Kim & Kyle: Lawyers No More!

2 Years ago Kim and Kyle were 2 lawyers. They had graduated with top grades from a top college and were ready to make their way in the world. The entire world was laid out before them. There was one problem; they were miserable. Here’s how they made the change and turned their life around 180 degrees and are now happier than ever.

I met Kim and Kyle through my wife. She had gone to college with Kim and when I threw a party in Virginia Beach with a couple of other friends for a long Labor Day weekend. Kim and Kyle had recently started dating and they looked happy enough. The next thing I heard about them was that they were giving up being lawyers and leaving on the next plane to teach English in Korea. No, not / Anthony Bourdain travel-channel big-city Seoul but about an hour out by train into the mountains in a smaller city (30,000 people) Hongcheon.

Updates came every so often – they were getting married, in Bali. They were vacation here, there, everywhere (jealous – I want to chill in Bali!). They lost a LOT of weight; Kim: ~ 35lbs, Kyle~ 85lbs by taking up activities like hiking in their new neighborhoods, adventuring and relaxing pursuits like Mixed Martial Arts (jealous-er – I want to have more adventures!)

Kim had an Amazon Kindle – like device (BeBook), on which she was reading more fiction than ever. When Jen and I got married they sent us wooden Korean wedding ducks – now proudly displayed on our mantle – and an explanation of their role in culture. Which they were now becoming part of. (Supremely freaking jealous – I want a shiny new toy and to read more while being culturally immersed!!)

Then, this past week, I caught their blog on Facebook. It was a post about soup. Simple but delicious-looking. I wanted that soup. The internet, while roughly 4 times faster in Korea than here in the States couldn’t deliver it so I did the next best thing; I read their website. There, flickering on my monitor, was an account of people they were teaching while taking the adventure of a life time.

Let’s Recap:

  • Quit soul-killing lawyer jobs in Virginia.
  • Move to and teach ESL in Korea.
  • Dramatically improve their physical and mental health.
  • Got married in Bali.
  • Adventure after adventure after adventure.
  • Helping real people achieve their dreams while helping themselves.

That my friends is jealousy checkmate.

I had to get an interview. Since they were 13 hours ahead of me, the best time for me to get a hold of them was on a Saturday night. We had a great session – me from my desktop in my house and they from a local coffee shop on South Korea’s blazingly fast internet.

Sadly, while they were up for the interview, my video recording software was not. So, while I get that sorted out, check out their YouTube videos talking about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it! A great, great story. They also have a website Teach English Abroad where you can see more of what they do everyday.

Why Kim Decided to Give it All Up and Teach in Korea

Korea’s Hiring

I am not sure if Kyle has a ‘before’ video but this one could to serve as an ‘after’ shot illustrating the benefits he’s realized from making such a dramatic life change.

The thing I like the most about Kim & Kyle’s story is that it’s a great example of ‘doing well by doing good.’ They are helping teach life skills to a new generation of children while simultaneously deriving enormous financial, psychological, and personal benefit from it.

What about you? Have you ever contemplated giving it all up and moving on to do something completely different? If you did, how did it work out and what did you learn?

Why You Should Go on a Nontraditional Vacation

When most people think about vacations they envision relaxing, lazing about, and generally baking in the sun until the cubicle comes calling again. Here is my entire argument why you should skip that (at least once) and go do a more active, helpful, nontraditional vacation.

Nontraditional Vacation Background

Historical

In 2008 I joined up with an archaeological dig excavating Mt Zion in Jerusalem, Israel. Mt Zion is better known as the neighborhood in which Jesus was brought before going before Pontius Pilate. it was a life-changing experience.

Helpful

A former coworker of mine and her husband flew down to New Orleans a year after Katrina to help Habitat for Humanity rebuild. Navigating a city not even close to being rebuilt they sum the experience up this way; ‘it was like being in a 3rd world country, but worse.’

They grew up in a 3rd world country.

Another coworker of mine does mission trips. In recent memory he’s been out to Mozambique and Recife in Brazil. Recife is renown for its violence. I can tell you from personal experience in Rio, that’s saying something. Apparently all he packs is his faith and a giant set of brass balls.

Informative

Another friend of mine got stressed out with the cubicle / road warrior lifestyle and dropped off the grid for a month to learn Spanish in a live-in school for adults in Spain. I’ve been to Spain. My week there rocked. He can now tell me how much fun he had on his trip in 2 languages.

The Real Reason to take a Nontraditional Vacation

You Might One Day Get a Letter Like This

Dear Team Member of the Mount Zion Dig,

As you now know the summer 2010 season of digging at Mt Zion has had to be canceled owing to various reasons which are not within our control. However, here in Jerusalem we will continue working hard to sort through the finds from last summer. Work proceeds on the publication as well, especially in regard to the amazing first-century stone cup with a ten-line inscription with the words “Lord, I have returned…”

But this does not mean that Shimon Gibson will not be digging this summer. Together with Yehiel Zelinger from the IAA he will be conducting a dig at the Cave of Zedekiah in Jerusalem, and we hope to see many of you there.

This excavation will take place between June 27 to July 9 in an unusual and exciting setting. Some of you may already have visited the cave with Shimon, but the work will be in a part that is not accessible to the public.

As was the case with the Mt Zion dig, we will be working Sundays through Thursdays from 6 am to 3 pm, with a one-hour lunch break. There will be two lectures per week…….

I cut off the rest as it’s not pertinent but how awesome is this? I kind of feel like they put out the call for a superhero team… .”Avengers! Assemble!! Jerusalem needs you!”

Have you ever been on a nontraditional vacation? Share below.

The Map Project

Welcome to my Map Project. Sometimes when I’m bored I update the map with my travels. Places I’ve been for an appreciable amount of time (as defined by enough to have a real and *remembered memory) go on the board.

It serves many purposes:

  • A reminder of how fortunate I am.
  • A condensed Notebook Project.
  • Visual reinforcement. Working hard = me playing hard. And vice versa.
  • Offers suggestions of where to go next.
  • Reminds me how big the world really is.
  • Helps me remember Why I Travel

Some places I get to chose to go to. Other places get chosen for me. Where have you been? Where do you want to go? How do you keep track?


View My Travels in a larger map
*Note: There are such things as unreal memories and forgotten memories. Trust me.

Rio de Janeiro: A Counterfeit Paradise

To recap; beautiful people, stunning landscape, near-constant threat of unavoidable violence, sex, drugs, and rock n roll. Interested? Keep reading my (literally) feverish notes typed while I was still in the moment.

My notes from a Rio de Janero Honeymoon have changed a bit since I first wrote this article. For one, I have been back in the states now a month since returning and my perspective has mellowed a bit. The bronchitis my new wife and I contracted has finally gone away, though the medical plan co-payments still show irregularities. My pending legal action against my hotel and of course Orbitz is, well, still pending but you can be sure I’ll tell you about that later.¬†With the distance of a few weeks – and tons of vacation photos – I can better appreciate the beauty. Not having watched a live mugging since getting back in the states must have done that.

Impressions from the Rio Airport

I write this from the GIG Rio de Janero International airport. My, that sounds like an august name. I’m sure that it conjures a exotic portal to tropical goodness. In reality, it’s anything but. If GIG is an international airport, than Charlotte Douglas is a galactic starport. But I forget myself. I turned this computer on to write about my Brazillian honeymoon. I need a distraction from the crazy, screaming hot mess that I find myself in. And, as you can surely tell, our pneumonia [editor’s note: it turned out to be bronchitis] hasn’t brightened my mood one bit. Let me tell you the story of a counterfeit paradise known as Honeymoon in Rio.

Our trip started early in the day on Monday, February 8th. We woke up in the Yucatan paradise known as Aventura Spa Palace, ate breakfast and departed. Jen had been sick for a few days at this point but was her usual cheery self and refused to cancel the trip. Just get me some meds she said and she’d be good to go. Of course that was during our flight from Cancun to Charlotte after some stewardess friends plied us with free airplane bottles and snacky foods pilfered from first class (which we had gratis for the trip south but not north). Their way of saying ‘Happy Honeymoon!’

As I mentioned before, the wedding week was great. The flight back was very nice. We picked up some cold meds for Jen and returned to the airport for our flight. The 10pm departure was hour 17 of travel for us.

After an hour delay cuased by our 767 “not accepting fuel”, our flight was boarded and we were off. USAir must have dumped the oldest crafts in their fleet and complemented them with the surliest stewardesses they could for this trip. Entirely opposite either of our arrival return voyage from Cancun. An old 767 outfitted with lights that would not turn off, a single widescreen for all of economy to share playing such classics as Wolverine and Amelia. Bright choice on Amelia; a 10 hour flight over waters unknown prefaced with a lost aircraft story. Didn’t, couldn’t know at the time that the plane and its crew would forshadow the entirety of the trip.

Take off the Wedding Rings

Our fellow passengers were the most enjoyable part of the experience. On first glance I thought they’d keep me awake all night with their nonsense. However, the bulk of the plane went to sleep early and it was a peaceful trip. We even learned valuable information like not to wear earrings, wedding bands, engagement rings, or any kind of jewelry worth more than a few dollars. The guide book served to corroborate the returning Cairioca’s warnings and we complied. My new bride gracefully agreed to stow away her rings though she was not too happy about it.

Welcome to Rio!

10 hours on the plane passed with little difficulty. The plane was buzzing as soon as we were roused for breakfast. The meal, like the plane, left much to be desired. I busied myself by looking out the window at the spectacular vista of morning in Brazil. Warm light illuminated a diverse topgraphy. Gentle hills started as bumps in the earth and gradually expanded to full wrinkles of sheer mountains jutting into an azure sea. We were soon welcomed to Rio by the heat and an excited plane.

Taxi Over

We took one from the frist stand, agreed on a price 70 reals – a good price. We were treated to our first hour long tour of the city as we drove to our hotel on Copacabana. We learned of the Favelas– Rio’s slums – their hundreds of thousands (that’s >100,000 in many favelas) of denizens, and the drug gangs that control them. Red Command (Comando Vermelho), Pure Third Command (Terceiro Comando Puro ),¬† Amigos dos Amigos – Friends of Friends are the 3 he told us about. We later went on a tour of a Amigos de Amigos held favela. More on that in a separate article. The movie City of God – which I have yet to see – supposedly shows the early beginnings of Red Command. It’s now on my to-watch list.That first day was 40 degrees Celsius. 40C = 104F. 104 Farenheit with humidity is incredibly, mind-blowingly hot.Our hotel, the Rio Othon Palace seemed nice from the outset. Hansomly attired bellmen, taxis and porters at the ready, an agreeable concierge provided us early check-in but stated that the room itself wouldn’t be available until the afternoon. We signed in, checked our bags, and tried to walk around outside in the heat. Despite being 100 yards from the beach we didn’t dare go in the water. The intensity of the sun and the waves of heat coming off of the sand saw to that. When you are that hot it is hard to be hungry but we found a shaded outdoor Italian restaurant and ordered a pizza and a few drinks to idle the time away.

Eventually our room was ready. I could go into a tirade here but I will save that for a future article on Why You Should Never Book on Orbitz.In short we paid for a 4 star room and were given a 1 star. I have personally constructed wilderness shelters out of flea and tick infested shrubbery that were more hygenic than this disgusting excuse for a room. Jen cried. We complained. No dice.

Our experience with the hotel eventually ended up being a model of which we experienced all of Rio; By all appearances it ts beautiful on the outside but corrupt and empty once you scratch beneath the surface. A counterfeit paradise.

Good Things About Rio

  • Early AM beaches
  • Stunning Scenery (the beaches! the mountains! the freaking rain forrest inside a city!)
  • Sugar Loaf!
  • Christo Redentor
  • Infectious samba / Carnaval atmosphere.
  • Coconut water from real coconuts
  • Fitness fanatics everywhere – make you feel lazy. Everybody’s always moving.
  • Favela tour (more on this later)
  • Random parades with live music
  • Pretending to be a resident of Copacabana Hotel for a few hours

Bad Things About Rio

  • Muggings
  • !@#$ty hotel conditions
  • Constant begging
  • Group tours necessity
  • “Ladies of the night.”
  • Absolute inabilty to walk or explore anywhere on your own.
  • Having to take taxis to ridiculously expensive restaurants so you can eat without getting shived.

Honeymooning in Rio was like vacationing in a real-world Grand Turismo. Rio was one of the most dangerous place I’ve ever been. That includes Israel, Palestine, NYC, and West Virginia’s Mountaineer stadium wearing VT colors. It was also the most beautiful. (Again including Israel, Palestine, NYC, and West Virginia …) All in all, I am glad we went. I think I’m going to petition for a mulligan on this trip and call a re-do on the honeymoon though.

