Conor Smith is a sailor, adventurer, dinghy-riding explorer, and graduate student who is studying Oceanography in Miami. On this Odyssey we challenged Conor, as one of the few experienced sailors onboard, to help quickly educate a group of novice sailors on the sport.
Adventure is an overused word. Nowadays boarding a long flight or a road trip to a neighboring state, with nightly stopovers in your favorite chain motel, get undeservingly described as an adventure. But what is a true adventure? And why do people seek adventure?
When I think of adventures I think of sailing around the world, hiking Mount Everest, kayaking across a body of water, biking cross-continent, or backpacking in a foreign country. Often, the ultimate result of a trip is to return to the same geographical position as the point you started from, so the net result is no distance was covered. Sailors who circumnavigate the world, by definition, must cross their outbound track, thereby making their travels one of the most inefficient paths possible to get to the same position from which they started.
If the purpose of traveling is not to travel from point A to point B, but instead is to simply travel from Point A only to return to Point A, then what is all this for? Why do people decide to hike a mountain or travel through harsh conditions, just to turn around and come back at the end of their trip? I believe that mankind is driven to seek adventure because people want these experiences to evoke a change within them. Adventure can help us to gain a deeper understanding about nature, about ourselves, or about a community or culture.
What is it about these types of trips that invoke such a change within someone? I believe it is the uncertainty and the challenge of the unknown. Knowing that on any adventure things can change in a heartbeat, we are challenged and learn to expect the unexpected. At any moment Mother Nature could strike or the wind can change course and we’ll be thrown off course or forced to take a different path. On an adventure man is asked to leave comfort behind. Comfort is man’s attempt to oppose nature. Nature can go from hot to cold, from wet to dry, or from sunny to cloudy in mere moments.
You cannot understand warmth until you are cold. You cannot enjoy sun until you have seen total cloud cover. You cannot enjoy dryness until you have been soaking wet. Living without comfort and experiencing this contrast is living closer to nature and living closer is essential to happiness.
When I was given the opportunity to participate in an Odyssey with Sperry, I was able to travel to new places and countries with 4 complete strangers. We had no clues as to what our day-to-day activities were going to be, but I accepted the challenge and embraced the unknown. The whole idea of the Odyssey captivated me and I knew I was willing to drop everything and make myself available for the trip.
The Odyssey promised everything necessary for a true adventure for me: it was resting on a firm foundation of uncertainty, there was almost a guarantee for occasions when we would lack physical comfort, and finally, there were four other travelers who would be going all in, equally unsure of how the trip would unfold.
We did not sail further than anyone before us, nor the fastest, nor break any records, but it was surely a trip that none of us will ever forget. We entered as strangers, and left as a single crew. We all experienced the same highs and lows, the same hot and cold weather, the same sunsets and sunrises but most importantly we all accomplished obstacles together.
Sailing and adventuring can be one of the great equalizers in life; your past does not define who you are. You are only characterized for your actions in that moment and for your reactions in good and bad situations.
Before our Odyssey I was nervous about the backgrounds of the other travelers. As an experienced sailor I worried that I would be taking on an impossible task and feared that the others on the trip would not be up for the challenge. When I heard that a fashion blogger from New York City was going to be joining us onboard, I worried that she would be the first to complain and that she would be hard to get along with on a boat (sorry Christina!), but on the first day she proved my expectations wrong immediately. She, along with the rest of the travelers, turned out to be as tough as teak. When we woke up after our first night aboard the Bandera, all my false expectations and stereotypes faded away when Christina jumped into the cold North Atlantic salt water with soap to shower.
On this Odyssey, I learned that anyone who is strong-spirited and brave can be an adventurer. I also learned how wonderful a long, lingering, sunrise in the North Atlantic can be. I am thankful for all the memories, for the moments of discomfort, for the uncertainty, and for my new friends.
Written by Conor Smith. Follow Conor’s other adventures on Instagram @dinghyride.
Learn more about the other travelers on this Odyssey: