People ask us all the time, “What made you decide to move your family onto a boat?” My husband, Nathan generally says, “It was my wife’s midlife crisis.” I usually tell them, “We wanted to travel with the kids while they are still young enough to want to be with us all the time.”
But those answers always felt like only part of the truth. There was always something stirring in my soul, something calling me, compelling me to do this; to stretch my comfort zone and seek out new horizons.
Earlier this year, as we sailed to remote Bahamian islands I felt myself coming alive. It seemed like I was closer to where I belong. But life happens and plans change.
For the past 6 months, as the Dawn Treader sat here at a marina in West Palm Beach, Florida I have felt so lost, wondering why I was living on a boat that was not moving (this post explains why) in a place with no other families nearby. On a good day living on a boat is really hard and after our third evacuation in 10 months (Hurricane Matthew, a neighbor’s boat fire & Hurricane Irma) I was wondering if it was time to call it quits. I found myself in my head all the time, filled with doubt about my life’s choices.
That came to an abrupt end, and the world seemed to stopped turning, as I watched Hurricane Maria plow across the island of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico, “Isla del Encanto,” that enchanting island where my father was born, where so many dear people live and where so many of my favorite childhood memories were made. As the storm subsided and damage reports started coming in it was clear that this monster had devastated the island and had no mercy.
As I type this, two weeks later, I cannot fully express the agony we all felt in the days following the storm. 100% of the island was without power. One hundred percent! 90% of the communication networks were down. 90% of the island had no running water. And many of the small mountain communities, or pueblos, were completely cut off from the world after mud slides had destroyed their roads. One of those pueblos was my family’s home of Lares.
For days we were desperate to hear anything from our loved ones. Like many others with family in Puerto Rico, I started communicating with total strangers on a walkie-talkie app called, “Zello.” There I found some comfort as I listened to people going through the same thing I was and speaking with the same, unique accent of my relatives. But Zello also brought more heartache hearing so many people desperately pleading for anyone to help them locate their padres (parents), hermanos (brothers & sisters) and abuelos (grandparents). The cries for help to locate loved ones kept coming but the only response from many parts of the island was a deafening silence.
Finally, after several torturous days, a cousin from San Juan was able to make the difficult, dangerous drive to Lares to confirm that all of our loved ones had survived the storm. I sobbed with relief.
Ever since I left my career as a television news reporter and anchor I have felt a bit lost. I created my own video podcast, New Mexicast as a way to continue using my skills toward something that mattered. But the truth is that New Mexicast always felt like an expensive, time-consuming hobby. Yes, I shared quality stories about interesting people. Yes, I am proud of the body of work I have created. But, like this liveaboard life, it has always felt a little bit off from my truest desires, like I was waiting for something else. It always felt like a dress rehearsal.
I don’t feel that way anymore. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria I suddenly discovered the thing that has eluded me for so long; clarity of purpose. I now know why I worked so hard to acquire and maintain the skills that I have and why I pushed so hard to move onto this boat. In my personal journal I am no longer writing, “I feel so lost,” or “I don’t know what to do.” Instead, a few days ago I wrote this:
October 4, 2017 – What do I know? I know that Nathan and I will be safely in Puerto Rico within a week. I know that once there we will have a safe place to stay. We will visit many people, offer medical care and record their stories. And then, armed with information and reconnected with my island and her beautiful people, we will have a safe return flight to Florida to reunite with our kids. Then we will begin the next chapter; sailing to Puerto Rico.
I always dreamed of sailing to Puerto Rico. If you follow the Dawn Treader on the ship tracking app, Farkwar, you will see the destination listed as Lares, Puerto Rico. When I wrote that over a year ago I had serious doubts that it would ever happen. But I know now that we will sail to Puerto Rico. We will fill every inch of the Dawn Treader with supplies. And then, as a family, I know we will do whatever we can to help.
Things are already in motion. By the time you read this I will be either on an airplane to Puerto Rico or already on the island. I am excited and nervous. But mostly I am grateful. Grateful for all of the love and outpouring of support. Thank you to everyone that has helped make these uncharted waters quite a bit friendlier.
Lots of love,
-Rosa Linda Román
**If you would like to help here is the fundraiser I created for Puerto Rico. All funds will go to direct relief. Thank you for your love and support!