Playa del Carmen & Cozumel

Playa del Carmen and Cozumel Side Trip. We had an extra day before many guests would arrive to start our wedding week and decided to go exploring. An early AM breakfast and we were out the door on a taxi to Playacar palace – another in the Palace resort chain. Our concierge had given us the tip that the ferry to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen would fill up and we should try to get a ticket as early as possible. That meant a 5am wake up call on our wedding vacation!

Playa del Carmen

It was nice to see another Palace resorts – second breakfast at an all inclusive was even better! Got to love those bracelets of power! Playacar palace is tastefully decorated and most people were asleep by the time we got there. Playa del Carmen on the other hand seemed very tourist-y -even in the morning hours before anyone woke up. Nothing was open and we didn’t loiter. Just took some photos, did some entertaining people watching and moved on.

Ferry to Cozumel

The ferry to Cozumel was a quick affair. Buy your tickets, wait in line, get on the boat. 30-60 minutes later and you’re there. I love being out on any body of water and this trip was no exception. Motoring along through the Gulf of Mexico we could see cruise ships docked. Those things are massive! I think together the two of them were bigger than the island itself! I’ve never been on a cruise ship so I’m not sure if it would be any fun or not. I do assume that they have plenty to do if it rains though.

The weather didn’t improve but it wasn’t yet raining so we decided to walk the mile or so to Cozumel Palace (yet another of the Palace resorts). Getting off the ferry the hawkers surround you. Take a taxi! Sign up for scuba! Take this tour! Rent this Jeep. They come at you from all sides. We just pushed on.

Cozumel Palace

Our concierge told us we could snorkel from the back of Cozumel Palace. We thought about upping the ante and taking scuba lessons. Sadly, it was off-and-on raining with huge wind gusts and not-so-warm out so no scuba for us! We debated a few other options but put off by the commercialism we saw on our December 2008 Mexico trip, we decided against it. A few rum & cokes, snacks, and board games later the sun had come out enough for us to warm up playing ping pong. Snorkeling came soon after…. deep, warm, clear water with some fish. Nice but not spectacular. The day completed with lunch and with frequent trips to the swim up bar, of course. A pretty nice day.

Soon it was time for our walk back to the ferry. We checked out a few stores where the keepers and their minions followed us up and down every aisle. They must have trouble with American thieves we thought. Nothing was particularly good or interesting and so we bought a few sodas and off we went back to the mainland.

I think Cozumel and Play del Carmen would be a lot of fun on a warm, sunny day. As it was, we didn’t get that experience. Good time, just not spectacular. I was able to add a push pin to my Google Adventure Map and now we know what Cozumel has to offer.

How to Quit Your Job and Work From Anywhere in the World

Last Oktoberfest, Joel and I left early for a castle tour in the Alps. My brother, who had been laid off and subsequently started 3 software development companies (yes, 3 !@#$ing companies!) decided to sleep in and hang out around Munich. He had programming to do.

Once we returned I met up with him at a bier hall. I asked how his day went. ‘Very well,’ he replied. ‘I spent 4 hours programming an iPhone app on my Mac in a biergarten. That paid for this entire trip.

Considering we flew from the states to Germany for at the world’s largest (and damn expensive) drinking fest staying well over a week in an over-priced hotel room, that was quite a feat. It got myself and a few of my other friends thinking.

One friend wants to move to Europe for family reasons but wants to duplicate my brother’s feat ahead of time so he has some reliable job prospects. He asked me how he should go about getting started.

I began with the math.

(Note; he didn’t provide me with the numbers so I just made them up as I went along. Feel free to change as yu see fit.)

Step 1: Calculate Your Desired Annual Income

For examples sake, let’s say it’s $50,000 USD.

After a factor of saftey, we’ll round this to = ~$5k per month.

Step 2: Calculate the monthly need

There are 2 ways to do this:

The passive earning approach

Def. Making $ while you sleep and do nothing but sit in biergartens

Assume 30 days / month

=
$166.66 / day
______
30 / 5000
30
200

Biergarten Work-a-day approach

Assume 20 working days per month so you can have weekends off.

=
$250 / day
______
20 / 5000
40
100

Step 3: Figure out how to Make $250 / day

Well, you’re kind of on your own here! I do not have an example for you. But I do have a plan of attack. The model looks similar. See if you can guess the pattern:

  1. Figure out how to earn and extra $250 / month.
  2. Figure out how to earn $250 4 times each month.
  3. Figure out how to do that 5 more times.

