Driving for Amazon Flex just wasn’t enough. Not enough money, not
enough consistency, not enough purpose. So I told god in no uncertain
terms, “enough, change this, now!” I had grown satisfied with sleeping
on the side of the road in a van. I had enough. It was time for next.
I walked away from a six figure IT career because it wasn’t enough. I
have done that a couple times. And I am still going. I tried a number
of strategies to create something larger and went bankrupt trying. They
all say “fail fast, fail often.” but rarely talk about what it is
actually like to lose everything and call it done. They all say you have
to be broke to get rich, but don’t really dwell on how much is sucks to
be broke. And I won’t either. Just trust me. There is a reason very few
try at this game for long, for long enough to succeed.
So I told god in no uncertain terms, “enough.”
And shortly after a simple thought came into my head. Why not get a
groovy IT job in St Thomas? Followed by, “where is St Thomas, anyway?”
I discovered virgin.craigslist.org, the virgin islands craigslist
because St Thomas in in the US Virgin Islands. I found an ad for IT
techs or something, “must be willing to travel.” All caps, several
exclamation points. I figured, I’ll send a resume for practice, never
expecting to hear from them.
So now I have a groovy IT job in St Thomas. I am the IT Lead for the team that is here to fix houses after the hurricanes.
It’s chaos. It’s an actual disaster area. Nothing works. Hot water is
rare. A few of the missing traffic lights have been replaced by
temporary installations. Most are just missing or mangled and not
working. All the street signs are gone. There are a lot of blue tarps
and after six months yesterday, there is still a lot of debris,
everywhere. There are wires on the ground. Everywhere. There are poles
laying on the ground. Fences down. Roofs missing and bare foundations
where there once were houses.
It’s paradise. Whenever I get a little down, I stand up and look
around or out a window. The whole place is drop dead gorgeous. The
people smile and say “morning morning!” There is a lot of honking. A lot
of honking. It took me a while, me a Seattlite, to realize a lot of the
honking was happy honking. Someone waits at the broken light and lets
someone into traffic. Honk! Wave. Smile. A lot of honking. I’ve started
honking. Smile. Wave. Honk! Yay!
The cruise ships come. Great cities tied up to the pier, three end to
end sometimes. The locals standing on the street corners offering
bottles of water. “One dollar!” Smile. Wave. It’s paradise.
The only way to make this better is if the schooner to the left was my boat.
We work hard. Twelve, sixteen hours a day, six, seven days a week. We
have a lot to do. There are a lot of blue tarps. No one home. They need
to go home. We are here to help. The people are getting to know us. A
young man stops me while I’m driving by. I have the sign on my jeep. He
asks, “will you be hiring soon?” Yes. Many. I explain the sign. Smart
kid. He will find work I am sure. We are just here to help. The locals
will be doing the majority of the work. They need to go home. We are
here to help.
My coworker shot this with a drone.
All I did was listen. I told god in no uncertain terms, “enough.” And
then I listened. And answered one ad. And now I am in paradise. In one
“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Two hours before I booked a balcony cabin on the only dedicated ocean liner in the world, I was laid-off from my job.
What the hell?
Might as well get out of town.
Might as well spend a week sailing across the Atlantic from Brooklyn,
NY USA to Southampton, Great Britain, wiling away the hours at sea in
the high style of a bygone era.
To backtrack a bit, it all started with online chat with my sister that day of the layoff.
She was in the middle of chatting with a mutual friend who enjoys booking trips — especially cruises.
He’d found a deal on the Queen Mary 2, departing in less than 3 weeks – and he wanted us to come along.
This wasn’t some run-of-the-mill booze cruise. It was THE QUEEN FUCKING MARY 2!
Some stats on this vessel; it’s pretty new – commissioned in 2004.
She sails about half-the-year on the Trans-Atlantic route, with these
hella-fast diesel engines with gas turbines. They say she is capable of
going 30 knots, and can cross the Atlantic in less than 4 days—but they
stretch it to 7 just to be civilized.
The QFM2 has 15 bars and restaurants, 5 swimming pools, a
Broadway-style theater with a turntable built into the stage, a casino
and a planetarium!
