By NIKKI HUANG
There is something about the open ocean that romances all people, just as much as it terrifies us. This was the subject of a conversation my family and I were having with our captain on our recent trip to Greece, where life revolves around the Mediterranean waters.
Having just arrived back home, in Manila, I find myself pondering the intoxicating nature of life on a boat— and why only two days since I left it all behind—I long for it once more.
I’m a city girl in every sense of the word. I love places congested with people from all over the world. I like corporate buildings and streets of luxury shopping, exotic restaurants, and wild nightlife. I derive my energy and zest for life from others. At the same time, though, my happy place is far from anything urban.
My true happy place is specific. It is at the bow of a boat, when I’m standing so close to the edge I could slip and fall into the water when I’m cruising at a speed of at least 10 knots and I can feel the wind tearing at my lashes and the beat of waves against the vessel’s hull. I’m not picky about what type of boat it is either: Whether on an Italian yacht, a bangka so cramped you can only stand, or a little tender, rest assured I will climb my way to the very tip just so I can feel the water and the wind. I couldn’t care less about damaging what I’m wearing. I’ll let salt collect in my hair and on my skin, I’ll let my lips toast bright pink in the sun.
I forget to wear makeup or to brush my teeth before breakfast. I stop worrying about my hair and keep it up, out of my face. I drench it in oil when I bun it, lest it interferes with my appreciation of the view. I let my eyes turn red with irritation.
There is something about the ocean that pulls you in, urges you to let go. At the same time, unpredictable waters keep you sharp, focused, and always mindful. The ocean will test anyone who lives on it for long enough. I’ve sailed through storms, tore my foot open while trying to climb to shelter in the middle of a typhoon, I had a divemaster rip me away from a lionfish during a dive in waters so murky we didn’t know what was up and what was down.
In between the tumultuous moments, though, I’ve found stretches of uncomplicated peace.
There’s nothing quite like morning coffee taken at 12 noon because engines starting at 6 a.m. woke you up right before a boat in motion lulled you back to sleep. There’s no lunch quite as good as freshly caught inihaw na isda in El Nido and no dinner up to par with authentic Greek salads, spinach pie, and baklava docked in a port at Paros. Most of all, there’s nothing like hours spent in the sun, water sluicing down your face and chest from high-speed sailing, remembering and forgetting all at the same time.
No matter how glamorous life in the city can get, I find myself returning to the simple pleasures of a life at sea, time and time again.