Wednesday, October 23, 2013

COLUMN: Sally Kay

Last Sunday, I woke up at 9 a.m., rolled over, and went back to sleep 'til 11. Watched a movie, then walked down to the gas station for coffee. Came back and watched another movie, then hopped in the shower, met up with a friend, and watched another movie. Got home in just enough time to see Miley Cyrus embarass herself in front of the nation. Threw a load of laundry in, ate some dinner, and watched another movie.

All told, it was the most productive and exciting Sunday of recent memory.

What's happened to me? Once upon a time, I'd like to think that I had a life. I never stayed home. I was always on the go. I did stuff. I challenged myself. I was interesting. These days, I do little more than sit on my couch while life ebbs slowly away.

Is this what maturity's supposed to be like? I used to make fun of my parents for being homebodies and now I've become one. I had just about convinced myself that a non-eventful life went hand-in-hand with adulthood... when I got an e-mail from Sally.

Dos Equis got it wrong -- my friend Sally Kay is the most interesting person in the world.

The year was 2000. A friend of mine was getting married and there was much hoopla in the air. Or maybe it was just humidity. We were in a gorgeous reception hall smack in the middle of a suburban Chicago state forest. Everything was magical except for one fatal flaw: The venue had no air conditioning, and they'd decided to get hitched on the 9th of The Month When Earth Was Attacked By The Sun.

Other than climate control, no expense was spared. The food was stellar, a Beatles tribute band was on-hand, and yours truly was in charge of DJ duties. That's where I was, ghastly and smelly, more sweat than human, when I first saw her. Sally Kay was one of the bridesmaids, and she was the whole package. A wee pixie of a girl, she came in with a smile that could stop time and a laugh that made you want to hug strangers.

THEN we started talking. This girl was a rare breed indeed: someone who actually knew more about cool music than me (gasp). She laughed at all the right jokes, listened to all the right music, and at the end of the night, as we sat in the grass behind the venue not caring that we were both sweaty hot messes, it was the closest I'd ever felt to zen. I was a smitten kitten.

Which meant, of course, that I'd never see her again. After the wedding, I went back to Rock Island and she went back to Kansas. True to her word, she soon sent me a mix of her favorite bands. I did the same, and that was it. We never spoke again. But when I saw her pop up on Facebook a while back, I friended her and found out why she drifted away so quickly.

It turns out she really DID drift away -- on a boat.

While I've been sitting at a desk worrying about finances and learning to enjoy the daily rapport between Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie, here's what Sally Kay's been up to:

After college, she moved to Slovakia for a year and a half. Then she came back to New York City for a while before finding a writing job in Budapest that led her to Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Slovenia, Romania, and Hungary. From there, a six month trip to South America turned into a year. Afterwards, she took a job crewing on a boat in the Bahamas that then traveled to Mexico. Then she spent the next six months backpacking the U.S. before finding a cheap flight to Thailand. After a year in Asia, she went to Australia where she joined another crew that dropped her off in South Africa.

These days, she's on a boat that just sailed up the length of the Erie Canal and is now leaving Detroit this weekin hopes of becoming the first Japanese catamaran to  circumnavigate the globe.

I, meanwhile, have been watching "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." Sally probably doesn't even know what a Honey Boo Boo is. Or a Snooki. Or a Miley Cyrus.

At this point, I don't know whether to be jealous or grateful. It would be amazing to travel. I'd love to see the world from a vantage point other than the pages of National Geographic. It would be mind-bendingly awesome to experience different cultures and discover just what it is that unites us all together on this big blue marble.

But then there's the realist in me. The me that feels awkward walking into a Chinese restaurant, let alone China. The me that has a hard time falling asleep in any bed that's not my own. The me that enjoys sitcoms and couches and food I can recognize. The me that gets a little wobbly in the knees after more than a few minutes on a boat.

For Sally, it's not just the dream of a lifetime -- it's rapidly BECOMING her lifetime. Onboard the Umineko, her current ride, she's in charge of the galley and tells me it's a daily adventure.

"The biggest difference," she wrote me, "is that if you don't have an ingredient or a piece of equipment, you can't just run to the store to get it. It might not even be at the next marina. Often you have to rig makeshift gear or get creative with substitutions. And, of course, do all of this while the boat's rocking back and forth on the high seas."

Not to mention the fact that you're trapped on a tiny boat with a small crew for months on end. It would do my head in. How's she manage?

"I thankfully have never gotten claustrophobic on a boat," she explained. "Catamarans actually have quite a bit of space, and you can always go on deck and see the vastness of the ocean. Still, maybe you should ask me that after the passage from Panama to the Marquesas."

Which I plan on doing just as soon as I find out what a Marquesas is. I have no clue, but I'm going to guess that it's someplace a heck of a lot more interesting than my living room.

So I will avidly try to keep in touch with my friend Sally Kay, the girl that got away. Far, far away. And every once in a while, I'll pine to be onboard that tiny boat, living a life of adventure and excitement with the most interesting person I know. I'll never be that courageous, but I think her life will always be a constant reminder that there's a world outside my living room that I should make a concentrated effort to see more of time and again... well, as soon as this episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo gets over.

If YOU'D like to live vicariously alongside Sally and her adventures, I strongly urge you to check out her blog, She'll be updating on the Umineko's attempts to circumnavigate the globe while sharing fun and easy recipes perfected on the voyage.

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