I can’t believe this year is already over. I guess that whole “time flies when you’re having fun” bit is true. Because I can definitely say that this has been the most fun and adventurous of all of my 42 years!

Here are my 17 most memorable moments of 2017, some good, some not (because life isn’t always as perfect as an Instagram photo…even when you are living your dream). But we’re keeping it real, right?

1. From full-time job to full-time cruising!

This was a huge leap for me because I LOVED my job (I worked for NY Times bestselling author Ramit Sethi of GrowthLab and I Will Teach You To Be Rich.)

The awesome thing was, I got to work remotely from the boat, on top of good pay, killer perks ($100 monthly book allowance, company trips to Portland, Huntington Beach, NYC, etc.), plus I got to work alongside some of the most brilliant minds I’ve ever met.

As bad as I wanted to go cruising, it was still a tough choice to quit a great job to take a chance on making a living via freelancing and blogging. But I did. And it was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself (although I admit I miss my old job sometimes!)

My co-workers and me at an IWT meetup we had in Portland, Oregon. I may no longer work there, but I'll always be grateful to Ramit Sethi and the I Will Teach You To Be Rich and GrowthLab team for all of the amazing opportunities and learning experiences.
Me and my old co-workers, some of the most awesome people I’ve ever met!

 

2. Sailing to Cuba

I mean, how could this not be a highlight? I could go on and on about the entire experience. Our 16 days in Cuba were incredible. The people were so kind and welcoming, and even though they didn’t have much of anything to give, they still opened their homes and shared their food with us. It was incredibly humbling in so many ways.

Of course, the old cars, the art, all of it made for an incredibly memorable experience, but the people were really what made it special for us. They are a vibrant and artistic culture, and I hope that over time, their conditions improve but their hearts stay the same. Beautiful people, beautiful country. (Plus the rum didn’t suck, either.)

Loved seeing these old cars throughout Havana Cuba
Loved seeing these old cars in Havana

 

3. Exploring the outer reefs of Belize

Ok, I’ve snorkeled before, but never have I seen coral reefs like the ones in Belize. They were massive and brilliantly colored and it made me so happy to see such healthy coral.

All I wanted to do was get in the water and snorkel all day, every day. I was totally in my element (and maybe the happiest/most comfortable I’d ever been), just mere feet from a 3-foot barracuda, seeing thousands of tropical fish, conch crawling across the bottom, making the sea floor look as though it was moving, and places where starfish were so huge and plentiful that they covered the bottom like carpet.

I also loved fishing (caught a huge King Mackerel) and helping to spot lionfish for Chris and our buddy Mike to spear. It was fun to clean them and they are sooo delicious to eat!


Getting ready to catch dinner!

 

4. Being mentioned in Oprah Magazine

This has to be one of the more surreal moments, and even though it’s more of a “vanity” moment than anything, I still think it’s awesome.

Farnoosh Torabi, the host of the So Money podcast and also the personal finance columnist for The Oprah Magazine, was looking for people to interview for an article she was writing. I had met her in New York once and helped her get a couple of guests for her podcast, so when I reached out to her about an article she was writing for O, she was happy to quote me.

I was mentioned in Oprah Magazine when a writer found out I lived and worked from a sailboat!Check out Oprah, daydreaming of MY life! haha

 

5. The monkeys at Monkey Bay Marina

Fun fact: when I was 5, I decided I wanted to be a zoologist and study apes. It was my dream to be the next Jane Goodall or Diane Fossey and work with chimps or gorillas. That goal never came to fruition, but ever since, I’ve always had a deep love for apes and monkeys.

So when we decided to sail into the Rio Dulce for hurricane season, I was ecstatic about getting the chance to see the howler monkeys up close and personal, since our marina was on a monkey preserve. I was not disappointed. They were awesome and loud and beautiful, and I miss “having coffee” with them every morning.

And I can’t mention Monkey Bay without mentioning the incredible people we met there. That could be a post all on its own, but if any of you are reading this, know that you’re very loved and very missed.


Would you look at that face?

 

6. Chris publishing his first novel (and it becoming a #1 Amazon bestseller!)

Chris had already written and published two nonfiction sailing books, but Burning Man was his first novel, which fulfilled a lifelong dream of his.

