On Wednesday 3 October – the morning after our arrival in Turkey – there was a 5.0 magnitude earthquake in Fethiye. There was a rumbling sound in the distance like a semi-trailer travelling down the road only it was coming closer, quicker than any vehicle could travel.
Suddenly the hotel room we were staying in started to shake. Crockery rattled, the ground shook and we grabbed the nearest handhold to keep balance.
The tremor was over quickly with no damage, but I felt the moment’s significance. It was like a ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremony. Or perhaps a portent of things to come. Maybe the forthcoming week’s sailing was going to rock our foundations in ways we weren’t to know how?
I tucked that experience away and made ready to enjoy the time in Fethiye before we boarded the boats on Friday.
Friday morning dawned with the threat of a storm on the horizon. We weren’t disappointed. At breakfast time we watched a storm of tropical proportions, but the downpour couldn’t dampen our spirits. We were excited to meet our crew and board our boat.
Our crew were on sailboat Sirius and comprised of people from all around the world:
Captain Bertram, Helle and Martin – Denmark
Robert, Judy and Peter – England
Jody and Georgia – New Zealand
Roslyn – Australia.
We were going to spend the next week together. Some of us knew each other from previous challenges, some of us were new to sailing, but we shared the bond of a MS diagnosis.
Each of us were drawn to the Turkey sailing adventure for different reasons – to meet new people, to try something new, to enjoy the implicit understanding of being amongst other people with MS, to challenge ourselves, to have fun!
All these reasons were valid for me too, but I also knew there was a deeper reason. Why was I there? I pondered this question as we each took our turn to answer. I answered in my habitual long, and roundabout way.
I reflected that as I was diagnosed at a young age, at a time when I was about to complete my University studies and then travel; MS had cut off those dreams. Life shifted focus to work, marriage, family.
Living for over half of my life with MS has shaped my existence. The fear it brings, the doubts. Whilst I had previously never taken an opportunity to travel by myself, I somehow knew that I was going to Turkey. Despite the misgivings, worries and fears I was here.
I was on a journey of discovery. To understand myself.
I felt the earthquake of earlier in the week reverberate quietly within me as I acknowledged that revelation.
Time moved in a surreal way during that week. It had a funny way of slowing down to the point where you couldn’t remember if something had happened that morning or on a previous day. Our days were full and yet relaxing; packed with new experiences and yet not rushed.
We had a great time on Sirius, though we were far from serious.
While we went about our day – setting sails, taking turns at sailing, swimming in beautiful waters at idyllic anchorages or prepping and cooking meals – we laughed, sang, supported each other and challenged ourselves.
Every moment created opportunities to connect, explore, discover. Either with each other or of ourselves.
I was discovering that I could let go of my fears that have kept me imprisoned for so long.
Boom! Went the earthquake.
Time did that funny thing again as our week drew to a close. It seemed to go by faster when I sensed most of us would have been happy to stay longer.
There was grief at the parting of dear friends just met. Sadness yes, but also quiet euphoria.
I had made the realisation that I hadn’t just been on a journey, but a quest. Throughout the week I had unconsciously been asking myself a question: Do I want to live courageously or timidly? I had answered through my actions: saying ‘yes’ to things I would hesitate to do at home, doing a bomb into the water, speaking in different accents to make others laugh and not backing away from a challenge.
I could feel my body and spirit becoming stronger. The earthquake within me had done its job to shake things up and crack the surface to reveal the inner layers. I couldn’t have achieved this without my Sirius Captain and crew. They lifted me up – literally and metaphorically. They held me up and pushed me to be the best I can be. Although our week’s sailing has ended, I will treasure the connections, friendships and memories.
So, with the help of my Oceans of Hope family, I have chosen to live courageously. I will carry on the lesson I have finally understood. To get out into the world – into life.