Who has ever dreamed of selling up and travelling around the world? Quitting your job, buying a boat and setting sail? This is exactly what my courageous and adventurous friends, Isabel and Mick, did in December 2013. They sold most of their possessions, quit their jobs and left Australia to follow their dream of sailing to beautiful places, living a simple life and having an adventure. What’s even more inspiring is that they are also on a mission to raise awareness and educate communities about the effects of marine pollution. With their blog, freeinthesea2014, as well as through social media, I’m sure their message will be heard around the world.
We may not have the same dreams as Isabel and Mick, but I am sure that you will find their story of inspired action, passion and adapting to change motivational. Isabel is one of my closest and beautiful friends who truly shines from within and I am so excited to be featuring an interview with her. Oh how amazing technology is being able to interview someone moored off an island in the Caribbean!!
What has been the biggest challenge since making the decision to set sail?
My biggest challenges have been to find stability amongst constant change, living out of my comfort zone and facing fears. Although I used to sail as a child in little boats, I have had to overcome many fears since moving to our boat. I’m still very inexperienced so I’m scared of so many things like sailing at night, strong winds, big waves, pirates, and so much more. Moving from one place to another is exciting but it can be quite tiring too. You have to quickly learn how to adapt and how to find your centre inside of you and not depend on outside things for stability.
How did you overcome it?
Like with anything that scares us, the best way to overcome it is by doing it. I also believe in the power of positive thinking so I use affirmations to help me overcome my fears. If I see any negative thoughts coming to my mind, I quickly stop them by exchanging them with positive ones. As I mentioned before, being on the move, makes me a bit anxious at times, so I find that meditation helps a lot; just sitting quietly somewhere, closing my eyes and focusing in that place between my eyebrows or the centre of my heart, helps me calm my mind and brings me to feel peace again.
What has surprised you on your travels?
It has surprised me to see how badly managed rubbish is on most of the islands that we have visited around the Caribbean and in some places in South America like Ecuador; how littering is still a big problem and the lack of understanding on how big the problem of plastic pollution is and how it is affecting our oceans. In most of the islands, there are not well established waste management nor recycling centres, they don’t separate their rubbish and there is so much rubbish thrown to the streets and everywhere. This has been very sad to see, and has made me realize that there is a lot to be done.
You’re not just travelling for fun, you’re also spreading an important message about marine pollution. Why is this cause so important to you?
I’ve spent all my life around the ocean; I used to spend all my summers on the beach in Ecuador, first sailing then later on surfing. My parents taught me to respect nature and I remember my dad always picking up rubbish from the beach, so I’ve copied his behaviour in some way. I’ve seen the amount of plastic that washes off on the beaches wherever we go. I have seen what it’s causing to the animals and I understand the negative impact that it’s causing to the environment and to us. I believe that this is a problem that can be solved by changing our habits and making smarter choices in the products we use every day. We are all connected. If the ocean is sick, we are sick and it’s up to us to make a difference. The ocean, nature, has given me so much in life. I cannot just sit and watch it being destroyed by our reckless behaviour, so that’s why I’m doing all I can to spread the message and at least make people think about the consequences of our actions.
Tell us about I.M. Recycled.
Before we moved onto our boat, we spent 8 months in Ecuador in 2014. Although I had been going back and visiting my family every year, I hadn’t spent that much time back since I left in 2005. The first few weeks when we arrived, we rented a little cabin on a beach called Ayampe. Here we were shocked by the amount of rubbish that was on the beach. We did a few beach clean ups but we knew that this was just a band aid solution to a much bigger problem.
With my background in education, I knew we needed to focus on spreading the word and telling others what was going on. So we started collecting plastic bottle caps and creating doormats with them. We contacted my old school and before leaving Ecuador we did a few talks about plastic pollution and showing the students what we were doing with the plastic we were finding on the beach. Everywhere we go, we continue to collect bottle caps and now we are not only making doormats but place mats and coasters for drinks. We try to contact local organizations in some of the places that we stay longer, work together with them and join in on beach clean ups.
This year, we’ll be arriving back in Ecuador around November and we’ll stay until the beginning of April. During this time, we are planning to launch an educational campaign about plastic pollution, visit more schools and organize bigger beach clean ups. We really believe that the main problem is lack of education and we would like to motivate people to change the situation by taking more action. I truly believe we can all make a difference.
How is your message received in the places you travel to?
What I’ve been trying to do is to contact people that are already doing things for the environment before I arrive in the new place. With social media this part is easy. It has giving me a chance to get to know people as passionate as me about the problem of plastic pollution and protecting our environment and sometimes we exchange ideas or we work together on beach clean ups. We have created a Facebook page for Ecuador called Mingas por el Mar EC where we share information about the problem and we look to make it easier for like-minded people to connect. I have seen great interest in the people in this country to be part of beach clean ups and to collaborate so it gives me hope that we can make it happen and that this project will be a successful one.
