“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the way in which you yourself have altered.”  Nelson Mandela

This quote begins the last chapter of my new book, In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss: MAIDEN VOYAGE.  In that chapter, called “Re-entering and Re-evaluating our Lives,” I tell how Gunter and I returned back to our home in San Diego to find everyone in a hurry and no one living in the present.  We had changed, but they had not.

That experience is a common one: the adventurer—whether traveling by land or sea—returns back to his or her homeland to realize how he or she has changed internally.

Apparently, that experience is not universal.  I was surprised to read obituaries published this year about the solo circumnavigator, Dodge Morgan, who died this year at 78, of complications from cancer surgery. Captain Morgan was the fourth person in history, and the first American, to complete a solo, nonstop circumnavigation of the globe. Piloting a  high-tech, 60-foot, custom sailboat, he shattered the world speed record, arriving in Bermuda on April 11, 1986, only 150 days after he departed.

His was a challenging physical adventure.  His boat, American Promise, a mono-hull, righted itself after 11 knock-downs. Once, a gale pushed his boat 175 miles with no sails up.  But the extreme challenge was the psychological part, a test of Captain Morgan’s ability to withstand the solitude of the seas for 150 days. He returned to a hero’s welcome, and contrary to one scenario the psychologists imagined, he did not crack up or become delusional. But, according to the story in The New York Times magazine, Dec. 27, did the trip transform Captain Morgan into a more humble or compassionate person.  “Within a few years, his marriage to Manny Morgan (his second wife), foundered. ‘If anything, he came back more demanding,’ she recalled….Somehow, it came as a surprise to all that someone could take a life-threatening trip around the world, return to the same spot and find himself right where he started.”

Change came to Captain Morgan, but slowly.  “In time, maybe because of the voyage, or maybe because of the same mundane voyage every person makes, he softened and grew closer to his daughter, Kim, and communicated more openly with his son, Hoyt.”

So why did personal change come to us, and to all the circumnavigators we know personally?  I think that the difference may be in the scope and depth of our circumnavigations.  None of us set out to break any records in speed or endurance.  We sailed to see and to experience the world!  Yes, one essential part was enduring (yet loving) the challenge of the sea in all its moods. But that was only one leg of a three-legged stool. The second was to live alongside and to understand the shared humanity of the many peoples and cultures we visited. And the third was to experience nature at its finest all over the world.  That includes far more than the sea; it includes the interaction of the sea on the land: the sandy beaches, the rugged cliffs.  Nature includes the birds, the sea life, and all the mammals in diverse countries from orangutans to kangaroos and platypus. One cannot experience so much of God’s creation first-hand without being humbled.

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