What can you do to maker your dreams come true? What are you doing today?

We’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat

Last time I told you about tackling alligators while swimming. Or whatever that unwelcome creature from the black lagoon was. This is the story of it’s bigger, meaner, salt water brother.

We’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat

Early in the summer of 2008 I returned home to New York to go to a wedding. I had a little bit of extra time so I stayed with my parents on the south shore of Long Island and took the opportunity to get my kayak team, my friend Kevin and My Dad, out on the Great South Bay for some practice. After all, what could be better than actually swimming in the actual area where the race would be held? There was under 2 month until the race and my kayakers had never kayaked and I hadn’t ever swam in my wetsuit. It was time to get serious.

We woke up early in the morning, grabbed some egg and bagel sandwiches and made our way to the beach. Kevin had rented the kayak the day before so we were all set.

The practice was good, we got a great workout, and we learned about the logistics of how to carry, portage, and manage a kayak. Good information that would prove essential when I actually competed in the 2009 Cross Bay Swim.

You Play How You Practice

Like I said, this was my first time in a wetsuit and in salt water. Both dramatically increase your buoyancy. This led to me bobbing up and down comfortably when I would stop swimming. About halfway through our practice I stopped swimming and stood up on a sandbar to talk with my kayakers. I stood up a little out of the water, feet on the ground, and carried on a conversation.

Then the ground moved.

I remember cold fear welling in my stomach. My feet had just been standing on a sand-paper textured support that was clearly alive. And ridiculously huge. My limbs felt heavy and I was suddenly exhausted. Instinct propelled me to grab on to the kayak. I think part of my brain replayed the ‘visual accuity’ scene of Jeff Goldblum vs the T-Rex in Jurassic Park. ‘If I just don’t move, it won’t be able to see me’ I told myself.

We never figured out what I was standing on. Whatever it was, it was freaking huge! Best guess is that my stance kept my feet about 2.5 feet. My weight was around 200lbs at the time so let’s say that 1/2 of that was negated from buoyancy. What kind of salt water animals do you know that are bigger than 2.5 feet long, feel like sand paper-y, level ground, and can support 100lbs?

Exactly.

I’m surprised I didn’t soil my wetsuit.

Flashback

This episode reminded me of surfing in Virginia Beach early one morning over Labor Day in 2001. I had taken a surfboard and paddled out to calm surf before anyone else had woken up. Although there were no waves, I was happy to be out in the ocean. That’s when the sea came to a boil. There was a ton of bait fish suddenly jumping up all around me trying to escape some predator that was chasing them below my dangling, and very exposed, toes.

It wasn’t the bait fish that stole my breath away. It was what came next.

A single dark fin breaking the water.

I remember going cold, my limbs feeling like lead, and a vague nauseous feeling over come me. ‘Don’t get eaten,’ I remember thinking.

Careful not to lose my balance and tip myself into the feeding frenzy, I drew my legs up on to the surfboard. Visions of the movie Jaws flashed in my head.

As it turned out, the fins belonged to bottle nosed dolphins. That became clear after just a few seconds, but My God, how long those few seconds felt!

Not the last time

That trip to Virginia Beach wasn’t the first nor was it the last time I’d find myself swimming with dolphins. The Cross bay swim training in New York wasn’t the first nor last time I’d swim with large marine animals. In fact, later that same summer my fiance and I would come fin-to-face with a large shark patrolling the coast of Jacksonville, Florida.

Sometimes you’ll be out living your life and thinking about that scene in Jaws where they learn the true size of the creature they are hunting and for safety’s sake Roy states “We’re going to need a bigger boat.” I am as certain that I’ve swam along side things I had no idea were there as I am that I’ll run into more critters in the future.

While terrifying, you can’t go through life avoiding what scares you. Whether it’s swimming in the ocean, travelling through Palestine, or learning to fly an airplane. Chris Guillebeau over at the excellent Art of Non Conformity has an excellent write up of this concept in his article Beware of Life.There’s no need to retread ground he covers there so I’ll just add my two cents here:

What’s more terrifying? Encountering the ‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat’ moment or going through life safe but unchallenged?

Tell us below.

What’s Better than a Free Flight to Europe?

Last September (2009) I went to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany for my bachelor party. It was an awesome time made great by friends, food, crazy events, and Oktoberfest shenannigans! More to come on that in a future post. What made that trip even better is that I flew for free by redeeming frequent flier miles.

