
Thanks for journeying with us over the last year and a half. We are blessed to have you as friends.

The 4Wheelers
Mark, Susan, Amy & Marshall

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Going Home

Going Home


The concept of going home holds for me many warm thoughts and appealing images, yet the idea of "home" has always intrigued me. It seems in most cultures home is usually associated with a dwelling or specific piece of geography. The significance of the permanency or stability of "home" as a place is not lost to me, but living on a boat taught us that home is less about place and more about people. We were home on Mima and it felt that way because we were a family. The "mobile" home that Mima provided gave us the opportunity to explore and adventure outside our own paradigms and by so doing we expanded our understanding of self and the world around us.  

In a broader context however, we are realizing that being back home in the United States is truly a delight. We are enjoying many of the luxuries of living in the U.S. that we used to take for granted. Smooth roads, abundant potable water, a really good steak and readily available goods and services have made us feel like we are being treated as royalty simply by being here. Even in these trying economic times the general ease with which life takes place in the U.S. is nothing short of exceptional.

As I write this we are in northeast Montana 65 miles from the Canadian border. Over the last few weeks we have traveled from Florida, visiting National Parks, historic landmarks, a Presidential Library and a host of other notable and interesting locations covering almost 4000 miles. Marshall still asks, "Dad how far are we driving today" and once an answer is given he quickly computes how many hours we will travel on land versus how many days it would have taken at sea. This new life at 60 miles per hour is still taking a while for us to get used to.

The hours spent driving have allowed us all to reflect on our time sailing and like happens so often the trials of the journey seem to be fading into the distance and the triumphs are becoming treasured memories. We are all missing the ocean and the amazing environment it is and the opportunities it afforded us as a family.

The lessons learned at sea would be hard, if not impossible, to replicate on land and the people and places we visited have forever shaped who we are. We are almost "home" and as we look forward to being back in familiar surroundings we find ourselves thinking about and longing for the slower and less structured life of a sailor. Whether the kids will ever "go" to sea again only time will tell, but for Susan and me we sincerely hope that life will afford us the opportunity to set sail again to explore more of this amazing world we live in.


Thanks for journeying with us over the past 16 months, the 4Wheelers      

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

4Wheeler Photo

Here we are with the motorhome in front of Boothill in Dodge City Kansas.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Mima Goes Aground"

We awoke to clear skies that contained a tangible chill and a foreboding that today would be like no other we had experienced before and one we would not soon forget. The past 15 months had seen us visiting new countries and meeting wonderful people, who have all added greatly to the tapestry that is our lives. But this day, day number 455 aboard Mima, would be like no other we had ever experienced. This would be the day that Mima went aground.

Actually, only the crew of Mima went aground, but as we said goodbye to our home for the last year and three months we felt like we had run aground. The life we had become accustomed to and the one which had provided so many new experiences was now behind us and a new adventure was underway. Having moved our possessions onto a motor home we were beginning the journey back to Idaho. Visiting friends and family along the way, we are excited to be home, but we are realizing daily how deeply we will miss the sailing lifestyle.

I will reflect a little on our time at sea in my article two weeks from now but for this one I have included a few excerpts from the kids about their time cruising. I trust you enjoy them and we look forward to seeing you all soon back home in Idaho.

Amy writes;

The Ups and Downs of Leaving Mima

I am excited to be heading home to see, my cat Ike, our house, friends, and family, but as a result I am truly going to miss great friends, who felt like family, and hopping from island to island. What's nice about cruising, that I personally will miss a lot, is that you make good friends quickly because you don't know when you will see them again since you are always moving from place to place. The nice thing about living a stationary life is that you never have to say "good bye" to people, which I'm not very good at. But I think that's better than not having met them at all. I think at least if you have to say "good bye" you'll get to say "hi" again sooner, and with most of our friends it's not "good bye" just "see you later." I have no doubt that we will see some of our fabulous, fishy friends again soon. As for old friends, I'm over exuberant to have our paths cross again.

Some people ask where my favorite place that we have been to on this trip is, but I really don't know, but it's definitely not the time I got stranded on an island for 6 hours…ALONE! I very much enjoyed the San Blas Islands in Panama and the Rio Dulce River in Guatemala. The San Blas Islands were great because the water was frequently warmer than the air, and keep in mind it was ninety degrees. The white sandy beaches were wonderful and we met some of our greatest friends there. The reefs were untouched and flourished with life and the brilliant colors of the fish made me stare in awe. What I loved so much about the Rio Dulce wasn't where I was but who I was with. I met so many great friends there. Spanish school up in Xela, a small town in the mountains of Guatemala, was a blast. The very kind Guatemalan lady we stayed with was great and so was my Spanish teacher who only knew about one hundred English words. I loved Antigua, a small town in the middle of three of Guatemala's most active volcanoes, where my grandma and grandpa Wheeler came to visit us. We had fun being tourists and even hiked to the top of an active volcano (which I'm extremely proud of my grandma for doing).

