Having conversations with folks on the subject of opening new chapters in their lives. Maybe we're just sensitive to the topic. It is wonderful to hear people's reflections on their lives and their directions. Changes, new things, old things. Some folks worry about what they might lose. We found that we're forging connections with new tribes at an amazing pace.
The old-tribe-new-tribe thing is something we did not think much about until after the going-away parties. For example, "Because We Are So Loved". I guess we sort of thought we might meet interesting people. But we didn't expect to make friends so quickly.
Even after a few trips back north to visit the old tribe, we still had not thought very much about how we forge bonds and create new tribes. But after some of this weekend's conversations, we're slowly starting to understand a little more of it.
It turns out that we have our boating tribe in and around our marina. We have our Whitby 42 tribe. We also have our Historic Ghent tribe. And we have our Schenectady tribe. And we even have our Syracuse, College and High School tribes. And family. And there may be others we haven't understood, yet.
We're slowly finding out that we live in the overlapping circles of numerous tribes. It appears that we're always forging new bonds, and reinforcing existing ones. I think that periodic maintenance—opening new chapters—may be an essential part of this.
We read a lot of advice before we set off. Much of it was focused on "Cruising Couples" (like us) where one partner (often the husband) is ready to explore and the other partner (often the wife) isn't as comfortable with the idea of setting off to create a new life. Not everyone thinks that opening a new chapter is a great idea. Getting more settled has its advantages.
Almost all partnerships share this imbalance: one partner looking forward to what could be, the other looking back to what is. It's a sort of hunting vs. cultivating dichotomy. This may have a biological basis. It may be that women nest and form the kinds of deep social bonds that child-rearing requires. Or maybe it's simply an individual thing.
We think the best advice came from Beth Leonard's The Voyager's Handbook: she suggested that the forward-looking partner needs to find good reasons for the other partner to participate in opening the new chapter. Good reasons. This means having some deep and honest conversations about what's important and what a couple's future might look like. What are we looking forward to? What do we value? What do we like to do together? Separately?
In particular, Leonard was quite careful to note that sailing around and doing boat maintenance may not be a big draw for a reluctant partner. The prospect of forming a new tribe, however, may be the big draw that gets someone out of their old life and helps them open a new chapter in their life.
Leonard's advice seemed like a nice idea when we read it. But it turned out to be remarkably true as we actually starting doing it. Meeting marina folks. Meeting Whitby owners. Meeting neighbors in Historic Ghent.
CA and I had discussed the "What do we do next?" question in some depth. Over a period of years, I think; starting as early as 2006 Lake Champlain or 2007 Tortola. The alternatives seemed unpleasant to CA. The kids live on the west coast. Our parents are reasonably healthy, with family close by. We could "settle in"—CA described this a "joining the bowling league"—our big night out would be bowling night. Other nights we'd be hoping for the kids to call. Sigh. While perhaps an unfair characterization, settling in didn't appeal to her.
CA wrote the Team Red Mission Statement (at the top of this page: "To see as much of the world as we can, Using the smallest carbon footprint we can, Spending the least amount of money we can, Making as many friends we can") as a way to understand and characterize what we valued. That fourth clause, growing the tribes we belong to, was central to her vision of our new life.
Leonard's advice isn't merely about boating; it transcends sailing. Voyaging—as a life style—is about moving from the old tribes to gather in new tribes. It's more about making connections than it is about boats and the ocean. Everyone who elects to form a new tribe is a voyager.
A Magic Word
It's hard to add to what she wrote, but I think the word I might add to Beth Leonard's advice is the word "patiently". It takes a bit of "hello" and some sincere "how have you been?" to turn a nodding acquaintance into a friend and a friend into a tribe member.
But, really, it's remarkably easy. I think there's no real magic. We tend to forge the bonds we want. When we open a new chapter, the bonds we form look remarkably like the old bonds we already have. If we liked our old life, our new life will be very similar, but with even more great people.