The boat softly rises and crests in a rhythm I follow like a metronome. With one hand wrapped around the front sail, I hold the other outstretched over the bow to the passing wind letting my unbuttoned white linen shirt billow freely about. I feel like half of a Titanic movie poster. Then again, this entire experience has felt like a movie or a dream. As I fall into the rhythm of the boat my mind flows back through the day like a receding wave.
I was awoken this morning by the sun in gentle nudges like a grandmother bringing breakfast in bed, warm rays of light intermittently passing through the thin windows of the cabin onto my face. I hear the sound of a knife on a cutting board as I come to and groggily roll over to see Liz preparing breakfast.
“Would you like some?” she says, handing me a rind of freshly sliced, ripe pineapple.
I mumble some sort of thanks, give her a hug and step out of the cabin and into the day, pineapple in hand. I stretch my arms wide to the open sky and my world comes into focus. My sister is floating around the calm waters of the bay with a snorkel. I look out toward the beach and see a small figure, presumably Tyler, stepping through the slow movements of a Tai Chi form.
“Breakfast!” calls Liz as she pokes her head up from the galley.
We turn on some J Boog and give thanks before our meal of fresh papaya, bananas and an almond crumble with mango and date blend. Liz, our chef as well as yoga instructor, cooks raw, meaning we’ve eaten only nuts, fruits and vegetables. She’s so talented at what she does that I forget she gave up a high-paying, fast-paced life working in finance in New York to come to the Caribbean and pursue what she finds much more meaningful. In some way, she reminds me of Zuko, having given up prestige and power to follow her values.
During breakfast Tyler can barely contain himself. He’d been up all night brainstorming and is itching to share.
“So guess what product I’ll make a company for??” he asks. We really have no idea so we let him continue. “Local. Peanut butter. WITH COCONUT!”
Tyler is the idea guy. He’s the one who charted our course through the US and British Virgin Islands and is the handyman we all go to when something on the boat isn’t functioning correctly. His favorite quote? “Teamwork makes the dream work.” I would bet a flying bison that Sokka would also love that quote.
The third member of our crew is a Reiki healer named Fatima. This trip is the most difficult for her by far.
“Are you feeling okay?” I ask as she steps on the boat.
“Ohhh I’m fine. Just a little seasick,” she groans. As soon as Fatima steps off land she becomes instantly nauseous and isn’t able to eat on the boat for the first few days. As the most deeply grounded among us, she is disoriented on the sea. As we near the end of our second day’s sailing, she looks up from beneath her shawl and says, “I can’t wait until we dock. I’m heading straight for the beach, I’ll dig a big hole in the sand and bury myself in the earth. Seriously.” If that isn’t exactly something Toph would say I don’t know what is.
Then there’s my sister, Gabriela. Since we were young, whenever we would be near a body of water she would be in it. Whether the chilled lakes in the Sierra Nevada mountains or the icy Pacific of the Bay Area, she would always jump right in the water longer than I ever could. She would’ve felt right at home in the Southern Water Tribe.
Yet her primary role now is as the photographer. Through the lens of her camera she captures the essence of our experiences and who we are as a crew. Through her photographs she reflects back to us the nature of who we are, not unlike Katara.
And then there’s me. Wearing flowy pants, tattooed with the patterns of my heritage and trained by monks, I stand at the bow of the white boat as it crests and falls softly in a rhythm I follow like a metronome. I look down at the light turquoise water speeding by and feel like I’m flying. Out here, there are no rules or schedules. We go wherever we want whenever we want, guided only by our spirit of adventure. We are five young people exploring the world together to learn the elements.
I can’t help but wonder if this is what Aang would feel after a day of adventures with four friends asleep in the saddle behind him, Jeremy Zuckerman’s music playing as he rode Appa into the night.