We were packing up everything. Most of our belongings were being sold, stored, or given away, but one small room was being used to gather all the items we would be taking with us. Clothes, food, off-shore gear, laptop, phones, and various life-saving electronics, bedding, personal necessities, and a KLŌS carbon fiber travel guitar.
I’ve been playing the same four chords on the guitar for the past twenty years. It’s the truth, but also a metaphor. Four chords is enough to play most songs… the minimal effort to sound good. It was the same with life - the same things over and over again: Wake, eat, work, sleep with the occasional vacation or day off thrown in.
But here I was, changing the game. I was moving from a 2400 square foot house to a 200 square foot sailboat, giving up everything “normal” for the adventurous unknown. I was learning to sail while living aboard. Every day was unexpected and new and often overwhelming. It was not “living the dream” that everyone imagines, it was a journey of challenges.
I figured while I was learning everything else, I would also pursue actually learning to play a fifth and sixth chord on my travel guitar… But what I realized that it was not only about learning new skills, but also dealing with the new painful callouses on the tips of my fingers from the strings. And the boat was teaching me to deal with all the pain it was inflicting everywhere else.
We had left Ontario Canada in June 2018, and made our way out the St Lawrence Seaway to the maritimes. Some of the most challenging cruising grounds in the world is where we literally got our feet wet. We hit storms and were battered and bruised. Our belongings were tossed about the cabin in gales at sea. But my beautiful little travel guitar withstood the trials; it didn’t break and neither did we.
Winter chased us down the eastern seaboard of the US. Our arrival in Florida could not have come soon enough. We had existed day and night for two months in seven layers of clothing and slept in our off-shore gear. The guitar sat, in its case, tied to the main mast in our cabin, waiting for a reprieve from the cold.
Christmas came and we crossed the gulf stream to the Bahamas. The sun was out, the water warm, and we realized that we finally had time to relax… to focus on living instead of survival. I picked up my KLŌS travel guitar one perfect blue-sky day and began to play. Not the same four chords as the last two decades, but picking out new challenges and ignoring the soreness in my fingers. I had changed. My perspective, my abilities, my desires, my skills.
We met up with new friends on beaches over campfires. We played and sang with other traveling musicians. There were mornings and nights I’d sit in our cockpit and just play, letting the sound carry over the water.
I know more than four chords now. I can look at a tab and my fingers will flip to a B7 or an Am/F#. I’m challenging myself with new music. I’m challenging myself with a new life. Bar chords are still the bane of my guitar-playing existence, but that’s okay. Because though we are back in Canada for the summer, we are heading out in the boat again this fall for as-of-yet unknown destinations. There’s more time to learn. And there’s always more time to play.