Thursday, June 25, 2009

Live Your Dream: Make It Happen

Photo by Bruce Trimble: The road ahead.

You can live your dream. Let's look at some ways you can make it happen.

First of all, look at your dream realistically. Is it something you really want to do, or is it just a fantasy? Are you willing to make sacrifices to make it happen? Will it be in your best interest to have this dream fulfilled?
Pretend it has already happened. Although we can't always visualize just how a fulfilled dream would be, we can come close. Be realistic--drop the romance, the rosy glow that usually accompanies dreams. Acknowledge the challenges that are bound to happen. Does it fit? Can you see yourself there? Is your dream worth the tough times? If so, see yourself overcoming the obstacles.

For us, our dreams, among others, were going to Africa and cruising the South Pacific. Although we’ve had to make sacrifices to make them happen, we’ve never regretted our decisions to act on those dreams and turn them into reality.

I still dream of going places and doing exciting things. One way I've found to fulfil that dream is by volunteering with the American Red Cross locally and nationally. So far I've responded to 38 major disasters and have been able to help victims of fires, hurricanes, mud slides, floods, tornados and terrorism. It hasn’t always been easy. At times I’ve found myself in situations way past my comfort zone, with more adventure than I bargained for. But at the end of an assignment, I’ve felt great satisfaction that I’ve met another challenge and at the same time have helped others in distress.

Traveling with our camper also fulfils our sense of adventure. Our destinations are often out-of-the-way places, such as the Yukon or camping on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land with no amenities, sharing the land with wild habitat.

After our cruise to the South Pacific (See Live Your Dream: Sailing the South Pacific, below), I dreamed of becoming a professional writer. I’d taken a few creative writing classes in the past and then began attending writing workshops and conferences. My first submissions were to boating magazines, destination articles and specifics about off-shore sailing. Later, as we became interested in overland travel, I submitted to RV magazines. Several months passed and although I'd submitted articles to many magazines, I had no luck in getting published, only in collecting a discouraging pile of rejection slips.

I wondered, "Is writing what I'm supposed to be doing?" I seemed to be taking the necessary steps. I spent all my spare time at my computer. Though I did meet family commitments, I usually turned down most activities that didn't point toward fulfilling a writer's dream of being published. Still, no success.

I prayed for a sign that I was on the right track. "Please," I prayed, "give me some sort of sign that I'm pointed in the right direction." Then, in the month of March of that year, three different magazines published my work, articles that had been submitted over a period of several months. I took that as a positive sign, one that I accepted as a go-ahead. Since then, I've had more than 400 articles published in magazines and newspapers, plus two books published with another to be released this year.

How do you know if your dream is worthy of the work it takes to turn it into reality? One sign is that if it's all up-hill, if things eventually don't fall into place, take a second look. Maybe you're dreaming someone else's dream. Or, maybe this dream needs to happen at another time in your life. If your dream becomes a struggle and that struggle makes you unhappy, regroup and pray for guidance.

How do you make dreams happen?

Stay out of debt. Buy on credit only the absolute necessities. Debts can control your life. To be in control, make the sacrifices necessary to keep out of dept. You'll find a wonderful freedom and increased options.

Let go. Let go of the trappings often associated with success. Acquiring possessions is all right if that's all you want out of life. But if you want to fulfill a dream, let go of the extras.

Get rid of clutter. Eliminating the clutter in your life paves the way to move on to other goals.

Simplify! Learn to savor simple foods. Reduce your wardrobe. Learn to enjoy long walks. My husband and I have found that most of our dreams have been planned on our daily three-mile walks. Keep activities to only those you enjoy. Eliminate parties you really don't want to attend or being with people you would just as soon not see.
Make yourself available for opportunity. In order to fulfill a dream, you must be ready. You never know how a dream's realization will manifest itself and open doors to opportunity.
Take action. Go beyond the planning stage. Take steps to make your dream happen. Take classes, attend lectures, research on-line and communicate with people who share your interests. Ask lots of questions. Set the stage for your dream to take shape. Taking action can steer you in the direction of your dream, and you will find the pieces falling into place.
Take care of yourself. A simple lifestyle is a healthier way to live. Many of the issues I've mentioned here help to keep us centered and free from unhealthful mental clutter and anxiety.

Pray for guidance. Is this the right goal at this time in your life? Ask for help in recognizing opportunities and overcoming obstacles.

Remember to live for today. Having dreams and working toward them is good, but living is a present state--not the future and not the past. Find ways to enjoy life now while working toward the future.

Go for it. In my father's basement work shop a small plaque hung on the wall quoting Dr. Samual Johnson, 1708-1784. It says, "Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome." The plaque now hangs in my home office, and reminds me not to wait until everything is perfect before I act. Some obstacles can be ironed out as they occur and many of the problems we anticipate never happen. So, when most circumstances point toward success, make your move. Go for it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Live Your Dream: Sailing the South Pacific

Photo by Bruce Trimble. My t-shirt reads "Escaped Mom: Don’t tell anyone where you saw me"

Eight years after we fulfilled my dream of going to Africa, the adventure bug bit again. This time, my husband's dream was calling. He had always wanted to own a sailboat, a real, ocean going vessel, and cruise around the world.

This dream would be expensive. We wouldn’t have incomes and, as anyone who’s owned a boat knows, a boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money. We formed a five-year plan and worked toward that goal. Surprisingly, in two years we could see our way clear to set sail.

Again, we sacrificed in order to make our dream come true. We found a suitable used sail boat, a forty-foot Bristol, and began the work and expense of outfitting it for ocean cruising. We altered the dream by agreeing on a more realistic South Pacific trip, rather than circumnavigating the world. By limiting our journey to the South Pacific, we could sail at a more leisurely pace and stay longer at each port-of-call.

