Mindfulness on the water

The places you can only get to by being at sea

My favorite quote is “There are places you can only get to by sea. And there are places you can only get to by being at sea” by Jesse Martin. Jesse Martin is a circumnavigator who once broke the world record for being the youngest person to sail around the world unassisted.

I love that quote so much because I have been to those places that you can only get to by being at sea, and they were breathtakingly beautiful. As I’m writing about yoga and mindfulness on this blog, you probably already know that I’m not talking about pretty beaches here. Okay, well, not only 😊

A part of me always knew about these places, sensed that they were out there, waiting to be discovered.

The fascination of sailing

One of my earliest childhood memories is that I’ve always envied people with boats when I was on vacation with my parents. Whenever we went somewhere close to the water, we would usually take a stroll along the boardwalk after dinner. Hand in hand with my Mom or Dad, I would marvel at the marinas: the atmosphere is so special, it cannot be compared to anything else. Beautiful boats, gently swaying in the breeze, candlelight, quiet conversations and laughter. Looking at the people sitting in the cockpits of their boats, enjoying a tasty meal and a bottle of wine, chatting about the day, I wished to be one of them. I wanted to be a part of this world, which seemed so peaceful, yet had that smell of adventure at the same time.

My first week on a sailboat

As I grew older, that wish did not fade away. Instead, it stayed with me the whole time and became even bigger. I don’t know why it took me so long, but I was 25 when I finally spent a whole week on a sailboat – and I loved it! A lot of people looked at me in shock when I told them that I like to spend the most precious time of the year on a small boat, in a confined place with eight other people I had never even met before. A lot of questions were asked: What if you guys don’t get along? What if you get seasick? Do you really want to cook and wash dishes during your holidays? Do you really think you can go a week without a proper bathroom and a hot shower? What if there is a storm? And so on and so on…

Good questions, I must admit. Well, the first question was my main concern as well. But nobody of my friends or family members is keen on spending that much time on the water (in case you didn’t notice reading all their questions), so a group travel was the perfect option for me. As almost everyone there was traveling alone, there were no groups that excluded others. If you are a person who likes to spend a week with strangers on the ocean, you basically have to be open-minded and friendly I guess.

How does sailing and spending time on the water enhance mindfulness?

That first sailing trip wasn’t my last one. Not even six months later, the second one followed, and the third one was a sure thing after that. The fourth one took a little longer to take place, but it was this vacay where I felt the magic of sailing the most. So, what’s the magic of sailing in my opinion? And what about those awesome places I got taken to?


Well, for me it is the whole atmosphere and the feeling that goes hand in hand with it. I can be as stressed as a human being can be, but as soon as I set foot on a boat, I feel better. This is something I can’t really explain, but maybe it has something to do with the close bond to nature that I never felt during other vacations. There is barely any infrastructure, you have no cell service, no internet (hooray!). You don’t sleep in hotels (which are great as well, don’t get me wrong), but in lonely coves. In order to save the freshwater stock, you wash the dishes – and yourself! – in the ocean before quickly rinsing to wash off the salt. It’s kind of “back to the roots”.  

Sincere connections

You also connect to people in a different way. As there are no distractions besides reading or spending time in the water, you get into deep conversations. Nobody is looking at their phones, checking their social media or taking selfies all the time. You spend the day snorkeling, sailing, doing stuff on board, preparing meals, chatting to each other. When the evening comes, you have soaked up a ton of sun, you are positively exhausted from being outside all day, and the crew gets together in the cockpit for a self-made dinner and some drinks. The boat is on anchor, swaying softly. There is no one else around. The sky above you is full of stars. The topics you talk about are different than at home: What did we do and see today? How did it make us feel? Before you know it, the conversations get deeper. It’s probably the atmosphere that makes you think you have fallen off the edge of the world, so you can share pretty much everything. I’m not saying there were never crazy nights on board, where we partied, had the music louder than I like to admit, drank shots and danced and laughed. But even parties on board are different. The giddy atmosphere never came from a place of “my job is sucking the life out of me, so I’m going to drink and dance tonight to forget about it”. No. It came from a place of pure happiness, of amazement that we had come this far just with a little sailboat, with the help of the elements and with good old teamwork.

In touch with the elements

Speaking of the elements – you are really in touch with them when you’re at sea, you work with them, not against them, and they basically dictate how your vacation goes. Every evening, you check: What will the weather be like tomorrow? Based on that, where could we go? What do we want to see, what do we want to experience? There is something about going with the flow, about planning the route based on the wind and the weather, that is so comforting. It’s a harsh contrast about everyday life, where you just have to be somewhere and it’s your problem how you get there, even if it’s strenuous and feels wrong. On a sailboat, you surrender to the circumstances, plan accordingly and change your plans accordingly if necessary. 

Present in every moment

As you experience the stillness of the nights and early mornings at sea, the teamwork with the weather and the elements, you feel yourself getting more mindful of your surroundings. When was the last time you paid attention to people sitting next to you at the bus stop or to the landscape passing by when you were on the bus? On a sailboat, stuff like that is natural. You know who is with you and who can help you with what. Maybe there is someone who can cook awesome meals with leftovers in the small pantry under deck, another one is very strong and great at helping with the anchor, someone else isn’t afraid of heights and can climb up the rod to untangle sails if necessary. You also know what is around you: Islands, reefs, marinas. But most importantly, you feel more: That slight change of wind. That the waves just got a little higher. The flapping of the sails. The movement of the boat.

Maybe it’s the gentle motion of the sea. Maybe it’s discovering spectacular places you wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. Maybe it’s how strangers turn to friends during awesome evenings on deck. Maybe it’s being in tune with nature and the elements. Probably it’s the combination of all those things that make the places you can only get to by being at sea so magical.

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