Two (More) Free Trips to Europe!!!

I’ve already written about how I qualified for that free trip collecting USAir miles. Today I found another way to get not only one free flight to Europe, but likely 2.

Here’s a link for a chase card via British Airways. I just applied. It gives you 50k miles for signing up and 50k miles for $2k in the first 3 months. If we both my fiancee and I do apply, we’d have enough miles for (2) round trip tickets to Europe! Each!!

British Airways flies out of many different places Charlotte – I took them to London and loved their service.

I think it’s worth doing.

Think free trip to Dublin, Ireland to see Notre Dame vs Navy! Or Scotland in search of Harry Potter! Or maybe an encore to Oktoberfest or Pamplona for the running of the bulls. Also, I think they transfer with other airline rewards programs because of alliances.

If you can, sign up now to get the bonus! (Note: I get nothing for you to sign up – no affiliate link or kickback here. Just spreading the word. Take every financial caution you normally do!)

Things That Go Bump in the Lake

This past Spring and Summer (2009) Kevin and I spent a great deal of time practicing on lake wylie. He in my kayak leading me, watching out for me. I swam along side getting my mileage in.

Most of the time we swam in Lake Wylie, South Carolina – the lake on which I live. A previously-flooded Cawataba river, it had over 350 miles of fractal shoreline for me to cover. It is freshwater and it is fed by the Cawataba that starts far north and feeds into the enormous Lake Norman 20 miles north of Charlotte, and makes its way down to a Duke Energy dam just across the South Carolina line that creates the lake.

Swimming downstream of a major metropolitan area you expect to find interesting things in the water. The Cove Keepers, a local volunteer conservency pull all sorts of interesting things out of the lake on a regular basis. Despite the appeal of the Bass Master’s tournaments held on Lake Wylie, you don’t expect to find a lot of wildlife.

That would be an incorrect assumption.

You see, we had to get out on the water early in the AM in order to avoid boat traffic while we practiced. Unfortunately, that’s when things from the black lagoon like to feed.

My parents have visited me before and encountered snakes of various species, sizes, and colors but that is expected in the south. As was the snapper turtle I found swimming from one landing early one morning. Note that his size – roughly equivilent to a garbage lid – was not.

One morning we had been swimming for about 2 hours continuously on a glassy-smooth surface. No one else was on the lake except fro a few die-hard bass fishermen. Everyone else was still asleep. It was beautiful. It was perfect.

We were directly on the east side of the lake, about 50 yards off shore and heading west straight across when it happened. This was the final 1/2 mile stretch and we were aiming for the beach which represented our begining and finishing line. I had been slowing down. Swimming 2+ hours continuously will tire you out! My resting glides on my crawl stroke were getting longer and longer.

One one particular glide I crashed in to SOMETHING!

It felt like I was tackling a slimy punching bag. This something was the length of my arm, which went under the beast, to the crown of my head – which I used to spear the animal. It felt like I was tackling a slimy punching bag.

Instinctively, I reacted how I feel most of you reading this would; I shreiked like a little girl and swung my arm – already in a mid-stroke arc – and connected with the beast.

At one time I was considered a trained fighter, entering tournaments and the like. I know what it is like to punch someone, and connect solidly, in fear, anger and with authority. Believe me when I tell you I punched this beast, whatever it was, and connected.

Completing the hit, I scrabled to the underside of the kayak, wrapped my body around the boat, and said a silent prayer that I wouldn’t get eaten. It took a few minutes for me to regain my composure. All the while Kevin was laughing his a$$ off.

Eventually I was able to man up, let go of the kayak, and swim the last 1/2 mile. I don’t mind telling you that I was more than a little jumpy. Kevin of course mocked me the whole way back.

Once we reached shore, Kevin let me in on something else about this behemoth. Remember how I said that you occasionally run into flotsam on the lake? There was a sneaker floating nearby this encounter. Apparently the creature from the black lagoon saw it, too. As he put it “I didn’t want to tell you while you were swimming, but I think whatever that was tried to eat the sneaker.”

Fun, fun, fun!

Later that week we read that there were (3) small aligators sighted on the lake. The area has a history of gators, the last monster pulled out of a nearby cove reached over 12′ in length. I don’t know what I crashed into but I was glad the sneaker got the worst of it!