It’s operated by White Star Cunard—the same company that operated the
Titanic —but don’t let that make you nervous. Really. Their safety
record is pretty great since 1912.
Wasn’t like I had to ask my boss for time off anymore so I agreed it was the perfect antidote to unemployment-fueled rage.
I have to admit, sailing on this vessel wasn’t even on the perimeter of my bucket list.
There are no ports-of-call in between the coast of the USA and Merry
Ol’ England. You are AT SEA every freaking day. And everybody’s gonna
be really old and feeble, right?
Well, not exactly.
Turns out some 2300 people of every age, from toddlers to the
extremely elderly, to dozens of dogs owned by the passengers- enjoy the
ocean voyage on the Queen Mary 2.
Oh, and there’s also about 2200 crew members to wait on you hand and foot.
After my sister and I booked the trip, we were sent a list of
expectations for passage. That’s expectations for the two of us. For
the way we were expected to dress after 6pm every night. We were
informed that of the 7 nights aboard, 4 were “smart attire” (i.e.
business casual or cocktail dress) and 3 were “gala” evenings in which
formal ware was expected. That means evening gowns – or other
fancy-dress clothing, and tuxedos or nice suits for men.
Fortunately, I have all kinds of formal separates, shifts, sparkly
tops and jackets from my years of singing in concerts and other events.
So, I packed the fancy stuff and my sister took care of a lot of the
other things we needed.
(Note to fellow travelers: Sparkly stuff weighs a TON! My bag was
overweight, and after the cruise, I traveled in the EU for another week.
Had to lug that stuff everywhere. There’s gotta be a better way.)
You’re allowed to bring a limited amount of wine and liquor for
personal use – for cocktails in your stateroom, so my sister made sure
we had adequate supplies.
When we arrived on board, I was thrilled to see we had a lower level
balcony stateroom near the middle of the ship. That means the least
amount of rocking motion if there are rough seas. If your stateroom is
higher than the 6th deck, and if it’s closer to the bow of the ship,
you’ll feel much more motion.
But it turned out the seas were calm for much of the journey, and I
really enjoyed the gentle rocking sensation every night as I was falling
There’s a standard split of champagne in a silver bucket with two
glasses and a special note from Cunard as a welcome gift in every
stateroom. That’s a classy touch.
And, there’s a leather spread on top of the bed as you arrive, so you
can unpack your suitcases into the generous closets without dirtying up
the fluffy duvet on your bed. Another classy touch.
There’s 24-hour room service if you just want to stay in your
stateroom. But, ordering the Tuna-Melt was a BIG mistake. It was Nasty.
Stick to breakfast in bed. They did that pretty well, but one small pot
of coffee was definitely not enough for a Seattlite.
Here was my absolute favourite part of staying in my room for
breakfast every day: (notice I used the British spelling of “favorite”…)
The Morning Programme (again, British spelling) on the shipboard TV
station hosted by the very British Entertainment Director Amanda Reid.
It is shot onboard the ship in the lowest production value one-camera
style of classic local cable TV. But Amanda’s presence is so proper and
delightful that you don’t mind watching it over and over. (The show
runs on a loop from 6am until noon on one of the 40+ channels on your
widescreen stateroom TV). She informs you of that day’s highlights, and
how you should dress, and interviews the guest speakers and
entertainers featured that day. Most of them brought her some kind of
gift the days we watched, and we laughed with glee along with her as she
accepted each one with surprise and humility. She also ended each
programme with a joke. Seriously entertaining in an extremely low-tech
way. Now that’s a job that’d be fun to have.
One other thing to note about your stateroom TV: If you’re too tired
to go outside, you can always watch the channel that features the “bow
cam”, looking at the endless miles of ocean – (and scouting for
icebergs…just in case) day or night.
I really enjoyed High Tea in the Queens Room – but only made it once,
because it only lasts an hour, from 3:30 – 4:30 every day—but because
we were traveling from West to East, the ship’s clock lost an hour every
day at noon. So 12 became 1, meaning tea started at what might
otherwise have been 2:30 the day before…or 1:30 the day before that.
Just too confusing. But delicious when I made it in time.