Believe me, writing a novel is no easy task, but he did it and I am so proud of him. It’s always exciting to go through the publishing process and amazing to watch someone you love accomplish something so big. He’s already working on another, so if you’re one of those who said they can’t wait for his next one, well, it’s coming!

Chris and his first print copy of Burning Man
Chris and his first print copy of Burning Man

 

7. Guatemala

This country…these people… I don’t quite know how to explain it, but Guatemala is a magical place, and overall, our favorite of anywhere we’ve been.

The people are beautiful and kind, and the country is jaw-droppingly breathtaking. Every day, we shake our heads and have to pinch ourselves that this is our life right now. This is paradise.


Antigua – one of the many beautiful spots in Guatemala

 

8. My first “solo” podcast interview!

As an introvert, I tend to get really nervous when it comes to doing live interviews, but when Gwyn and J from the Fire Drill Podcast (a personal finance podcast) asked me to be a guest, no way was I going to say no!

It went great, and I just got an email from them yesterday telling me my episode was one of the most downloaded episodes (it’s been downloaded almost 3,000 times!) so I’m really excited and proud of that. Go listen and download my episode here.

melody saving to sail fire drill podcast
Loved doing this podcast interview!

 

9. Selling the boat

This is definitely one of the memorable moments, but not necessarily a happy one (although we feel very fortunate that the process went so smoothly!).

Long story short, Jet, our 11-year-old Dutch Shepherd, is slowly losing his eyesight and hearing. Sailing offshore wasn’t the easiest on him, and his sight has gotten even worse since we left a year ago. He had an almost mishap on the boat that could have seriously injured or even killed him. Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt.

But we had to make a decision, and knowing that it wasn’t our “forever boat” (we’d been talking about eventually getting a boat with an aft cabin), we decided to list her and give Jet a break for awhile. An awesome buyer purchased her sight-unseen a few days later. She’s now named Samba and is sitting in Roatan, soon to be on her way to Panama. Godspeed, Samba!

I miss being on our boat – here she is in Cuba

 

10. Signing a lease in Antigua – whaaaat??!!

After selling the boat, we came to Antigua (Guatemala, not the Caribbean island) for 2 weeks to see the town and “make a plan.”

Well, what we didn’t anticipate was falling in love with the town so much that we signed a lease. Well – a lease by local standards, which means we shook hands and agreed to stay for 4 months for a certain price. No actual paperwork was involved. Easy peasy!

It’s an adorable furnished apartment that has all utilities included (even wifi and Apple TV) AND a housekeeper twice a week. All for less than the price of our boat dockage in the states.

Our cute little apartment

 

11. Getting my freelance biz going

Taking several months to not work at all while we were cruising was awesome and much needed after working so hard for so long. But the fact is, I love helping others, I enjoy and take pride in doing what I’m good at, and well, let’s be honest – money.

So in September after selling the boat, I took on a dream freelance client, whom I’d met in New York on one of my previous work trips. After that, I experienced the Snowball Effect, and a few other dream clients followed.

Now, I’m currently working with a publicity and media specialist, a Grammy-nominated audio engineer, a visual facilitator, a life coach, an artisan light designer, a handbag retailer, a food blogger, and one of the top companies in navigation software in the sailing/boating world. Talk about diverse!

THIS is why I started Saving to Sail. To show people that you can make money from a boat – or anywhere – via freelancing, remote jobs, or even a blog. I’m living proof. And it feels great to know that I’m in control of my schedule, the jobs I do, and the people I work with.

My “office” in Belize

 

12. Exploring the cenotes in Mexico with my friend Jen

A few months ago, I traveled to Merida, Mexico to visit my friend Jen who happened to be staying there for a couple of months. We had a great time, but the highlight (besides getting to spend some quality girl-time with her) was when we explored a few cenotes (basically underground pools in limestone).

The trip itself was an adventure – we took a bus to the middle of nowhere, then in broken Spanish, secured a thrilling ride on a tuk-tuk to a location where we then hopped on a cart pulled by a horse along a track even further into the middle of nowhere, where we finally stopped at a small hole in the ground and were told to climb down a rickety ladder to the bottom. Ummm… isn’t this how horror stories begin? (“It puts the lotion in the basket…”)

But what awaited us was AMAZING! After the first one, we went to 3 more, each one completely different than the one before, and swam in each one. It was terrifying and completely magical. Definitely one of my favorite things I’ve ever done!


Swimming in crystal clear cave water!