Even though there were some things I disliked about living on a sailboat, it was worth it for all the friends we made and all the places we went and all the really awesome things we were able to do. I am sure I will never forget this trip.

Marshall writes;

Looking Back

Now that I look back after living on our boat Mima for 15 months I can state some of my favorite things and some of my least favorite things. Some of my favorite things and places are meeting the sailing vessel Side By Side, seeing the Goliath Grouper on Christmas Day, going to Atlantis, and making wonderful friends in St. Petersburg, Florida. Some of my least favorite things are not having my own space, missing friends and family, and home schooling.

When we left Mima in St. Pete I knew I would have lots of great things to remember about living on a boat. I was very happy when we became sailing buddies with Side By Side who have a 12 year old boy named Parker who likes almost everything I do. We were able to sail with them for over a year. We became really great friends. It was awesome when we saw the Goliath Grouper that was 8 feet long and weighed 100s of pounds. It was so cool seeing something that big right under our boat. We fed it a chocolate chip pancake when we ran out of fish and he spit it back out. We got to take Mima to a resort called Atlantis in the Bahamas that was really beautiful. Seeing and learning about all the marine wildlife like the Hammer Head Sharks and Giant Mantas at Atlantis was definitely a highlight of our trip.

Even though living on a boat with white sandy beaches to play on and clear blue water to snorkel in is pretty awesome there were a couple of things that were not so great. It was hard not being with family for Christmas like we always do, and I missed not having lots of friends to play with. Now that we are done sailing I can look back and say that the trip was worth it with the places we saw, the things we got to do, and the friends we met.

Live Slow, Sail Fast, Love Well the 4Wheelers

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Life in the Slow Lane

"Life in the Slow Lane"

I recently saw a t-shirt with a quote from famed race car driver Michael Andretti that said, "If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough." I chuckled at the notion and then began reflecting on the last 15 months that we have spent sailing along at a blistering 7 knots. At times even that snail's pace seemed too fast and I wished I could slow down.

I coincidently received an e-mail around the same time from a friend back home inquiring about a few things related to our time at sea that I have not written about. The reality is that cruising, in many ways is not much different than life on land. The everyday tasks of living and life must continue. Sure there are additional challenges at times based on our limited space and often exotic surroundings that are new and unusual, but for the most part they are much like life at home. The personal and interpersonal challenges you face on land still exist at sea. The issues that are a challenge in Idaho are still a challenge in Panama, Guatemala, Belize, or wherever life takes you.

The more challenging questions asked by my friend revolved around lessons learned and how one integrates back into life once we return home. I was particularly challenged by a question asking how we would find fulfillment in Nampa Idaho after such an exciting and life changing experience. Everyone who chooses to live out a life dream understands somewhere deep in their heart before they attempt it that the experience will change them. The scary part is wondering if I will like the change and the challenge really becomes how to take the adversity and triumph experienced while attempting the dream and mold them both into character building events.

How a particular individual or family, in this case the Wheelers, achieve a positive end-result is as varied as the individuals who choose to live out a lifelong dream. The real key, it seems, is learning to take adversity and triumph and use them BOTH as building blocks. Not steps upon which one props themselves up but foundational building blocks that become the core of who an individual is.

Amy and Marshall have seen more and experienced more in the last 15 months than they or we could have ever imagined. Susan and I have experienced highs and lows entirely new to us even after 22 years of marriage. We are learning that finding fulfillment is not about arriving at a place but about the process. For me life provided great fulfillment at 7 knots learning and becoming proficient at the process of sailing and living in harmony with the sea. Others like Michael Andretti find fulfillment in the process of driving a race car at 180 miles an hour. One does not take the place of the other and they are simply different avenues for different people to live out a dream.

We decided to take a chance and go for a dream that had been incubating within us for over 10 years. Deciding to go was the hardest part. Once we had decided to go we committed ourselves to making it happen and then the journey of discovery we found ourselves on provided daily opportunities for us to expand ourselves.

The key for me was slowing down enough that I could get the target in focus. I had spent 20 years in the fast lane and the result was a blurry image of life. Many who knew me questioned whether I could stand moving at a sailor's pace for any extended period of time. Not only did we tolerate it but we got to liking moving along at a slower pace. Still, I would presume that some might need to find a way to add some speed to their journey to bump them out of a rut and onto new and fertile soil. Whichever tack you choose (sailing pun intended) the message is clear to this sailor, dreams are worth attempting and fulfillment comes not from arriving at a destination but learning from and enjoying the moments of the journey.

The 4Wheelers

4 Wheeler Sailing Update

Attached is my most recent article that appeared last week.
Enjoy and Blessings,  Mark

Monday, March 23, 2009