Personally, I didn’t have to go through all that. Luckily, I was just about nine years old when we left home to start this journey and we know by hearsay that children adapt easily. Well, in my case, it turned out being true! I’ve been accustomed to outdoor expeditions and camping since early childhood. The preparation of this voyage has thus never intimidated me. I’d tell myself things such as “A sailboat probably doesn’t differ much from a tent trailer!”
Of course, I knew we were planning to travel for a much longer period of time, even many years. However, I didn’t give it especial importance. For me, it was just another ordinary expedition. That was pure childhood innocence…
I do believe all the camping trips my parents did with us in our early childhood has prepared us for this sailboat journey (three times at Cape Hatteras, canoe camping on rivers, camping expedition in Gaspésie during the winter…). We learned to adapt quickly, having been accustomed to various changes of environment and lifestyle from childhood. This has certainly helped us to adapt to the boat life. I would even say I didn’t really go through an adjustment period. I felt just fine right from the beginning!
Social Life and Travels
I also felt quite satisfied with my social life during the first years of our journey. We encountered many boat kids our age in the Azores, the Canary Islands and everywhere in the Caribbean’s! We met kids with whom we could spend our afternoon in every anchorage! However, when I turned
11 years old, things have slightly changed. Kids my age became increasingly rare, and I became more and more reclusive and not at ease with people… Two realities that don’t help each other, unfortunately.
Therefore, when a rare friendship opportunity would come, I felt too timid and I missed my chance. The few teens we encountered on boats have told us:
“When you travel, don’t wait too long before reaching out to other kids, because one or the other will end up changing anchorage, then it will be too late!”
All my family can put this advice into practice … except for me.
An Unplanned Encounter
It’s difficult for me to make friends quickly; therefore, I barely ever make friends. I must admit that for this reason, I would sometimes wish to have a sedentary life. It had been such a long time since we met another travelling family with teenagers that I didn’t even dream about this
occurring anymore! Yet, everything, absolutely everything can happen! People don’t travel only on water, the road is also quite popular! And that’s how the Bleu Nomade crew crossed our paths in San Francisco! This family from Quebec with 4 teens (!!!) aged between 11 and 17 were touring North America with their modified school bus! Nothing could suit me better than that: four girls, my age (or just about), also travelling, so they can better understand the way we live, plus, they’re from Quebec!
When my dad first told me about that family, I felt as if it was just a dream. Like really! It couldn’t be real! I first imagined the kids were younger, like Alice, Felix and Juliette (between 8 and 12). Initially, we didn’t even know the girls’ exact age. The only picture we saw on Facebook was from 2016. Therefore, I didn’t give much importance to this encounter and I went for a walk with Raphaël at the Golden Gate Bridge, the very day we were supposed to meet them.
Our next destination was El Granada, a little village near Half Moon Bay. We had been there for a couple of days when my father received a message from Cynthia (the mother on Bleu Nomade). She wanted to know where we were now and check if it was still possible to plan a visit, for real this time! My father replied immediately. It had to work that time!
Meanwhile, after lunch, both my parents left with the dingy to go into town for groceries and working on internet. Before they left, my dad told me to reply to Cynthia if ever she wrote back. He wasn’t planning to be gone very long. So, OK, no problem!
About an hour later, a notification appeared on the phone. It was Cynthia! And they wanted to meet us that same afternoon! This time, I was the one in panic: “I must wash my hair. I must comb my hair. I must find proper clothing to wear! Everybody must make a good impression!”
In those moments, I feel as if I’m the only one trying to get ready. I was running everywhere. I emptied my closets searching for suitable clothing. I washed them, put them to dry. I washed my hair in the sink with heated water. I tried drying it without getting too much volume so I could leave it untied (in vain, I had to tie it in a ponytail again). I prepared the bags,
hoping that my dad would come back soon with the dingy. All that while the others were sitting there quietly doing their little things, as if nothing was going on!
“Why are you so stressed out, Charlotte, asked Raphaël? It’s not like if it was the first time in four years that you met teens from Quebec!”
After a quick calculation, I replied:
“Eh, yes! Pretty much!”
Another message from Cynthia came in. They would arrive at the marina in 45 minutes. However,we hadn’t got any news from Dad yet! I was somehow in panic, but I still managed to convince myself that he would be here in no time, and it would soon be possible to reach the land.
Fifteen minutes had passed.
Then 30 minutes. Still nothing.
After 45 minutes, Cynthia texted back saying they had arrived in the marina parking lot. Yet my dad still hadn’t returned with the dingy. I started writing a message to explain that we didn’t have the dingy with us, that without it, we were unable to go to land, and that we were unsure when it’d be possible to join them… But Raphaël cut me off:
“Relax! You don’t need to compose a novel!”
