I was born and raised in a log cabin on the outskirts of a small town in the Rocky Mountains of western Canada. By small town, I mean it had a bar, hotel, gas station, post office and less than 30 residents. My family grew, raised and hunted most of our own food. My childhood was materially simplistic but experientially diverse. Being predominately homeschooled freed up our time to prioritize travel and education through experience. Both the extensive collection of National Geographic Magazines my mom stored under my sisters bed, and the 1999-2000 new years broadcast spanning every timezone around the globe, catalyzed my lust for the world. But, it took many more frustrating years before it fully matured into a life defining decision.
Although we lived hundreds of miles from the ocean and boats, my Dad fostered the navigational skills and a confidence for adventure on land, that later translated well to the sea. At 16 I earned a scholarship to attend a private boarding school on the east coast of the United States, just north of Philadelphia. I finished high school there and attended a few college courses before choosing a degree and applying to a small architecture school a few miles north of Atlanta, where, as you may now know, I met Kika.
I was born in Port au Prince, Haiti, into a loving, hard working family who was blessed with opportunities not available to many in my country. I attended school there and enjoyed a relatively peaceful childhood, taking many trips exploring my country, driving through mountains and spending most of my weekends at the beach. I must add that my love for the ocean had always been without measure. From my house, there is a direct view down to the main commercial port, where my mom used to work. From time to time, I would look down from my brothers window, gazing at all the large container ships coming in and out from foreign ports around the world. It was easy to put my imagination into play, closing my eyes and seeing myself traveling to many different places in the world. My family would often joke about my prolific dreams or that I lived in the clouds, and that I needed to come back down to earth. Although I laughed along, I knew in my heart that someday traveling would become my life.
When I turned 18, I moved to the United States to attend architecture school and met Dan shortly after. In the middle of my studies, Haiti was devastated by the massive earthquake that shook the country in 2010. It left a scar on my country and in my heart. I felt hopeless, far away and disconnected from my friends and family back home. It was then that I realized I did not want to waste my life sitting behind a desk. I had to do something more, not only for my country but for all those suffering. I needed to travel, see and learn all that I could about the world, so that I could one day use that acquired knowledge to help change the world for the better.
Dan and I often joke about how different our childhoods were, yet they led us both to the same place in time. From there, our existence merged. One thing was certain, we both dreamt a bigger world existed than the one we grew up in and longed to see it for ourselves.
With this binding ideal, we set our sights on achievement. By working backwards, we came up with a plan shortly before graduating. We founded an architectural design consulting firm, DADEM Studios, LLC, days after receiving our diplomas. That summer, we merged our past expertise in residential construction with the design background we achieved in school to tackle enough projects to fund the first 2 years of our endeavor. By the end of the summer, we had sold the majority of our materialistic ties to our past lives, purchased our boat, and moved out of Atlanta. With only a van full of our remaining clothes, tools and supplies, we drove from Atlanta to Fairhaven, Massachusetts on the north east coast of the United States and moved into our new home.
“How the heck did we decide to live on a boat and sail the world?"
When we started dating, we had a five year plan, we had a successful residential renovation company, we had a place to live, we had cars, motorcycles, steady incomes and a pretty good life overall. We had everything we needed, but something was still missing. So what was the catalyst that sparked this whole idea? Well, this story starts in a small apartment in downtown Atlanta.
It was not even our apartment. We were helping a friend move into her new place. While carrying in the last few boxes of her stuff, we were introduced to her new room mate. He seemed like a nice enough guy. Once the last boxes were carried in from the car, we started chatting with him over a beer and fresh baked cookies. The subject quickly shifted to travel once we discovered we were the punchline to a bad joke—"a Haitian, Canadian, German and an American were sitting on a couch drinking a beer…". He told us everything he owned could fit in two suitcases. He traveled quite a bit and always rented fully furnished apartments when he settled long enough to make money for his next trip. Then he would pack up his bags and move to another country. I don’t remember much else from that conversation except one piece of advice he gave us that did not fully sink in until many months later. He said, “...if you want to travel the world, don’t buy a couch."
We were at first confused by this odd, so called advice; but, upon further consideration, it made perfect sense. If you are in the market for a couch, it means you are trying to settle down. A couch necessitates a place to put it. This often involves a mortgage or rent. Once you buy your first couch, you then need a coffee table to put beside it, a TV for in front, bookshelves behind, lamps, then you find a great deal on a washer/dryer, a cute pet, then kids, and without realizing it you start filling up your place with all sorts of "STUFF.” The couch was the first step down a path we were certain was not for us. So, it did not take us long to realize we did not want to buy a couch. We did not want to be defined by the stuff in our lives, but rather by our life experiences. We wanted to be free, to write our own story, instead of living according to a predestined script.
Ok, now fast forward a few months. There we were, in a little fishing village on the north east coast of the United States, with everything we owned in a van parked beside a sailboat we now called home. Our boat, Uma, is a 1972 Pearson 36'. She is neither fancy and expensive, nor cheap and flimsy—to us, she is perfect. Uma, means number one in Portuguese. The impetus for this name, is that all plans in life require a first choice, idea or step. But for us, “Uma” is more that just a name. For us, it is about prioritizing hard work, patience, and determination—putting one foot in font of the other, making steps in the right direction. We hope, that by sharing our first step, our Uma, we can inspire others to do the same.
In a practical sense, we understand this to be navigating. It is more than simply knowing exactly where you are in the world. That is a good start, but unless you know where you were a few minutes, hours or days ago, you cannot determine your course, and therefore cannot know where it is you are going. The GPS chart plotter found on many boats exemplifies this—at any given time, a half dozen or more satellites are telling you exactly where on the earth you are. This position is saved and referenced to render a predictive path on screen. By adjusting your current position, you can alter the forecasted destination.
In life, we often fester on concerns of tomorrow, next week, a 5 year plan or future retirement. But perhaps the best way to forecast our future, is to take an honest look into our past and aline that with a conscientious reflection of today. By connecting these theoretical dots, a future projection can be attained. This mechanism then prioritizes the journey itself—shifting our consciousness from the future, to the present. Earnest Hemingway once put it, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."
Or as we like to put it, “we’re in no hurry to go anywhere, ever.” This however, doesn’t mean we lack motivation or plans. In fact the opposite is closer to the truth. The one certainty in our lives is that our futures are uncertain. We have dreams, goals, destinations and planned routes, but we know they will undoubtedly change as quickly as shifts in the wind—leaving us no option but to adjust accordingly. So rather than fretting about the future, we wallow in the progress of today.