To prepare, we rarely bought anything not directly related to the cruise--no unnecessary clothes, no expensive trips, no major home improvements.

We dried fruit and vegetables from our own garden as we stocked a two-year food supply. Close to the time of departure, we held a garage sale to eliminate all the extra stuff we'd accumulated over the past few years. Since we didn't want the complications associated with renting our home, we sold it. This was traumatic for me, more so than for my husband, but our focus was this trip and that's what it took to get it done.

We lived on our boat for six months before departure, taking short, local sailing trips, then cast off for the South Pacific, traveling 13,000 miles in 14 months.

Although sailing for 14 months might sound leisurely, it is far from it. When at sea, someone must always be on watch, to make sure the boat is traveling on course, to ensure that a freighter isn’t bearing down on us, to watch for weather changes that might entail changing sails. At sea, our watches were four-hour shifts: four hours on and four hours off, around the clock. Therefore, when making passages, we never got more than four hours sleep at one time. With just the two of us on board, we never could sleep together while at sea.

Cooking at sea is challenging. While the boat is rocking and rolling with the motion of the sea, the cook tries to hang on with one hand and put together a meal with the other. I was the primary cook and managed pretty well, but it wasn’t easy.

Bruce’s expertise with rigging sales, his self-taught celestial navigation skills and his intimate knowledge of all the working parts of our boat, kept us safe and on course.

But, oh, the exhilaration of being at sea! The stunning sunsets with absolutely no obstructions, the closeness of the stars at night, the delightful porpoises as they accompanied us into ports. Once we acquired the correct heavy-duty equipment, fishing for our dinner was commonplace. There’s nothing to compare with fresh albacore tuna, straight from the sea.

Cruising, while it certainly holds its glorious moments, can also be demanding, dangerous, and exhausting. But the landfalls make it all worth while--to actually feel and smell the warm tropical air of the French Marquesas, to hike to the pointed tip of Mount Pahia in Bora Bora, to experience the blue pristine water in Tahiti, to ride the funky buses in Samoa to sparkling white beaches, to dive among the underwater coral gardens in the Kingdom of Tonga. Going to market brought much joy and offered ways to taste paradise. We made delightful friends among the warm, friendly people of the South Pacific as well as with other boaters like ourselves.

At sea we found new and different strengths. We learned we could depend on each other in good and in hard times. When at sea, you can go for days, weeks even, without seeing another living soul. On one leg of our journey, 21 days passed before we spotted another boat on the horizon. It isn’t uncommon for shipmates to part company at the first land-fall after such close togetherness, but we didn’t experience that sort of strain. We found joy in sharing books, in dreaming about what we’d do next with our lives, and thrilled together as we approached landfalls.

Yes, we’d taken a chance on this venture. It was tough and it was expensive. But we’d fulfilled another dream and have lasting life-time memories. We returned with a solid sense of accomplishment and a strengthened attitude about life. We could create our own destinies.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Live Your Dream: Fulfilling a Dream of Africa

Bruce and I met while SCUBA diving. We love adventure. After we'd been married a year, we yearned to do something different. What about the Peace Corps? We checked into Peace Corps opportunities.

I can't remember a time when I hadn't dreamed of going to Africa. We learned that as Peace Corps volunteers we could fulfill this dream and at the same time help meet desperate needs in a tiny West African country, The Gambia.

In order to make our dream of going to Africa come true, we had to sacrifice. We both gave up good jobs. We had no debts except our mortgage. We rented out our home for the two-year term of service and the rental income paid our mortgage with a little to spare. (Peace Corps volunteers receive no salary but receive a modest living-expense allowance.)

Living in an African Mandinka village 250 miles from the capital city and 120 miles from the nearest paved road was fascinating, but it wasn't easy. Our home was a mud-brick hut with a grass-thatched roof. Temperatures soared to 115 degrees. We had no running water but drew our water from a United Nations well, thankful it was pure. Our latrine, which we shared with another African family, was a hole in the ground, surrounded by a flimsy woven fence in a corner of the compound.

We had no car and walked wherever we went locally. For more distant travel, we took a bush taxi, a small pickup with wooden benches in the back and a canvas roof, reminiscent of a covered wagon.

Bruce worked with a United Nations well-digging unit, providing reliable wells for villages where traditional wells were drying up during a long drought.

As a "health volunteer," I reported to work at a bush hospital, a 32-bed facility that also held well-baby and ante-natal clinics. I'm not a medical professional, but my record keeping skills were welcomed in organizing a system to account for patients seen and medications used. I was the only non-African working at the hospital.

At first I cringed at this medical center which appeared to be so unsanitary. Due to shortages in fuel to operate the generator, we were often without electricity or running water. Flies were everywhere. Food for patients was prepared in large kettles cooked over open fires on the ground. Laundry was done by hand. But eventually I could see that we were accomplishing something--lives were being saved and, through inoculations, diseases at least partially controlled.

I had only heard of many of the Illnesses commonly seen in The Gambia, such as polio, tuberculosis and leprosy. I witnessed several deaths caused by tetanus, snake bite, and countless cases of horrible skin diseases and infections. Still, the majority of deaths were the result of water-born illnesses, especially among the very young and the old.

For two tough years we served in The Gambia, and gained a profound awareness of life at a basic level. To trim away all the extras and live a plain, simple life was to learn new truths about ourselves. We were tougher than we thought--than we ever imagined we could be. Living simply brought great satisfaction.

We both believe we made a contribution in our host African country, but it didn't compare with what we brought home--lasting memories, feelings of accomplishment and dreams fulfilled.