I therefore let him reply. He’s better than me to remain calm!
Afterward, we had fun formulating hypotheses on why my dad was so late. That’s an art we’re very good at! When something doesn’t go as planned, we love imagining possible or impossible scenarios! A great way to keep busy, isn’t it?
“Maybe he got hit by a car while crossing the street!”
“Or suppose he was caught in a terrorist attack!
“Perhaps he was hungry, so he stopped somewhere to eat something, and when he came out he took the wrong way and got lost!”
“Just imagine, men in black showing up to tell us Dad is dead…!
“Hmmm … how would they? By boat?”
“Come on! Be realistic! I’m sure he just stopped at Bleu Nomade’s when he saw their bus and now they’re chatting together. He simply forgot about us.”
A new notification alert popped in, cutting our discussion. I jumped on my feet. In a jiffy, I was reading the message. I must say that we attached great value to every little information we received, especially this kind of information. Besides, it proved our hypothesis! It was Cynthia saying our dad was with them and that he’d be here to pick us up in a moment. Panic broke in the boat once again. But this time, I wasn’t the only one rushing. Everybody had a sudden boost of energy and the younger kids ran everywhere uttering little squeals of joy! It was terribly annoying… And just to add more stress to the situation, it’s at that very moment that I realized
the girl’s hair was in a mess. Hello! I really have to take care of everything here! Fortunately, my dad took some time to arrive. So, Juliette and I had time to prepare the two girls. We then both wondered how to dress up.
“Although they’re travellers too, they’ve been on a journey for a few months only. They might still have the mindset of people living on land. I mean, the normal humans … from the city. You know what I mean?”
“Yeah, yeah, like individuals who don’t travel…?”
“Exactly! So, I’m sure they have nice and tidy fashion garments. How much do you bet that they’re wearing loose jeans?”
“It’s almost sure! We’re the only ones not wearing stylish garments!”
“We’ll ask Dad when he arrives!”
In reality, I didn’t really worry about my looks. I did my best to avoid putting on my most shabby clothes, but otherwise, I made no big deal about the rest. Deep inside, I was convinced that everything would go just fine. I was confident. Girls my age who spoke French! What could go
Raphaël, however, had more serious concerns:
“We must find things to discuss about. Otherwise, we will all sit there facing each other saying nothing. That would feel awkward.”
“You’re right. We need open questions that can’t be replied by yes or no. Topics that will spark conversation. We could pose them typical questions like people always do: How is your journey? Do you like it?” I humorously replied!
“You’re not serious I hope! There’s nothing worst to start a conversation! We should rather ask… how they feel living in a bus. Or what are their hobbies or things they do to pass time, other than school? If they like chatting, it should begin the conversation, I think!”
“Let’s go! No place for awkward silence!”
When my dad arrived, he explained why he was so late: he didn’t find the bus stop, so he had to walk the whole way from town to the marina, a very long distance! Oh dear! No one had imagined that! But we had no more time to lose. The Bleu Nomade family had been waiting for us four
We got dressed warmly (yeah, the evenings are freezing in California!), and we hopped in the dingy, the one we had been waiting for, for so long! On our way, we got soaked by cold waves and the wind tangled our hair. So much for all these hours of preparation!
After mooring the dingy to the dock, we walked towards the parking lot. We soon saw the big blue bus standing out! Let’s say, we don’t cross blue and white school buses every day! Plus, it was the only vehicle in the parking lot. Suddenly, I felt fairly less confident. I was drawing a short
breath and started feeling tingles in my whole body.
“Oh! Besides, Dad, how are the girls dressed?” I asked.
“Like all the other teens you see, with loose jeans and hoodies.” he said.
Juliette and I exchange a quick look of satisfaction. It was exactly what we had imagined! We kept walking towards the bus and I tried once again to convince myself that it would go well:
“They all speak French, it’ll be fine! Plus, you can tell them your name ‘normally’! Don’t worry about that. Just act casual and be at ease. Remember what Thomas says all the time: If you look shy and you stay away from the group, nobody will come to you. You have to look cool! You’ll be just fine!”
As I finished telling myself those last words of encouragement, we were arriving in front of the blue bus. In a few seconds, the door opened and before I had time to realize it, I was inside, pushed by those behind me. Once the calm returned, and I could somehow stand still without people stepping on my feet, I raised my head. At first glance, I noticed the four girls sitting in the back of the bus. They seemed nice! I immediately felt my stress decreasing. The relaxed ambience made me feel at ease. Go for it, Charlotte! You must look friendly too!
Eh! Eh! To prolong the suspense, this story will be continued in part 2!
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