I'll never forget the time I came home after living in Tanzania and went to the local bar where many of my high school peers would occasionally hang out. I had been gone three years and was dealing with a fair amount of reverse culture shock - and subsequent depressive "funk" - as a result of my return. I self-consciously walked into the bar, saw some people I hadn't seen since highschool and after striking up generic "what have you been up to?" pleasantries with all of them (this was pre-Facebook, people!), I found it a) hard to describe that I had been living in Africa without sounding like a pompous asshole and/or dreaded 'travel snob' and b) interesting that once I did describe what I had been up to, "Err...I've been...in...um....Africa" - no one really cared. Sure, I got a few, "whoa's" and some "very cool's" but, in general, it ended there. No one wanted to know any details about anything I had experienced at all. Zero.
It was an important lesson for me, and one that I am grateful I learned. While I'm embarrassed to admit I was feeling rather "interesting" and "exotic" coming right off my worldly travels and experiences (I mean, I witnessed a Masai circumcision for crying out loud), the fact that I did not 'hold court' in that hometown bar regaling tales of African adventure served me well by knocking me down a peg. It taught me an important lesson about sharing stories. Namely, that "sharing" plays a huge part in the telling of stories, and if there is not something shared between the listener and the storyteller, the story is irrelevant. A hard pill to swallow for someone who just had the most intense and incredible three years of her life and possesses an almost intrinsic compulsion to share (hence this blog). It doesn't mean that your 'audience' needs to have had the same experience as you, but there must be an interest, a desire...something to connect with. Many of the people in the bar that night had never been out of the country, let alone to Africa, so there was a lack of understanding. Not "ignorance" or "jealousy", simply no frame of reference. It hit me like a ton of bricks: just because you have a story to tell, does not mean others want to hear it. A humbling lesson for a twenty-seven year old gypsy spirit to learn.
Take parenthood, for example. For many of us, our kids dominate our conversations, thoughts, and Facebook feeds. Being parents is the most important thing we will ever do, and those of us who have children cannot imagine a life any other way. We find tremendous joy in watching our children grow and sharing our lives with them. We actively seek out friendships with other parents who understand our happiness and empathize with our struggles. Is parenthood is for everyone? Are people who chose a child-less route are any less fulfilled? Can we no longer sustain conversation and friendships with people who don't have kids? Absolutely not. I believe it's this way with cruising, travel and adventuring. It no doubt enhances and enriches the lives of those that chose it, but it's not for everyone. And that's a good thing.
It's the same now, after having lived on the boat. Rarely do Scott and I talk about our travels or life on our boat when we are out with our friends back home. It comes up almost never, and if it does - it's brief and not something we dwell on. Does this mean we don't love our friends? That we have nothing in common with them anymore? That we feel 'lost' in our own country? No, no, and no. We are blessed with amazing friendships that transcend our need to share our experiences abroad and we connect with them on other levels. The fact of the matter is this: not everyone is interested in travel or sailing or adventure. It might seem shocking to us that are, but people find happiness and contentment in many ways. When we get the pleasure to meet up with fellow travelers, adventurers, sailors or soon-to-be cruisers, the questions come flying. Why? Because these are people with whom we share our wanderlust with. People who possess this adventurous spirit, either in desire or in actuality, will revel in your tales from off the beaten path and you will revel in theirs. Stories have a time and place.
So don't be surprised if people aren't asking about what it's like to live on a boat, what it feels like to sail overnight, or what thoughts go through your head when you sail into a squall.... There's a quote that says, "We share with people who've earned the right to hear our story..." and while, at first, that sounds snobbish, I don't think it is. We are each of us a composite of a million stories, and how we connect truly and deeply with another person is in shared experiences. We are all multi-faceted individuals and most of us don't fit into any one single box, we can connect on many levels. We are a conglomeration of many: Traveler. Poet. Surfer. Musician. Writer. Athlete. Widow. Artist. Botanist. Addict. Parent. Teacher. Sailor. Animal lover. Techie. Husband. Wife. Sister. Brother. Daughter...etc.These shared experiences are what 'earn' us the right to hear, and share in, another's story. If you find that people aren't interested in the story you want to tell, don't take it personally; sit back, enjoy their company, and ask questions. You'll find a story that is shared.
And if that doesn't do it for you, find another outlet for telling your stories and start a blog. Worked for me ;)