Seven days on a catamaran with 10 women, 1 captain and 1 hostess sailing to 7 Aeolian Islands off the coast of Sicily. There are so many ways this could’ve gone wrong. Reality TV would certainly have been able to insert drama and have us fighting, screaming, or even wrestling nude. Instead, we emerged friends for life and planning the next adventure.
We gathered to celebrate my BFF, a woman I met exactly 7 years ago. Ironically, we met while sailing on a yacht around NYC harbor during my 40th year. I had always referred to her as my 7-year younger. We clicked immediately because we shared a love for travel and adventure. I remember that she had just returned from traveling through Asia, and we were sharing experiences from my trip 7 years earlier. Since then we have shared many adventures, both together and separately. She has always inspired me. Before her 40th birthday she visited every US state, every continent, and over 65 countries. She can be dressed to the nines sipping champagne or hiking Patagonia without a shower for 5 days. She is one person that epitomizes the term YOLO (you only live once).
Trip of a lifetime
When my BFF invited me to join her on her 5-week birthday adventure to Italy and Germany, I knew that I could not pass up the opportunity. This is one of those key moments in life when you make a tough decision. Can you imagine this conversation with my husband?!? “Ralph, I know I am not working, but I would like to go to Italy for 2 weeks and celebrate my BFFs birthday. No, you can’t come, it’s a girls’ trip.” This is how I know I am married to the most wonderful man in the world. You already know his answer, ‘No question, you have to go! This is the type of thing you will look back at and regret if you do not go.” Thus, the planning began. I knew I could not go for the full 5 weeks, but which part would I join in on? We agreed that the 2 of us renting a boat in Italy for a week was unlikely. Decision made.
Keep in mind, I had never heard of the Aeolian Islands. I did not know who else would be going. I had no idea the type or quality of the boat we would be renting. I did not care. I had enough trust and love for my BFF that I knew it would be fabulous. I was not alone. In total over 20 fabulous females joined this 5-week extravaganza to celebrate her birthday – Questoe40! This is 40!
Diverse group of women
There was going to be 10 of us on the catamaran. We all met up in Palermo where we said goodbye to some other lovelies and hello to our new shipmates for the next week. Everyone knew my BFF well, and maybe a few others on the boat. Most of us though were strangers, but we all knew that any friend of my BFF must be good people. This is a group of fabulous females that live for adventure and are moved by FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Any concern of being uncomfortable was overruled by FOMO.
Each of these women is very different, from different walks of life, with different experiences and different goals. However, every one of us shared a common trait, an appreciation of trying new things, living life and learning about other people. The goal of the trip was to celebrate my BFF’s birthday, explore the Aeolian Islands and relax. The unexpected result was the personal journey we all encountered. At the core, we created a bond of friendship. I also learned about their unique qualities, values, perseverance’s, mottos, accomplishments and goals which taught me things I want to add to my life to make it even better.
- Pause button
- Appreciation equals empowerment
- Power of Listening
One of my friends (and now I am privileged to call them all friends) had a tattoo on her wrist, a pause button. She put it on there to remind her to stop and appreciate the moment. This has been a large part of my focus these past 7 months; live in the present and stop dwelling in the past or obsessing about the future. (See Living in the Present Moment blog) I loved this physical reminder that would cause all of us to pause; whether it was a spectacular view at the top of a volcano, a sunset on the boat, a toast of wine with the locals, a simple moment experiencing new friendships being created, or a quiet moment watching the sunrise over Lipari. I would stop and take a mental snapshot of the moment. I would take a moment and be grateful for my fortune. I would take a deep breath and feel my body fill with warmth. These were moments for me to store away and make available for when life is not so perfect. I loved the moments when someone would call out – PAUSE – and we would all stop and appreciate what we have.
