Young, shy, scared and way out of my depth, I’d just turned 27. Three short months before this moment my fiancé succumbed to leukaemia. I couldn’t stay in our shared apartment. I didn’t want to return to my ‘Corporate World’ job as an Events Executive. ‘Who knows what’s around the corner for me,’ I said to friends, ‘I can’t give my life to people in suits any longer.’ I’ve held a young man in my arms as he left me forever.
Now, I was going to live life on my terms – something I wasn’t brave enough to do before. So I ran away to Australia. Five months later I married Noel, an Aussie. We purchased a sailboat and ran away to sea. Yes, we both questioned the rebound phenomenon. Noel was suffering with his heart-break with the ending of a relationship just before we met.
With delicate hearts, twisting stomachs, and obscure thoughts, we both took a risk. ‘Don’t hurt me,’ I almost pleaded with Noel as we camped on the beautiful headland at Iluka, NSW; our emotions as delicate as a frozen petal, yet as fierce as a lion’s roar. He uttered the same words back. We gave each other our hearts that day and almost twenty years later, we still carry them with the same care.
On a friends’ boat in Barbados – me and my hairy man!
We’d just crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Unworldly, timid, and with a hairy man I didn’t really know I was thrust into the Australian culture. I had not one close friend nearby, except Noel. To make matters worse we moved onto a boat, a machine I didn’t understand. I joined the cruising community – a lifestyle and culture I had no idea existed.
We are still best mates
Nearly two decades later, we are still best mates. We’ve traversed many oceans, trekked in the bush with adopted horses, we’ve overcome every obstacle together. I’ve changed. I’m 46 and I love this decade. I love myself, my morals, my beliefs. I’ve become a strong woman – I believe in myself. Life is so great it’s almost ridiculous – and it still feels so delicate. I’ve made mistakes along the way, but they’ve been good learning curves.
Now I live by these rules:
Go Now or Settle for Never
With decades of extraordinary escapades under our belts, Noel and I are often asked, ‘when’s the best time to go?’
The answer? Now!
This, of course, does not mean drop everything and dash out the door leaving the dog and kids staring at your retreating back. It means you can plan now, save now, and organise your thoughts to go.
There is NEVER going to be an ideal time. You are alive now, healthy now, able to go… so if it is your dream, hope or desire to go do something other than what you are doing now… get on with it.
Living out our dreams. On board Mariah II (our first boat (with no fridge!)) – puttering through Chicago on our Great Loop adventure
Time to go is now – our trip through France on a 1920s Dutch Barge
They’re a great source for learning. Choose positive mentors in all you do. But don’t completely ignore the negative people. Everyone teaches us something – even if it’s how NOT to be or behave!
We’ve met amazing people. I’ve learned from every single one of them. Suwarrow with the island’s managers (from the Cook Islands)
Drop the pen!
Many years ago I studied to be a counsellor. The main thing I learned was that I could never be a counsellor. Every lesson was useful though, and one particular teaching stays with me.
Imagine someone throwing you a pen. You catch it.
Next time they throw it, let it fall. Don’t catch it.
Do this with unkind, judgemental comments.
Remember to breathe
Focus on yourself, you are important. Love yourself!
The fact you are still breathing means the rest is incidental.
When sailing on a tiny boat in the middle of the vast ocean, if everything was okay on board, everything was okay in our world.
As long as everything is okay on board our small boat – everything is okay in the world
I am on Ned leading Charlie – these are two of our team of 5. Our journey (for months) in the bush with just five horses and Noel and me was extraordinary. Those boys changed my life. A Standard Journey – 5 horses, 2 people, and 1 tent is now available on audio (as well as Kindle and paperback). As I write this interview, three of the team are coming home to me – it’s a long story.
As I breathe I live.
As I breathe I live, the Spartans were known to say and they wouldn’t stop fighting until they didn’t have a breath left in them. Keep fighting, keep going…
A full dinghy – I can do things I’ve never dreamed off! Collecting tyres for fenders for our boat to traverse the Panama Canal.
Noel on board Stevie leading Dom (left) and Spirit. This was one of the toughest journeys, but rewarding and it taught me so much about myself.
