Most people would not be able to hop on a boat and set sail on a solo mission around the world. Captain Liz Clark is not most people.
The intrepid traveler left California in her 40-foot sailboat in 2006 and hasn’t looked back since. The surfer’s quest to hunt down the best waves across the globe has proven to be arduous, but the ongoing experience is something that has changed her forever — something that has taught her the value of perseverance, self-awareness, and curiosity.
Along with her four-legged partner in seafaring crime, she chases experiences instead of things. She sails toward sunsets instead of driving toward shopping malls. Instead of bags and shoes, she racks up conversations and connections she’d otherwise miss. She now knows that the value of solitude far outweighs the value of anything you could possibly deposit into a checking account.
She started her journey in Central America, gaining her sea legs with a little help from her crew.
After that, she made the decision to travel alone, at which point her mother (as any mom would), volunteered to go with her. She accepted the offer and off they went. After 22 days, however, she was on her own. It was sink or swim.
Well, that’s not totally accurate.
Clark’s buddy, who goes by the name of Amelia (or Tropicat, if you ask her Instagram friends), is with her every step of the way. But because cats need their alone time, Clark still has plenty of hours reserved for introspection as she makes her way from one port to the next.
“I think traveling alone is something that everyone would benefit from at one point or another,” she explained to ViralNova.
“It gives you a chance to really learn about yourself and to hear your inner voice more clearly. Being alone in nature helps me feel connected to the miracle that is just being alive.”
In an age of seemingly constant connection, Captain Clark sees the benefit of breaking free.
“Traveling alone also makes you vulnerable and dependent on others at times, which has helped me realize how many good people there are in the world and how much we are all alike at the core,” she writes.
“It has helped me develop compassion for other beings in positions of vulnerability, too. It’s funny because traveling solo has actually taught me how connected and dependent I am on everything else. I think my extended periods of solitude have taught me to appreciate good company, to be more present, and to listen more when I’m with others.”
The journey has given her a new perspective on the nature of wants and needs, and the distinctions we fail to make between the two in day-to-day life. Losing the ability to reach out and grab just about anything and to follow every whim has grounded the adventurer.
“I think needs and wants have blended together in most modern lifestyles, and this often keeps us in a cycle of always feeling like we need to have more and more materially to be happy. My journey has helped me highlight what is truly essential to life and fulfillment.”
That being said, there’s a certain amount of fear that comes along with taking on such an endeavor. It’s inevitable.
“A few things scare me more than anything else,” she said. “Failure and the forces of nature. I sometimes fear that I’m not mentally or physically strong enough to continue living this dream. I am also fully aware of nature’s strength, and of the fact that it will always be more powerful than me.”
Facing those fears alongside her faithful companion has shown her that she is capable of anything. With the right outlook, she’s unstoppable.
In fact, the sailor’s four-legged friend has overcome a few obstacles of her own. It’s no secret that most cats are less than fond of water, but she takes it all in stride as long as Mom brings her ashore each day to run and play. According to Clark, “We have developed an understanding that if she tolerates the parts of boat life she doesn’t like, she will also get to go on fantastic land adventures, eat fresh fish, and get plenty of ear scratches and love.”
Although she’s taking on the world alone, it’s clear upon one interaction with Liz Clark that she is anything but self-centered.
The sense of connection she feels with the land, the sea, and the many people she meets along the way is palpable. It wouldn’t be altogether shocking to see her leaving threads behind her to connect all of the wonderful ties she’s made to nations and communities around the world.
When asked where she was off to next, her response was totally unexpected in the best possible way.
When she said that she didn’t disclose her locations, I immediately assumed that it was for her safety (which would be a totally valid reason not to do so). The second portion of Clark’s response, however, had nothing to do with her. “We have our eyes on an archipelago 600 miles south of where we are now,” she said. “But we don’t give exact locations because we don’t want to ruin the wonder of exploration for those who visit these places after us!”
“I use less, need less, and want less, but have never felt more fulfilled,” she writes. “At times the work seems endless and the uncertainties too daunting, yet without these, the rest would never be as sweet.”
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