I just returned from a marvelous 10-day trip to the US and British Virgin Islands (BVI). Three of those days were spent independently on St. Thomas (part of the US though oddly you have to go through customs with your passport) and seven were spent aboard the Cuan Law (the world's largest trimaran!) island hopping through the BVI via a charter by the excellent travel company, Adventure Women. When in St. Thomas, my time was spent walking through neighborhoods and along the waterfront. When at sea, it was spent kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, and sailing.
As you can tell by the photos, my travel companion was my mom. There were also 17 other women on the sailboat with us (not including crew which was made up of two men and three women), making for a VERY FUN time. Chatter was constant. Laughs abundant. Active pursuits ongoing. It's soul satisfying to see women jump hesitant-free into the water with snorkel and mask and emerge with lists of sea life they spotted and identified. Or to see them suit up in SCUBA gear for a night dive. Or to see them easily learn how to kayak while in the middle of the ocean with white caps and large swells. Or to see them confidently sail the Hobie Cat around the point ahead of the Cuan Law.
Whoever thinks women are the weaker sex needs to spend one day with these ladies. I personally would not mess with them--and I was the youngest of the bunch at 41 (the oldest being 83 and the average being around 65!)! Oh, and did I mention that our captain was a 28-year-old woman?! She handled the Cuan Law (and all of us as well as her crew) with just the right combination of encouraging nudges and decisive commands. I'm pretty sure if Somali pirates tried to board in the middle of the night, she would have single-handedly taken care of the situation without waking us from our happy slumber. (And maybe she did just that!)
But the highlight for me was traveling with my mom. At 67, she's still as active as she was at 37 (and probably at 27 but since I wasn't born yet, I can't confirm as much). There's nothing she won't do or try to do (she was even game for sleeping outside on the top deck, under the full moon and stars) which makes picking a travel destination (and its associated activities) very easy. Plus, she has a wicked sense of humor and always has me belly laughing. And I love to laugh.
All the ladies had life stories that were fascinating. Some had triumphs over tragedies or found hope amongst chaos. Others had courage to face all odds or summoned the strength to beat them. Ten of the 19 were childfree by choice, like me--a fact that was noted by us early on. These women made a decision to go against the grain in a time when it was even more unusual to do so than it is for me today. The common denominator in the group was smarts. Nurses, Ph.Ds, school of hard knocks, business owners, teachers, engineers, zoologists...even the dive instructor, Maddy, went to college to get a degree in diving. No one sloughed off in life. And no one made excuses.
I'm not saying that these women were perfect. There were a few that definitely displayed some wacky insecurities and a couple of others that were downright pains in the ass. But even so, I could see that those quirks were the side effects of a lifetime of fighting to be seen and heard at home or in the workplace. I'm okay with that. Survival sometimes leaves scars.
One of the strange side effects of living on water for such an extended period of time is landsickness--the opposite of seasickness. After rocking and swaying for seven days on the boat, stepping onto solid land confused my mind and scrambled my sense of balance as much as the first few hours on the boat did. Only landsickness seems to have lasted a little longer. It's been four days since I left the undulating water and my mind still awakes in the morning thinking its on the Cuan Law. I open my eyes and the room spins a bit. I don't try to reconcile things when it does though. Instead, I take a deep breath and let the waves of sailboat memories and the women who star in them--especially my mom--wash over me one more time.