There’s also dancing in the Queen’s Room after dinner at night, and
they bring in these male dance hosts who cruise for super-cheap fares,
if they dance with the ladies at night. Only 1 of the 6 or 7 gents
onboard our cruise was worth his salt. His name was Jai, and was from
Sussex, England. Fantastic dancer – delightful conversationist and we
cut a mean rug several times. If I were a man, I’d love to travel as a
dance host. You’ve got some pretty specific responsibilities, from
attending the “singles coffee” in the morning, to helping with
line-dancing classes and dancing at night. No kissy kissy, keep it
clean – but talking to Jai the last day of the cruise, he said he loves
traveling on the QFM2 and that it’s much cheaper than paying rent.
The only downside on the voyage we took was that the main guest
lecturer was a retired US Army General who’s a regular talking head on
those FOX-TV hate shows. And he had several talks planned including one
entitled, “Why Radical Muslims Will Try To Kill Us For The Next 500
Years”. The second lecturer, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer from
London (and the father of British Celebrity Chef Nigella Lawson) was a
climate change denier who did several talks quoting somebody who had
“doubts”. Decided to avoid the lectures altogether, and spend my
entertianment time watching a Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts production
of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” set in post-WWII America. No cheezy
Las Vegas style shows on the QFM2!!
The food was pretty great in the restaurants – and the buffet in the
King’s Court on Deck 7 was pretty good—especially the day they had sushi
as one of the offerings for lunch. As much as you want and it’s
And the food in the Brittania Dining Room was alright – I stuck to
fish and vegetarian options for the most part. Beef-eaters seemed to be
happier with their nightly steak and roast options. Didn’t like the
desserts though. They never tasted as good as they looked.
They want to charge you for all kinds of extras on the QFM2- even
soft drinks are charged extra. So, I was looking for bargains wherever
possible. My favorite was the $10 sale day – a big table in a hallway
with all kinds of stuff for….guess how much? Yup. Got a sweet tote bag
that helped me bring home chocolates from Belgium after the cruise.
What was Not a bargain was the $110 Michael Kors wallet-purse I bought
the day we arrived onboard. But it’s SO cute. And hell, I’m on vacation.
And it holds my phone and all my cards, and looks good on gala nights.
And they make it so easy with one card for everything – door key,
drinks, Michael Kors wallet-purse. Life is short.
The next-to-last night of the trip, they had a 1920’s-themed gala
night. My sister bought a flapper dress just for the occasion. I dolled
up my beaded fancywear and sang Karaoke in the pub. Even met a nice man
who liked my singing and we had a date in the champagne bar the next
day. We’re Facebook friends now.
When the cruise ended, we spent a week in France and Belgium and I
went up to Iceland before flying over the pole back to Seattle. That’s
another blog post for another time.
But everyone asks me if I’d take the QFM2 again.
You’d better fucking believe it. I’m looking at deals for a 14-day round-trip sailing right now.
Lisa Craze is a broadcaster, writer and
singer-songwriter with 2 albums of original songs to her credit and more
than 30 years in radio news and information. She lives in Seattle,
I’ve been promising an updated inventory. Here we go.
Upper left to right. The first thing is another awesome bag. Some of
you know I have a bit of a bag fetish. I have owned up to seven Filson
bags at once. This little beauty is a Skyway Coupeville 20″ Travel
Backpack I scored on clearance from The Bon. Oh. Macy’s. Whatever. It
came up in a google search for “carry on backpack”; a search I have run
often. I spotted this and immediately searched for reviews. I have
watched hundreds of reviews for dozens of bags so imagine my surprise
when I could not find one single review of this bag. Strange indeed.
I already knew a little about Skyway from seeing their goods at
Goodwill in the past. I have owned a couple of their classic suitcases.
They are a Seattle company and have been in the business of making fine
luggage for over a hundred years. Longer than Jansport. Or almost anyone
for that matter. Almost as long as Filson and as long as Samsonite.