Crashing into a lake creature wasn’t the only time I screamed like a little girl and sought the safety of the kayak. No, those series of dance moves were pre-rehearsed. Except that time I was in the ocean. And the animal was much bigger. I’ll tell you about that one next time. Keep reading.

The Final Miles

The second mile of the swim proved more difficult that the first. Now that we were clear of the small barrier islands, the full effect of the wind became apparent blowing up waves from the East. Coupled with this, the tide started coming in from Fire Island inlet in full force – in direct opposition from the wind – creating a chumming effect. It felt like trying to swim in a washing machine. I had a lot of trouble keeping my body level in that mess as some strokes would lead me to breath in full waves and others would flip me over on to my back. I think I spent as much time swimming forward as I did up and sideways.

I wasn’t the only one having difficulty with the waves. Each time I managed to get a glimpse of my kayakers they were bailing out their tiny ship. I have no idea how Kevin managed to steer the boat as well as he did but we remained parallel for the entire journey. Having Dad and Kevin along side was very comforting as I was tossed around.

The 8 pairs of goggles we brought turned out to be fortuitous as the force of the waves broke several pairs of my glasses. I must have been swimming the wrong way as I didn’t hear of any other swimmers having this problem. Still, fortune favors the prepared and I dutifully retired at least 5 pairs of goggles that day. My MP3 player was attached to my first set of goggles and I never did get the time to re-attach it to the other pairs. It woud have been nice to mark the time but I was certainly not bored. The effort made the swim seem interminable though.

The effects of swimming in that chop were plain exhaustion. Things didn’t smooth out until around mile 4 or so and by that time I was too tired to capitalize on the relatively flat water. It was everything I could do to keep my arms rolling over. I could literally feel the muscles in my rotator cuffs fraying. Having recovered from a torn rotator cuff 2 years earlier I knew the feeling well. Each stroke I had to make a concious decision to keep injuring myself so I could keep going.

Making the swim even more fun was my ‘farmer John wetsuit. This wetsuit is sleveless, like a tank top, and continues to my ankles. Over time the salt and sand kicked up in the chop made their way into my suit. Each stroke was like sandpaper. I began to understand why some swimmers opted to do the race in speedos. Despite the pain and the open sores the suit created along my chest and under my arms I was very thankful for the buoyancy it provided. I am not sure I would have been able to finish with out it. The fish even got in on the act with something biting me on my toe! That was another nice open, bleeding wound for the salt water to creep into. FUN!

Each time we would swim past a marker, I would ask Kevin the time. I would calculate my average speed in my head and the results were not impressive. I figured I was dead last. By the time we were at the 3.5 mile point I could plainly see the masts of the sailing ships in the harbour we were aiming for. Nothing to do but keep heading that way. Every so often I would ask for some water. The salt water had gotten into my mounth and I’ve never been as thirsty as I had been on that swim. Unfortunately my throat was too sore to swallow so I could only swish the water around in my mouth. This provided a little comfort but not much.

I remember being disappointed in myself towards the tail end of the race. I began evaluating where my training went wrong. Did I really give supreme effort in my training? No. Should I have dieted and cross trained? Yes. Why didn’t I hire a swim coach to help my technique? Thoughts that I had wasted, absolutely squandered the last 18 months of my life played through out my head as I slowly made my way to the shore.

By mile 4 I was absolutely defeated. Luckily my kayakers were not.

By mile 4 the sun was shining, the water was flat, and Kevin was obviously having a great time! He had his sunglasses on and a ridiculous excuse of a boonie hat and was working on his tan. Gone from his mind were any thoughts of capsizing or bailing out water. He was on vacation! So Kevin started doing what any training partner would. He started yelling at me to go faster!

I remember being so tired that I flopped on to my back for a minute. I looked out on the horizon, the place I had swam from and I could not see the beach at all. What I could see were a bunch of other swimmers and kayakers! I wasn’t in last place. I was still in a race! And it was time to go faster.

Well, my mind was made up and I put everything I had into finishing strong. I don’t think my body complied with the request to increase speed but I will say that it was a lot easier to swim the final mile and a quarter without those negative thoughts weighing me down.

It was soon after that I was swimming past the docks and I could hear the crowds cheering. I had done it. I had finally finished. A goal that I had set sitting on a plane returing from the Holy land 18 months earlier was finished. It was a hell of a journey. What an amazing feeling. I don’t have the words to describe it. So I’ll let someone else do it for me;

“That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly.”