The World is giving you a Wink
Things go wrong. Deal with it by turning it into a positive and await the real reason it’s gone bottom up.
An unexpected change in plans or events is annoying, but it opens up alternative opportunities and the outcome is often far better than you had originally planned. We were selling our 1920s Dutch Barge in Belgium. It’s a tough market with Brexit and economies struggling. An unfriendly Dutch guy almost bought the boat but pulled out at the last minute. It was upsetting and frustrating as we were coming home to Australia and so much hinged on this sale. The very same day a lovely family made an offer and the boat is now theirs. It was a sweet deal for us all and resulted in a developing friendship.
Going with the flow. We’d just sailed into Panama on New Year’s Eve. I am dancing with a local while waiting to check in with Customs and Quarantine!
Be an encourager, there are far too many critics in the world already.
Everyone loves to criticise, knowing better than you. We met a young French couple in The Gambiers, in the Pacific Ocean. They’d been criticised by other cruisers because they only had two years to sail around the world. ‘You’re going too fast!’ ‘That’s not enough time!’ ‘You’ll miss the best bits!’ Whereas Noel and I said, ‘that’s brilliant, well done! Now, tell us where you’ve been and where you are going.’ If someone is doing something I wouldn’t do or like, or differently to how we’d do it, I refrain from saying so. I offer support and as much encouragement as I can. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s wrong!
We met some negative people while trail riding. Many said we couldn’t do it. Here I am hanging feed at our next camp having been loaned a car by some of the incredibly helpful people we met.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Forget stressing about the washing machine breaking down, or a thoughtless comment. Shrug your shoulders and laugh. Save your energy for when you really need it! I learned this while sailing around the world on a thirty-three foot boat. You can’t worry about the stain on your favourite t-shirt, your hair looking a mess, or eating noodles again for the fifth time in a row (we didn’t have a fridge for the nine years onboard). I saved my energy for bad weather, fatigue (four hours on/off during night-watch), and other challenges that turned up uninvited.
Don’t sweat the small stuff – save your energy to when you really need it!
Love yourself and don’t’ sweat the small stuff. Does it matter I am not glamorous? Nope – I am happy.
Choose Happiness. Believe me this works. You can decide to be miserable or decide to be happy. Try it, you will be amazed at the results and how it becomes a habit!
Turn It Around: Negative to Positive:
I am so over painting. I’ve painted houses, boats and just recently a caravan. I’m not bad at it, messy though. When I became frustrated the paint would drip, spill – I’d drop the paintbrush. Calming down, I realised that one day I would not be able to do this. I maybe too old, too ill or who knows… but one day something will prevent me doing physical stuff. I am grateful I am able to paint and clean and do all those undesirable jobs today!
This is right after a terrifying encounter with a shark! This is living!
Head for the light.
This applies to every aspect of your life. If something feels dark, looks dark or even smells dark – avoid it! I’m not religious, and you can interpret this however you wish. I just know that when you choose lightness over darkness it is better.
I am on Charlie, leading Ned – a 3 am start and a thankful sighting of dawn (it took us 5 hours to pack up every day!). Packing up was exhausting – but I focused on the positive, when the sun came up. The rewards are great – Grateful for every single moment.
Live with grace
Don’t be greedy or selfish when following my top tips for inspiration and having a good life.
I remind myself everyday to live with grace. If I can’t be gracious in all I do – then nothing else makes much sense.
Addicted to travel, adventure and writing, Jackie doesn’t sit still for long. Originally from the UK she is now an adopted Australian. She’s sailed around the world one-and-a-half times and trekked in the bush with five rescued horses for months. She has trained as a professional maritime captain and teacher and has explored the European canals on a 1920s Dutch barge with her Australian husband, Noel. She’s written about her sailing and horse trekking escapades, and is an encourager, ‘there are far too many critics in the world already!’ A speaker and motivational influencer, Jackie also sells inspirational and fun merchandise as well as indulging in mud (veges) and horse pooh (‘my boys!’)
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If you prefer paperbacks (with colour pictures) – try Barnes and Noble if you live in Australia or contact Jackie directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
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My life is my career. I write for a living and images such as Noel here on Suwarrow island is great material
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