Next is a packing cube with a long sleeved wool base top, a pair of
shorts, a dress shirt, a pair of ExOfficio mesh unders, a wool base
bottom, and a nice Pashimi scarf. On top of the Jansport is my laundry
bag with a pair of socks ready to wash. Then my venerable Jansport Right
Pack. There’s an article about this bag around here somewhere. Both
bags have those nice Rick Steves luggage tags. Those prayer flags fit in
the packing cube. The colorful Trader Joes shopping bag is nice for
carrying a hat when on the move and holding my groceries in the
community or airbnb fridge. That’s my Levine Hat Company Homburg style
Panama. I can’t say enough good about this hat and this hat company. I
will buy another. And another. Right below the hat is an original Pack
Towel. There is a reason everyone copies them. These are awesome. Just
plain awesome. Always know where your towel is. There’s some standard
tech there in the corner. An iPad Pro, a Macbook Air, some charging
cables, and an audio cable. I sent one of my guys to the Office Max on
St. Thomas for some shit and asked him to grab me an audio cable while
he was there. He came back with a pink one. Said it was all that was
Coming back to the middle left. That’s a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm
Sleeping Pad. I use this when the airbnb bed isn’t a bed. Or if I’m
crashing on a couch. Fuck the couch. They always slope and are always
too short. I roll out my pad and sleep like at “home”. Dromedary bottle.
Worth the space. No weight. Stainless water bottle. Really the only way
to go. I’ve tried them all. As much as I like to reuse a Perrier
bottle, it’s just not a good idea. Next is another Rick Steves item. He
carries these nice little “wallets”. They hold a metric stack of cards
and there’s a little front pocket for little stuff. The ideal place for
keys to friend’s houses, usb sticks, sim card key, fobs, what have you.
Then a bunch of cook kit stuff. There’s an article about most of this
stuff around here somewhere, too. GSI cup. Stanley cook kit with the
stupid plastic cups thrown away. BRS3000 Titanium Stove. Wow! MSR fuel.
Standard size bic. That is a really nice super fine strainer I got at
Sur le Table in Pike Place Market. For making coffee. That’s a
Zassenhaus manual coffee grinder next. Some Dr. Boners, and a fork and
spoon from Goodwill. I know everyone loves their Titanium Sporks. Good
on ya! I like a real fork and a real spoon, thank you. This all fits in a
small Eagle Creek packing cube. That’s a Jack Spade bonded trench coat.
It weighs about a quarter what my last nice trench coat weighed and
takes up about as much less space. I’m very happy with it. On top of it
is a pair of 10 x 35 field glasses and a Black Diamond headlamp. These
go in the outside, easy to reach pocket. And of course, dance shoes.
Bottom left. A down “puffy”. I got this one at the Nordstrom Rack for
$50. Smartest $50 I ever spent. Shoe care. Hairbrush. I don’t think
this is essential but it’s nice and doesn’t weigh hardly anything. Above
the hairbrush is a basic emergency kit. Bandaids, sewing kit, patch kit
for the therm-a-rest, earplugs, and a supply of toothpicks. All fits in
a nice little two pocket mesh zippered pouch thing I found at Savvy
Traveler. Under that is my Eagle Creek silk travel wallet, passport, sd
card, and social security card. I always load this up with local
currency and put whatever US dollars I brought in there. There’s a
splash of miscellanious small crap there. A soap dish with a bar of
ayurvedic soap, more toothpicks, toothpaste, toothbrush and perioaide, a
lock and cable, shoe horn, bulldog clip, raquet ball, and dental floss.
Each one of these can have it’s own article. The lock and cable is
super handy in a coffee shop. Just throw it around a chair leg and
through the handles of a bag when it’s time to use the bathroom. It’s
just nice to know it’s there. I take my laptop with me. Next we have a
really nice little Tumi bag. The laptop charger is in one, too. I am
guessing Tumi made these for Delta Airlines since there is a Delta logo
inside. I get them at Value Village from time to time for about a
dollar. I think I have four. They are great. This one holds my toilet
kit. Four three ounce bottles. Scissors. That cool stainless nail
clipper I like. My Joris gold plated open comb safety razor, some razor
blades, and my razor case. Also a lock for the gym locker.
I’m wearing some nice Crocket and Jones shoes, Smartwool argyle
socks, some manner of nice trousers, a horsehide belt with a real brass
belt buckle, ExOfficio mesh unders, and a very nice knife on the belt. A
J.Crew classic safari shirt in nylon, a bandana, a sport coat with a
pocket square. There is a clean handkerchief folded into the pocket
square for her. Pockets hold cash in a money clip, phone and headphones,
whatever key I need right now, a change purse with my 19 year coin in
it, and earplugs. My wallet with three bank cards, my drivers license,
my insurance card, my Yacht club card, my scuba dive certification card,
and my Washington State Boaters Education card. There is a nice, heavy
rollerball pen in here somewhere. And a mala. And a hat.
That’s it. That is all I want to own.
“I don’t want to own anything until I find a place where me and
things go together. I’m not sure where that is but I know what it is
like. It’s like Tiffany’s.”
I think I’m committed to this path. The art path. It’s where I started oh so long ago.
I’ve wandered all over the field since. House painting, photography, computers, enterprise grade networking, IT. I studied business and went bankrupt trying.
I had given art one last shot maybe twelve years ago. And gave up on it as dead and futile. But in the meantime I have learned marketing, e-commerce, WordPress and woocommerce. And the landscape has changed. Dropshipping and print on demand. Facebook and Mailchimp. This is a different world than where I gave up art.
And the iPad. Oh My God! It is so fun to make art on one of these! And no waiting for paint to dry. Nothing kills a fresh idea like waiting four days for the first coat to dry. “What was I up to?”
I’m back. And I love it. Working on a new idea. Playing with a composition. Developing a vocabulary. Art is fun again. And there is an actual chance I could support my adventures this way.
“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as
two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand . . . keep your accounts
on your thumb-nail. . . . Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a
day, if it be necessary eat but one.”
Henry David Thoreau (Where I Lived and What I Lived For)
We have been admonished all along by the likes of Ghandi and Jesus,
Thereau and Ram Dass. Get rid of your stuff; physical mental and
emotional, and keep it simple. Here, now. At some point in my life this
started looking like good advice I did not fully understand. How could I
think I truly understood these ideas, embraced these ideas and still
have all this stuff? A kitchen with many, many drawers full of stuff. I
knew pretty much where everything in that room was. A “to do” list that
scrolled onto the next page! Literally tons of stuff in a shop that
required more tons of stuff outside in materials racks and sheds.
Bedroom closets, bathroom closets, night stands, good god how far can
this go on? A pile of plans I routinely admitted just were not going to
get done. Glove boxes in three cars. How can someone with all this stuff
claim to have even a glimmer of a clue what Thereau is talking about?
Honesty eventually took over and I admitted this all looked like good
advice, I sincerely believed these people were telling me the truth, but
I just wasn’t getting it.
I developed the idea that this, as I once described burningman was
“something impossible to describe from the inside and impossible to
understand from the outside.” I had just returned from burningman 1999
and was standing in a small circle which included a couple people that
had not been. One asked the inevitable question, “so, what is burningman
I had heard things like “one cannot think their way to a better way
of living, one can only live their way to a better way of thinking” and,
one of my favorites, a quote from Ray Bradbury: “You’ve got to walk up
to the edge of the cliff, jump off, and build your wings on the way
down.” I had to live it before I could think it. How?
I have dreamed of living on the road, free, “mobile” as The Who put
it, since early life. It seems to be a normal, common dream among
people. We were nomadic originally. Perhaps it is genetic, primal,
whatever. A friend had said, “if you want to get rid of a bunch of
stuff, move onto a boat.” It was a jest but the truth was unmistakable.
The challenge for me with a boat is it is difficult to step out of a
boat into a grocery store. Perhaps a motor home?
So I moved into a motor home. And now I think I get it.
I did move on to a boat about five years later. More on that soon!
Interesting Spaghetti Henry made vegetarian spaghetti with smoked paprika without consulting anybody or a cook book.
Quite a lot of smoked paprika.
I’ve mixed stuff together that I was pretty sure would explode. I’ve
been right and I’ve been wrong. Imagine being wrong thinking you are
making a cake and instead having an explosive and subsequently, an
explosion. There just isn’t any other way to discover something than to
take a risk. Or investing in a retirement fund and subsequently living
on your own private island or in a rat trap trailer. Not all gamblers
win, not all adventurers found interesting things, not all explorers
returned. But to never try? To see a possibility and not experiment,
suspect something and not test, to imagine and not seek?