By Steven Robert Carlson
Sitting down to write on the deck of this gently rolling boat, shortly after dawn, the mind settles into easy contemplation.
Rocinante sits at anchor in an isolated bay, nestled among soaring volcanic cliffs, just outside a tiny fishing port on the southwest coast of the island of La Gomera.
For the month of July, this bay is our home.
Mornings are my favorite time to write, because I have the ship to myself until noon. Below decks, the pirates are sleeping.
Ancient stony cliffs tower high above the mizzen mast, more massive than a block of city buildings. Fissures and faults crisscross the rock faces, telling tales of tectonic cataclysms only a geologist can read.
In these moments, the mind falls silent to the magnificence of abundant nature–dynamic, yet subtle. What seems chaotic also has a pattern.
Waves beat against the distant shoreline, registering only as a soft hissing in the ears, punctuated by the irregular clacking of the ship’s rigging.
Soft morning light strokes the surface of the undulating sea, each moment revealing an infinity of patterns, shapes and possibilities.
A solitary gull cries out in the distance:
“I’m alive! I’m free! This is my home!”
The sun appears above the distant cliffs, burning away the morning mist at the top of the island. Soon, my pirate friends will be awake. Enough of epiphanies for now.
What is the point of this blog, anyway?
A friend, Roger, sent me this message a while back:
Right now recovering from homesickness since I landed again in Holland yesterday morning. Your blog keeps my spirits up at the moment and inspires me to more or less follow through to permanently relocate to La Gomera.
This is why I write. For Roger, and many others.
I’m writing for myself. I’m writing for the pirates. I’m writing for all of you out there who are struggling with change.
Change can mean leaving an old job, finding a new one or starting over in a completely different career. Change might mean saying goodbye to loved ones, to familiar places–or even to a version of ourselves that has grown outdated.
I don’t know why Roger wants to move to La Gomera, but I have an idea.
Many people spend a week or a month on this island, fall in love with this place, and decide to make a life here. It’s an old story.
This tiny rock in the Atlantic has a powerful effect. Priorities shift. German tourists greet each other with a friendly hola! Nobody wears a watch. Your only meaningful appointment is the sunset.
I came here to push the reset button.
I gave up my cozy apartment in downtown Budapest; gave away most of my possessions; packed what was left into a black navy duffel bag and boarded a flight to the Canaries–not quite knowing what to expect.
I felt myself the prisoner of habits and routines that no longer served me, or anyone else in my life. It was time to turn the page.
Now I live on an 18 meter ketch with a crew of Russian pirates. We’re moored in a bay outside a harbor facing a small village. La Gomera is the second smallest island in the Canary Islands chain.
Not a single shopping mall on this island.
No cinemas. No billboards. No fast food.
Not even a traffic light.
(I am told there used to be one working traffic light in the island’s capital, San Sebastian. It was unnecessary and confusing, so they removed it.)
Working from the heart
The sun is high and hot, and so I escape to the coolness of the common room, below decks. The pirates are sleeping, but I can hear them stirring in their bunks.
I came to this island to find a new relationship to my work.
I’ve worked as a journalist, editor, entrepreneur and marketer. I took part in founding a weekly newspaper, an Internet service provider and a global business networking company. I’ve pioneered the fields of web analytics, Internet marketing and social media. I was a founding president of my local Toastmasters club.
A few years back I felt burnt out and frustrated. I asked myself: what if I could love my work? That question lead me to La Gomera.
Here on this island, I’ve done many other kinds of work.
I’ve volunteered my time as a cook in a donation kitchen. I’ve packed and moved apartments for friends of friends. I do odd jobs and favors.
I do many kinds of work with the pirates, including cleaning the ship, hauling fresh water, making repairs and sailing the boat as a part of the crew. From time to time, I crew with another friend in the harbor who takes the tourists out to see whales and dolphins.
I listed Rocinante on Airbnb and enjoy playing host to our guests on the boat during the busy winter tourist season. More recently, I’ve been taking on freelance marketing and copywriting projects.
I’ve learned to approach my work as meditation–focusing my attention entirely on the task at hand, carrying out the motions mindfully, to the best of my abilities.
I take satisfaction in simple jobs, such as washing dishes, polishing brass or sanding wood. I enjoy working as a team with my pirate friends.
I like knowing that my work serves others.
I’ve also developed a passion for photography
A shameless plug for my pirate friends
Living onboard a pirate ship, your first rule is to be useful.
I’m not the best sailor (yet). I don’t speak Russian fluently. I’ve never been terribly handy when it comes to fixing things.
The one thing I do best is writing.
Writing is also the hardest thing I know how to do.
I’ve decided to put my writing skills to use for the pirates, by launching a crowdfunding to fix up Rocinante.
Somebody once explained to me that a ship is a hole in the sea where you throw money. Rocinante could use some cash.
My Russian friends and I are working to repair our ship, but this is slow going and money has a way of speeding things up.
I don’t want you, my reader, to feel you’re being marketed to. That’s why I’d rather state my intentions up front.
For the month of July, it will be my pleasure to entertain and inspire you with crazy-but-true stories about life on a tiny rock in the Atlantic aboard a ship with a crew of Russian pirates.
In August, the pirates and I will launch our crowdfunding.
If my writing inspires you in any way, please share this post with your friends on Facebook, Twitter or the social network of your choice.
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Damn. The pirates are up and moving about the ship. Time to end this post and push send. Congratulations, you made it to the end!