I’m sure it’s not all calm seas, tail winds, clear skies and sunshine. You and Mick spend a lot of time together in some challenging and stressful conditions. In what ways do you make a good team? How do you support each other?
Yes, life on a boat, it’s definitely not without challenges. It’s been quite a process and we have both learned a lot from each other. I think we have especially put in practice the saying, “Don’t take anything personally.” In stressful situations, where we are both tired and scared, we can easily lose our tempers, so the most important thing is to understand this, know it’s not personal and move on. We have definitely learned how to work as a team; we have come to understand our strengths and weaknesses. Mick can sometimes lose his patience so I think I calm him down and I can be a bit too relaxed at times so he gives me courage and motivation. We know when to give each other space, and when to lend each other a hand. I think it’s always important to communicate with each other and to be honest and also to always put yourself in the other person’s shoes, to try and understand why they’re acting in a certain way. We are good friends and that’s why we are a good team.
Tell us about the kind of healthy dishes you enjoy while sailing.
Our diets haven’t changed that much from when we lived back in Burleigh, although I’ve had to learn to adapt and accept what is on offer wherever we go. We grow our own alfalfa and bean sprouts on the boat so we always have fresh salads onboard. We have mainly a vegetarian diet so some of our specialties are curried vegetables, soups with lots of veggies and we love anything with lentils in it. We make sure to eat lots of fruits and seeds like chia; we also try to include quinoa in a lot of our dishes. We bake our own cakes and cookies on board and try to stay away from processed food. We have a pressure cooker on board so it’s really easy to cook grains. We do eat fish, whenever we are lucky to catch it.
Yoga has been an important part of your life for many years. What does your practice look like while travelling?
Again, it has been all about adaptability and making the most of what I have. It’s definitely more difficult to find the right place or conditions to practice. Sometimes I practice a bit of asanas on board, although it can be quite tricky, because our boat isn’t that big, and it can move a bit. My favourite place to practice is on deserted beaches with hard sand. We don’t find them that often, unfortunately.
I remember there was one week where every time I went to the beach to practice, something happened to prevent me from practicing or make the conditions harder. One morning it poured down rain, the next morning it was so windy that I was getting sand all over my face and then finally I found a beautiful deserted beach with the right conditions to practice and all of a sudden there was a kayaking tour arriving and parking their kayaks right next to me, so I had to practice with a crowd.
I have learned to adapt and do what I can every day. Some days, I just sit for a few minutes in my cabin and meditate, or do some pranayamas. Other times when we are sailing and I’m completely alone, I start chanting or repeating mantras. I don’t get to join yoga classes that often, so when I do, I really enjoy them and appreciate being guided by a teacher. I see an opportunity to practice yoga as an everyday thing: Yoga for me, it’s how we approach life, how we react in every situation, how we treat each other. That way, I’m practicing 24 hours a day, 7 days of the week.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow their passion and make their dreams come true?
Just do it. Follow your heart, trust in what makes you feel happy and do it. Life is too short to waste it on things that aren’t important. I truly believe that if you can imagine it, you can make it happen. We create the world we live in, so start thinking positive thoughts, create a wish board, give it your 100%, work hard and you’ll make it happen.
Quote to live by:
“Be the change you want to see in the world”. Gandhi
I read this quote many years ago and I try to live my life following it. I think it’s always easier to judge a situation outside of us than to look into ourselves and see what is really happening. This quote reminds me that everything starts with me. If I’m not happy, if I’m feeling unfulfilled I know that I’m the only person that can change that situation. My happiness doesn’t depend on anyone or anything. I decide to be happy and I work on anything I need to change in my life to make it happen. I’ve always felt this strong need of doing things to help others. Sometimes this can be overwhelming and disheartening when you see the big picture so I remember this quote and I focus on myself. I can be the best version of myself. It would be really hard to stop the war in the world but at least I can be peaceful with everyone that I come into contact with and that’s my way of creating change. I may not be able to pick up all the rubbish that is in the ocean but I can look at how much rubbish I’m producing and pick up what I can, that way I know I’m making a small difference with what I can do.
You certainly are making a difference Isabel! Thank you.xx
My wish is for you, the reader, to take these wise words, lessons, the positive outlook on life and overcoming challenges with you. What have you learned from Isabel’s journey that you can relate to your own life? How can you make a difference in your world? Please leave a comment below.
Make sure you head on over to freeinthesea2014 now to read up on their latest travels and support their meaningful cause.
*All images freeinthesea2014