My Liferaft

The very first time I got an a zodiac I was sick to my stomach. In my defense, it was an extremely bumpy ride, I was getting sprayed with buckets full of water from all sides and angles and no matter where I was on the zodiac, I couldn’t see squat because there were so many tall people on board. But after that initial feeling, I absolutely fell in love with zodiacs. A once asked me why I loved them so much and here is why: It’s a matter of being close to the water. There is hardly a mode of transportation that allows you to be so close to the water and yet still gets you where you need to go fast. I like feeling the wind in my hair, I like knowing that I could basically just lean over the side and slip right into the water and even if every spot on a zodiac is filled, you (technically) still get a first-class seat with an amazing view.

For all the same reasons A absolutely hated the very idea of zodiacs (or any boats really) but my goal in life was to one day to get A on a zodiac and have him understand why I love it so much. I just never thought this day would come any time soon, or ever really (but hope dies last). Every time I suggested such a ridiculous (!) idea, A would give me the ‘you’re-crazy-for-even-suggesting-this-idea’-eyes, while I made notes in my head on how to not approach this subject with him.

When I woke up early in the morning on our first day in Victoria and looked out our hotel window I got really giddy seeing all kinds of zodiacs in the harbor and I exclaimed happily that there were lots of them. A was stone-faced and shook his head before I even could suggest the very idea of taking a zodiac. So I admired them from afar, a small part of me aching every time I saw them pulling out of port. But I put my own feelings aside and was looking forward to a fun-filled day planned by A.

On our first day A already tested my patience as I had to wait until 2 pm for the fun to get started (no easy task when you wake up at 4 am). A told me to pack everything from my coat to sun lotion, which, if there ever was a mixed message, that was it. He then proceeded telling me an elaborate story about a food-experience that was taking place outside, but that I shouldn’t expect too much, since it was just tapas and that it was really important to him, because Victoria had delicacies no other places had. Being jetlagged out of my mind I just went along with A’s story, I even walked next to him for about 45 minutes as he turned left and then another left and left again (you guessed it, we walked in a huge circle). Eventually we made it to a spot on the opposite side of our hotel and I looked at A puzzled, “that was a very round-about way to get here”, I said.

He shrugged his shoulders and said that’s the way that Google recommended and who was I to question Google, right? I was ready to sit down at the cafe which A told me was our final destination, still expecting some weird food authentic Canadian food experience but A didn’t seem to want to sit down. Instead he kept walking and he walked right up to a small shack on a tiny pier where a very cheerful person greeted us, showed us the way and told us to have a seat until we were ready to get suited up.

Now, my mind instantly went into, ‘we are going for a swim’ mode and I was already dreading waves and freezing cold water (unbeknownst to A, the water in the Pacific is freaking cold at the end of April). Turns out, when the lovely lady said suited up, she meant the complete opposite: swim-west-type-like-dry-suits that are not meant to go into the water but keep you warm on the water while you’re sitting on a boat. Ultimately, that was a much better scenario, I really wasn’t looking forward to snorkeling in the freezing cold (well, at least not ALL of me was looking forward to that).

Once I got suited up, full realization set in: A was getting ready to step onto a zodiac with me for the very first time and he was not freaking out on me (mainly because I was so excited, I was freaking out on him). And boy oh boy, what a ride, what a thrill, what an awesome experience. Luckily the Salish Sea was incredibly kind and flat that day and our skipper was a very talented driver who only occasionally would make sharp turns in which A would immediately turn white while I was raising my hands, hoping for more. As we were zodiacing along, I felt full of love. Next to me A, who very skeptically seemed to enjoy himself (and apparently surprised himself by doing so) and then, off in the distance, there was a spout! And another! And one more! And then a fluke and then tears on my face.

Of course, whenever you go on a whale watch, you cannot guarantee wildlife. That’s what I love about whale watching, you just have to wait and see and be patient and maybe you get lucky and maybe you don’t but at least you tried. We, however, were fortunate enough to see a couple humpbacks go about their business while we idly in the distance enjoyed a taste of their whale breath. And for the first time in many many many years, A finally seemed to understand why this is the ultimate happy place for me. On a small zodiac, in the middle of nowhere, landfall far away, seeing a spout and smelling a mixture of half-devoured fish and cheesy feet.

Our first zodiac adventure together

Life sometimes is like that, it may seem hopeless and you may have to patiently wait without knowing what or if something will happen. The journey may seem endless and scary and every turn may seem like you are about to involuntarily exit and you may feel like you are alone in the middle of nowhere, desperately holding on to a liferaft. But in those moments, when you feel small and insignificant, that’s when you also have the greatest potential to see beyond yourself. You get to smell and see and experience things you would have never thought possible, no matter how small or big your liferaft, all of a sudden it may not feel like a liferaft anymore but rather like the most amazing ride you’ve ever been on…

On our zodiac trip we also got to see (and smell) Steller sea lions, some harbor seals (literally in the harbor as we were boarding), a sea otter and believe it or not a raccoon nonchalantly walking up the pier in the middle of the day. However, seeing all this wildlife wasn’t the best part of the trip, the best part came weeks after this day, just a couple days ago. A is currently at Harvard Law School doing a fellowship (I will never grow tired of saying this, because I’m incredibly proud of him!). He is super jetlagged and struggling a bit with adjusting to the new environment. But in one of our many conversations he said the one thing that I never thought I would ever hear him say, he said, “I need whales and zodiacs, that’s what I need right now”. A doesn’t realize it but hearing him say that is my liferaft, it’s all I need in life. Knowing that A and I are in this life together, that we will stand tall and take every challenge as it comes our way and knowing that A, slowly but surely, is coming around falling in love with all the things that he was so skeptical of, that’s just amazing to me.

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