My plan for a year overseas did not go as planned, but when does it ever happen that way? Not in a million years did I think I would end my journey in the Galapagos, but there was not a better, more perfect last destination. God’s plan is always better than mine.
I thought I would be a changed person, but I’m not sure I am…I think time will tell. I know the things I really wanted to change in me; taking things personally, playing the victim card, having my hair reach the middle of my back and being as skinny as I was my sophomore year in college, did not happen.
But I did change courses and my life projection will never be the same. I don’t know what I want to do for a second career, but I DO know what I don’t want to do. That’s a start.
On a serious note, I learned that nothing is as it seems, not even people you thought you trusted. The black cloud of my year away was solely with the first boat I crewed on. The owners were awful to me. The captain was manipulative and took complete advantage of my venerability. He yelled and cursed at me by day, and by night would make advances. I felt lost and alone. Losing everything I had worked for 27 years for, having my Dad die when I was away...all still do not excuse my very bad judgement with regards to handling his advances. Nothing will ever excuse or heal it. Then the wife was once a close friend, threatened to hurt me, dumped a hot cup of coffee on my head and called my friend a terrible thing. I was warned to leave the children alone yet the smallest child was manipulative; taking 4 hours to finish dinner so we could not do anything until he finished, continuously lied and made peace on the boat impossible. Leaving them was 50% the Captain, 25% the wife, 25% the youngest kid. Thank God I had the strength to realize that the only way to get out was to get off their boat.
In a lot of ways, OceansWatch.org saved me from a deep hole. Learning more about our oceans, reefs and the struggles of communities throughout the Caribbean was eye opening. A focus away from ME. Volunteering and having a purpose on their boat, as well as surrounded by new friends breathed new life in my soul. It wasn’t all easy or all fun, it was hard work, but it was good for me. And dispite them being brand new friends, I was surrounded by people who cared about me and were not just using me.
And every time I start to wonder or feel guilty for taking this year overseas, I remind myself of the 26 years I worked many hours building a business and many years without a vacation. The many opportunities I said no to. A career that ended by a corporation turning its back on me financially, with shallow promises of "trust me" from someone without authority to trust. I trusted who I thought was like family, only to find out the higher power, the corporation itself could care less of my personal loyalty and sacrifices for all those years. I learned. A contract overides trust. So, good lesson. Does it leave me cold and bitter? No, just smarter in contract negotiations. As far as the "family" of the "company"...The Orlando Sentinel, well, the real ones are still there. The real ones have shown themselves clearly. And for that, I am deeply moved.
So as I review the year I am going to share my “Best” list from places, people and things.
Best Greek Island for fun: Paros
Best tiny Greek Island: Trizonia
Best secluded Greek Beach: Despotico
Best Museum/Palace: Alhambra, Granada, Spain
Best all-around vacation spot: La Palma Island, Canary Islands
Best Volcano: Sicily. (Especially Stromboli)
Best Caribbean Island: Bequia
Best unusual Caribbean experience: Montserrat
Best prices for shopping: Colon, Panama and Panama City
Best place in the world: Galapagos Islands
Best experience with animals: tie 1) Petting baby lions in South Africa 2) Snorkeling with sea lions and penguins in the wild in the Galapagos Islands
Best place to find the craziest drivers with no speed limits and no tickets: Dominican Republic
Best swimming and sunbathing: the Balearic Islands, Spain
Best wind: on top of Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
Best spices: Sale, Morocco, Africa.
Best year of my life: this one.