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Passing Time
03-Dec-2008, Culebra, Puerto Rico

CURRENT LOCATION: On a mooring ball near the reef in Ensenada Dakity
18 17.609' N, 065 16.813' W

Have you ever wished that you had more 'free' time? For many of us, the big obstacle to finding enough time to do what you want to do (rather than what you have to do) is the '40-hour workweek'. I say '40-hour' knowing full well that most jobs involve more than just 40 hours per week in the office, not to mention the time spent dressing for work each day, commuting, and the more than occasional work brought home over an evening or a weekend. Two days off each week barely gives one enough time to recharge the batteries and do it all over again. Generally, the only respite one gets from this hectic schedule is a treasured 3 weeks of vacation time each year. Three out of 52.

Well, I can now lay claim to 58 weeks outside of the '40-hour workweek' and it has been a wonderful learning experience. The first four months of that time were quite busy. We cruised the waters of five countries and covered over 2000 nautical miles (CLICK HERE for a quick review). The boat never remained in the same place for more than two weeks, and each move required intensive preparation, anxious execution, and an adjustment to our new surroundings upon arrival. Researching navigational routes, reading guidebooks, and deciding upon specific future itineraries filled much of the time when we were not underway. Squeezing in time for general boat maintenance was often a challenge, and there was always the constant demand of needing to be knowledgeable about the state of the weather. We actually had to work hard to get out and explore the wonderful destinations we were achieving.

Upon reflection, those first four months were tougher than the '40-hour workweek'. But, we were driven by adrenaline and motivated to experience it all...right now. And, most importantly, it was an effort of our own choosing. Also of our own choosing was the decision to stop for a while. Culebra turned out to be the perfect spot to bring our journey to a screeching halt. Exploration of this island took on a more casual pace, and the weeks and months rolled by easily. Boat chores diminish considerably when one is not constantly underway, and for a time we had absolutely zero responsibilities.

This was the point where I had imagined that I would accomplish all of those things I had been too 'busy' to do before. I would write a book, maybe two. There was the obvious notion of putting our experiences together in a non-fiction text, and years of losing myself in paperback novels had convinced me that I could compile a passable story with the potential for publication under the category of fiction. Who knows, one or the other could become the seed which would blossom into a career as an author. If not, the practice of writing should at least allow the occasional article idea to fall onto the page, and publication in magazines might prove an enjoyable sideline. Unlimited free time would also afford me the opportunity to seriously engage in the process of learning a foreign language. All I had to do was discipline myself to study Spanish a few hours each day and there would plenty of opportunities to practice with native Spanish speakers on the island.

Five months later, no books were written and my Spanish was no better than it was when I arrived. Contrary to what I had thought, a large block of unstructured time led me to live an unstructured life. Several attempts to organize and start books remain as incomplete documents on my hard drive. A spiral notebook with 'SPANISH' written in magic marker on the cover has several pages of vocabulary words scribbled within, but most remain blank. With many of the major attractions of the island explored, I found myself spending more and more time on the boat doing less and less. A blanket of languidness settled upon me.

Noticing that left to my own devices I was likely to make the complete transformation into a human slug, lady luck stepped in and an array of opportunities opened up for me (Frequent readers will know that for me, lady luck's name is Sheryl). While I had spent five months in an accelerating state of decline toward absolute inactivity, Sheryl had gotten involved on the island. She was our ambassador to town, and any time we needed something she was the one pulling the start cord on the dinghy engine. Before long, she couldn't walk through the streets of Culebra without being recognized. Volunteering at the library led to experiences with the turtle watching team, where she met the owner and operator of a private school on the island. It took Sheryl introducing me to Abbie (and, subsequently, two kids in need of summer-school tutoring in algebra) to shake me from my trance.

I started teaching algebra classes, which introduced a modicum of structure into my weekly routine, at just the right time. Hurricane season was reaching its crescendo and summer rains, high temperatures, and light winds were conspiring to make life aboard miserable. The level of distraction was just right. Five hours per week in class and equally as many in preparation suited me fine. When the opportunity to mix in some manual labor (in the form of pool cleaning) one day per week came up, I was set. Once it became known that my time could be had for a very low fee, opportunities to do more tutoring presented themselves, but I declined. I certainly did not want to fall into the trap of another '40-hour workweek.' Not just yet, at least.

After four months of semi-structured time here in Culebra, the day is drawing near to shift back into 'go' mode. I can feel the adrenaline begin to build within me, and it is a wonderful thing. However, I hope that our increased experience can temper the motivation to do it all...right now, and allow us to savor the journey going forward.

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