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How to Live Your Adventure Dream!
Sailing around the world, driving across three continents, walking to the South Pole—11 everyday people prove that your wildest notions are more realistic than you think.   Text by Joe Robinson   Photograph by Shannon Switzer 

Photo: Liz Clark on surfboard


FLOATING SENSATION: Clark paddles in to sample remote surf breaks, like this one off the southwest coast of Mexico.  See more photos >>


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We all harbor fantasies of taking off on a great adventure. Some of us keep dreaming; others make it happen: a bartender sails and surfs around the world, an office manager takes a trans-Atlantic road trip, British businessmen race to the South Pole. Here are the strategies of 11 everyday people who prove that your wildest notions are more realistic than you think. Plus, see exclusive photos from each trip.

How to Sail Around the World and Surf >>

How to Build an Island Dream House (For $15,000) >>

How to Drive a VW Van  From California to Uganda >>

How to Retrace the 1912 Race to the South Pole >>

How to Do Humanitarian Aid Work in Africa >>



How to Sail Around the World and Surf the Best Breaks on the Planet

Liz Clark, 26, bartender

See the photo gallery >>
 
"The waves down here have been huge, scary-big, actually, so—"

There's a sharp squeak and then outer-space static. The phone goes dead for the second time, just as Liz Clark is recounting the surf action off the Mexican coast. I ring back her small hotel in Puerto Escondido, and we try again. The San Diego native raves about an isolated, left point break that she and sailing mate Shannon Switzer, 22, had to themselves for ten days off the state of Michouacán.

 "It was so cool! Double overhead. I really challenged myself," she says. "I'm living the dream I've thought about for—"

Squeak. Dead again.

Since the fifth grade, Clark has been sticking pins in a world map to mark ports of call for an epic global voyage. Her father, Russell, a lawyer and sailing enthusiast, raised his three kids aboard the family's ocean RV, Endless Summer, a Gulfstar 50. While a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, she had the boat to herself and used it to ferry friends to breaks off the Channel Islands. Honing her own board skills on these safaris inspired her with a new purpose: to circumnavigate the globe in search of the world's best breaks. "By land, surfers have scoured a good portion of the world's coastlines, but by boat there are still so many waves to be found," she wrote to me later via e-mail from her onboard laptop.

Clark trained seriously for the mission. For six months she crewed on a mega-yacht, then a sailboat, cruising the waters off Mexico and Central America. Then, while mixing drinks at a dock party in Santa Barbara, she met Barry Schuyler, a founder of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum and UCSB's environmental studies program. He had a similar dream—and a boat—but at 83 was looking to sail vicariously through a younger adventurer. He became her chief sponsor. Clark's dad chipped in as well, and she suddenly found herself captain of a 40-foot (12-meter) sloop, Swell.

On January 30, 2006, Clark, accompanied by friend and photographer Switzer, embarked for points known and unknown. Their route continues from Panama to the Galápagos Islands, across the Pacific Ocean to the Tuamotu Islands and Tahiti, on to New Zealand, through the Coral Sea, along the southern edge of Java and Sumatra to Madagascar, and around the Cape of Good Hope. Clark admits to a healthy fear of the voyage, but every time she weighs anchor, she overcomes one of the main obstacles to making big dreams come true: the flotsam and jetsam in your own head.

The expedition has already had its tribulations: A Mexican Navy ship nearly collided with them one night; they ran aground on a sandbar in a lagoon at Barra de Navidad; and Clark has had to fix a slew of engine problems. But, as evidenced by her expedition blog (www.swellvoyage.com), the payoffs come daily. In one posting she's kind enough to warn surfers with day jobs not to read on, then details a glassy break in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, with wave after perfect wave.

"I could put ten turns on," she writes. "They're out here if you are."      


LESSONS LEARNED

Stay In The Moment
"For two years I rebuilt my boat by day, bartended by night, squirreled away paychecks, and pitched private donors and company sponsors. I learned a key strategy: You have to break your dream down to avoid being broken. The only way I could do it was one step at a time. If I thought about the whole trip, it was too overwhelming."

Face Your Fears 
"I've heard every horrible sea story on record. But I'm strong—small, but strong. Of course, I do get queasy now and then when it's rough. And I'm always a bit afraid of the wind, the waves, lightning, bad people, you name it; it's scary out here. You've just got to override the internal noise and act, not because you have no fear, but in spite of it."

Trust Your Gust
"I had just woken up for my watch when a gust filled the mainsail from the north. Within minutes we got slammed by a 30-knot blast. I turned the boat into the wind, secured the reef, and we huddled in the cockpit with waves smashing over the side and drenching us down to our underwear."

Ask for Help 
"At the Puesta del Sol Marina, in Nicaragua, I took my broken windlass motor to the dock. I looked up and saw a man on a Powercat yacht. 'Any windlass mechanics aboard?' I yelled up. 'Well, yes,' he replied. I followed him to his engine room. He pushed down on the brushes and sprayed parts-cleaner into their grooves. It worked. It hadn't been four minutes and it was fixed!"


DO-IT-YOURSELF: JOIN THE QUEST

The Pioneer: Going Solo
Life hadn't exactly been a smooth sail for Joshua Slocum. By 1895 the 51-year-old seaman had lost his wife, gone bankrupt, and shot a pair of mutineers on his boat in Uruguay. No wonder, then, that he turned his attention to getting away from it all. To the bemusement of his acquaintances, he took command of an old, rotting oyster sloop propped up in a Fairhaven, Massachusetts, field. After restoring the 37-footer (11 meters), Slocum christened her Spray and became the first man to sail around the world solo, navigating by starlight and dodging Barbary pirates en route. Three years later, on June 27, 1898, he sailed into Newport, Rhode Island, to national celebrity and became a best-selling author with Sailing Alone Around the World (National Geographic, $10). "I had profited in many ways by the voyage," he said. "As for aging, why, the dial of my life was turned back till my friends all said, 'Slocum is young again!'"

Sign On: Skipper School
Not all mariners can boast their own vessel, but if you're a certified sailor, you can rent a fully-equipped bareboat, crew it with friends, and mount an ocean voyage of your own design. In the Wild Adventures weeklong certification course in the Virgin Islands ($3,850 for two people; www.inthewild.org) puts you at the helm with an expert captain for hands-on training in everything from anchoring to close-quarter maneuvering and navigation. And since this is summer school—in the Caribbean, no less—you can fish, dive, and snorkel the local reefs at recess.

Gear Up: Wave Taxi 
Need a lift? The inflatable Zodiac Cadet Fastroller 340 ACTI-V ($2,950; www.zodiacmarineusa.com) not only serves as your personal port-of-call yacht tender, it can also convey you to secluded coves and surf breaks that your paddling arms can't. Speedy and featherweight, this craft can seat five, accommodate a 6- to 15-horsepower outboard, and fold into a compact bag for easy onboard stowage.

MORE BIG DREAMS:

How to Sail Around the World and Surf >>

How to Build an Island Dream House (For $15,000) >>

How to Drive a VW Van  From California to Uganda >>

How to Retrace the 1912 Race to the South Pole >>

How to Do Humanitarian Aid Work in Africa >>



Cover: Adventure magazine

Our October 2006 issue features how to live your Adventure dreamTanzania's man-eating lions; outdoor activities in San FranciscoWorld Class adventure travel trips; and more!


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