Curiosity may kill the cat, but that is why it has nine lives
This trip helped remind me why I love to travel. I have traveled a lot over my life, both personally and professionally. It has been a passion of mine, one that my father instilled in me as a child. Everyone on that boat has also traveled extensively and they each have their own motivations, but everyone seemed to have a penchant for curiosity. Their desire to meet locals; understand who they are, learn about their culture and appreciate the differences. Some of the best experiences during the week were getting to know our crew, wine tasting with Francesco Fenech, a third-generation wine maker, and a traditional local meal on Filicudi.
My father traveled much when I was a child. I loved hearing about his adventures, but more importantly, I loved meeting his colleagues who would come visit. I loved my pen pal from Australia (still in touch with today) because we would write letters sharing TV guides, music that we were each listening to, tales about our school activities, etc. It taught me early on that every country is different and there is a big world outside the US. I wanted to learn all about it.
Curiosity is vital to our society because it is our differences that make this world a better place. If we were all the same, how boring would that be? We would have no innovation, creativity or respect in the world. Curiosity teaches us new things and provides experiences to cherish.
I loved getting to know my shipmates (my new friends), because they taught me about different places they have traveled, different experiences they have had and we could talk about new adventures we all want to experience. My passion for travel has been rejuvenated and I have a much longer list of new places to visit. I hope my husband is ready!
Appreciation equals empowerment
Women, and perhaps people in general, have been unfortunately known to work hard to tear others down to feel better about themselves. I believe it is because of fear. Fear of being judged. Fear of being deemed a fraud. Fear of losing. Fear of failure. There is a misperception that we need to be stronger, smarter, prettier or just plain better to win in this world. However, this trip really taught me the power of building others up and being considerate of everyone. There is room at the top for everyone to feel good about themselves, to win and have fun.
Imagine after a quick ‘shower’ in the salt water, your hair in a ponytail, limited makeup and the easiest outfit to throw on in your tiny cabin, you walk up to the deck, you are handed a glass of wine (white wine because they already knew your preference) and people complement your dress and how it made your eyes pop. Now imagine you are in the kitchen grabbing drinks for the crew and someone else has put out food for the group. Rather than fearing there would not be any left for you, a small plate has been set aside so you wouldn’t miss out. The feeling is amazing. Imagine having a fear of swimming and embarking on a 7-day sail and knowing that everyone has your back, including the captain ensuring there was always a life jacket nearby for you. Imagine having a severe allergy to fish (NO PESCE!) and knowing that everyone on the boat has learned how to say, ‘she is allergic to fish and will die if she touches it’ in Italian, to ensure you are safe from any attacks.
I think we even amazed ourselves to be able to say there was NO DRAMA all week. I know that it was because of the thoughtfulness, kindness, consideration and appreciation of others on that boat that made it possible. As we focused on each other, I believe we all felt better about ourselves. Hearing from others what they liked about us was empowering. We were all reminded of our strong qualities. Don’t be surprised if you start to hear more praise from me in the future. We all feel good when someone gives us a compliment and it doesn’t hurt the giver either!
Power of listening
It may sound silly, but I was reminded of the importance of listening this week. Every one of these fine ladies took the time to listen and engage in conversation. They asked questions, they provided insight and shared their own experiences. I have been looking for my point of view that defines me and this week helped me solidify it. As you know, my passion is to inspire and enable others to realize their goals. I have learned that the key element to this success has been my ability to listen. Listening to myself, listening to how others perceive me, listening to others, and listening to the universe. It allows you to ‘hear’ what someone is actually saying or feeling even when they do not articulate the words. Since I am a listener, I am drawn to others that do the same and this group met that mark!
A toast until next time
I will share a few pictures of this adventure so you can see the camaraderie and friendships that we created. We jelled from the first toast on the boat. Together, we celebrated each accomplishment in the past, present and future such as facing a fear of water, hiking a volcano, traveling alone, getting engaged or married, overcoming cancer, evolving from a divorce or bad decision, or going after a dream. As we wish our BFF a very happy birthday, we also cheer new friendships and a life altering trip. Thank you, ladies!
To my AEO Vino Sisters –may we always remember to pause and appreciate the moment, nourish our curiosity, empower others and continue to listen with our heart, mind and soul. – Kathy Eastwood