Tame birds sing of freedom. Wild birds fly.  –John Lennon

Last week, Gunter and I watched the series 1833, the prequel to the Yellowstone series, which is set in contemporary times. A group of pioneers had traveled from the Eastern U.S. to take advantage of free land at the end of the Oregon Trail. One of the wagons was called Prairie Schooner. The pioneers dreamt of freedom, of that first glimpse of the Pacific. The heroine, Elsa, wasn’t into mountains and destinations, though. For her, that feeling of freedom was the journey, riding her horse through new lands by day and sleeping under the big sky at night. Her freedom was moving on. 

The film brought back memories of our own quest for freedom.  We had already “gone west” to California, Gunter from Germany and I from Wisconsin. In San Diego, we had accomplished the American dream, founding and building a biotech company, taking it public, and becoming financially independent. But we weren’t free. During those years, we preserved our sanity by dreaming of our future. It would be a better life—one in which we would be truly independent and self-sufficient, answering to no one. 

We would go to sea!

We would escape to another world—a world in which we could control our own destiny—as free as eagles soaring through the sky. We would sail with the wind and when that wasn’t blowing, we would use solar energy stored in our battery bank. We would be our own self-contained municipality, with a water maker to convert sea water to fresh, and high-tech communication and navigation systems. Best of all, we would have no Board of Directors, shareholders, or stakeholders telling us what to do.

We had a 43-foot Catana catamaran built for us in the south of France. When it was finished, we sailed the Med through the Strait of Gibraltar to the Canary Islands, on to Cape Verde and across the Atlantic to St. Lucia. There, we spent the 2000-2001 holidays. Afterwards, we sailed through the Caribbean to Los Roques, Venezuela and the ABC islands, on our way to Cartagena, Colombia. 

During a Force 10 storm, the four of us on board feared for our lives. That shook us to the core. This is what I wrote about that feeling of freedom then:

“Some say the sea is cruel. I agree. I say it is without mercy. Freedom at sea? Independence, managing your own municipality? Ha! Leave the shore, and you leave behind a certain degree of freedom; you must live by Poseidon’s rules, pawns to the sea god’s whims. And you’re left with a burning question: Is the cruiser experience worth the loss of control over your life? Must it always be like this? Must I always live life on the edge? Rollers slap against the hulls of Pacific Bliss as she heaves onwards, while answers elude me like slippery eels.”  ─Maiden Voyage, Chapter 8, page 125. 

Despite the danger, Gunter and I decided to go on. We sailed for seven more years, until we “crossed the line” and became part of that rare breed called “World Circumnavigators.” Then we returned to Canet, France to the same dock where it all began. 

Nowadays, living on our beloved acre of land in rural Northwest Wisconsin during its bucolic summers, I often go out to view the night sky. I contemplate the Big Dipper beaming over White Ash Lake while reminiscing about the freedom of those night watches at sea under the Southern Cross. We have a certain measure of freedom at our lake home, and even less during winters spent at our condo in San Diego. 

What is freedom? Freedom can be an illusion. Freedom can be lost. Freedom can be addictive; once you have a taste, you will yearn for more. You can find freedom in many different ways: by going west, by going out to sea, or by taking a hike in the mountains, forest, or plains. Just know this: no matter how you define it, freedom is precious. If you’ve escaped boundaries—whether restrictions set by yourself or others—you can now roam free. You can say, “I am my own person, because this is who I choose to be.” 

“Freedom is something that dies unless it’s used.”  ─Hunter S. Thompson

Special Offer: To learn more about the first voyage of Lois and Gunter Hofmann, encompassing the first third of their sail around the world, purchase a digital copy of Maiden Voyage by clicking here.

About the Author: Lois and Günter Hofmann lived their dream by having a 43-foot ocean-going catamaran built for them in the south of France and sailing around the world. Learn more about their travel adventures by reading Lois’s award-winning nautical adventure trilogy. Read more about Lois and her adventures at her website and stay in touch with Lois by liking her Facebook page. Lois’s books can be purchased from PIP Productions on Amazon and on her website.


How can one tamp down your inner wanderlust while following pandemic stay-at-home orders?
As a travel writer, how can I help you through these trying times?

Appreciate where you’ve been.  Embracing an attitude of gratitude can bring you out of the doldrums. Realize that this is temporary and eventually, you’ll put your tabled travel plans back in motion. During this pause, those of us who are intrepid travelers have a rare chance to think more deeply about what we’ve already experienced. We can look into the rearview mirror, learning—or relearning—what our past travels taught us. Or we can take this time to delve further into the history and culture of places we’ve visited but barely scratched the surface because of time limitations. Be thankful for the gift of time you now have.

Celebrate what you did when you could. Gather together your photos and mementos, and consider making them into a travel book. If you no longer print out photos or do scrapbooking, use one of the online photo book services such as snapfish.com. Technology has made it easier than ever to collect travel memories. I have many digitally-produced travel books that I set out on the coffee table to remind us of the good times. And come to think of it, I never did make that book about last years’ trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. Now is the time!

Engage in armchair reminiscence.  Remembering the high points of a trip has distinct advantages. When we recall a memory, we tend to edit out inconvenient details, allowing what’s left to take center stage. When I recalled and blogged about our trip to Uzbekistan two years ago, I fittingly left out the part about the horrific cold I caught there, and the stomach flu that Gunter endured during the long flight home. That part had faded into the background while our experience staying at a yurt camp, where Gunter fell off his camel, became the primary story. In fact, reliving that adventure made having traveled more fun than actual traveling! I tend to travel in search of a story, but the challenge and fun of shaping the narrative comes only in retrospect when I’m safely home.

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Travel virtually. While you’re sitting at home, consider taking in the pleasures of spring without the pollen: online offerings from impressive botanical gardens around the world allow you to take a tour from the comfort of your home. I missed the Cherry Blossom Festival in San Diego this year, but I could take a tour of similar gardens around the world via Google Earth, complete with satellite images soaring to ten different destinations and quotes by local guides. Vancouver’s cherry blossom festival in Queen Elizabeth Park lasts an entire month—as does the National Cherry Blossom festival in Washington, D.C. For a sidewalk view, go to the National Garden and Joenji Temple in Japan.

As an impressionist aficionado, one of my favorites has been Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny. But after sailing the South Pacific for two years, I fell in love with tropical gardens. One magnificent virtual tour is the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, which sits on 17 acres in Papaikou, HI. Every year, the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx stages a spectacular orchid show. This year, Jeff Leatham, a “floral designer to the stars,” used thousands of orchids to fashion a series of rooms festooned with orchid-laden arches, vines, hanging baskets and columns. Then it closed on March 15, never to reopen again. This 21-minute narrated tour steers viewers through a kaleidoscopic exhibition, stopping to tell stories along the way. I cannot end a virtual tour of gardens without taking you to Holland for a tulip show. “Because you cannot visit Keukenhof right now, we decided to bring Keukenhof to you!” says the park’s managing director.

Now that I’ve turned you onto virtual tours, you may decide to use them to pursue your own passions. Gunter likes to while away the time watching YouTube videos of ships in monster storms. “Why is that calming?” I asked him.

“Because I’m so relieved that we’re not out there.” Then he added, “And I’m so grateful that we survived all those storms during our circumnavigation—especially that scary Force 10!”

About the Author: Lois and Günter Hofmann lived their dream by having a 43-foot ocean-going catamaran built for them in the south of France and sailing around the world. Learn more about their travel adventures by reading Lois’s award winning nautical adventure trilogy. Read more about Lois and her adventures at her website and stay in touch with Lois by liking her Facebook page.