 

13. My surprise birthday weekend in Lake Atitlan

This year, Chris surprised me with a weekend trip to Lake Atitlan, a beautiful lake here in Guatemala. He got huge points in the husband department for this surprise.

Not only did he rent an amazing house built on the side of the mountain overlooking the lake (and with San Pedro volcano directly across from us), he made arrangements for us to hike to the top of San Pedro, where I was able to sprinkle some of my mom’s and dad’s ashes. My legs hurt for DAYS afterward, but we had such an amazing time together, and it was such a special trip.


This house was sooooo cozy and beautiful!

 

14. Winning a scholarship to a $5k blog coaching program

I love blogging, I love learning, and I especially love learning about blogging. So when one of my favorite blogging gurus said she was opening up a new online program, I was all, “hell yeah!” Then she said it was going to be $5,000, and I was all, “Oooh, that’s a little way out of my budget right now.” THEN she said she was giving away 4 scholarships to said program, so I was all, “Get outta my way, bloggers – I’m gonna win!”

Well, I won! (Law of attraction, yo!) So starting January 8th, with her coaching and expertise, I’ll be launching an entirely new blog geared toward female solopreneurs. (Ladies, wanna get notified when it goes live? Go to soloprenista.com and sign up!) Don’t worry – I’ll still be blogging here, too!

 

15. My first earthquake

On our very first night in Antigua, we were exhausted after traveling all day, so we were in bed by 10pm. Shortly after falling asleep, Chris nudges me and asks me to stop kicking my leg and shaking the bed. When I told him I wasn’t, he said, “Then we’re having an earthquake.”

I shot up out of bed and the entire house was shaking. I’d never felt anything like it. I opened the door and looked outside and the buildings were all shaking different ways, so it felt like I was in a funhouse. And it went on FOR-EVER. Our Airbnb host called to ask if we were ok and to reassure us that the house is extremely well-built so not to worry.

We found out later, it was an 8.1 magnitude (i.e. huge) and unfortunately, the same earthquake that devastated so many parts of Mexico City. Since then, we’ve experienced several smaller earthquakes and they’ve become like no big deal. Ha – never thought I’d say that!

 

16. Sumpango Kite Festival

One thing about me and Chris – we’re not really fond of big crowds. We prefer a more tranquil experience (hence living on a sailboat for 6 years), but when a friend told us about the Sumpango Kite Festival for the Guatemala Dia de los Muertos celebration, we couldn’t resist.

Was it crowded? Yes. Was it hot? Yes. Was it freakin’ awesome? YES! The kites are handmade to represent all sorts of Guatemalan and Mayan traditions, hopes, beliefs, and more. Some of the kites were 90ft in diameter! Unbelievable. If you ever have the chance to go, I highly recommend it.

Sumpango Kite Festival in Guatemala
The people, the sounds, the food, the KITES!

 

17. Hurricane Irma

I can’t be a cruiser and not mention Hurricane Irma as being a memorable moment, albeit by far the most heart-wrenching moment for me this year.

We had toyed with the idea of cruising the Bahamas and making our way down to the VIs at one point in our cruising plans but Chris had a feeling that it would be a bad hurricane season, so we decided to do the Western Caribbean instead and hole up in Rio Dulce.

While we’re so glad we made that decision, when Irma developed, Chris and I (and Jet) were safely in our Airbnb in Antigua but could not pull ourselves away from the TV and Facebook as we got news in real time of so many dear friends who lost their homes, their boats, and everything they had worked so hard for.

To be so far away, unable to do anything to help, to be good neighbors, to be good friends, knowing so many people were in need was maddening. Monetary donations helped I’m sure, but it felt so trite. We wanted to be on the ground, getting dirty with our friends. It’s been a long time since I’d felt so helpless…so hopeless.

It made my sadness and my own feeling of displacement after just selling our boat non-existent, because at least ours was by choice based on necessity. Not by outside forces beyond our control.

I feel hopeful again as we start to hear about the remarkable ways our friends have endured and persevered, but that one hit way too close to home and I hope I never have to include something so devastating in another end-of-year recap again.


Jet lying in bed with us as we watched Irma rip apart the cruising community

 

Goodbye 2017…Hello 2018

Overall, I have to say that 2017 has been by far my favorite year. I am so grateful for this crazy life I live and the people it has brought into my life, and I look forward to more adventure and happiness in 2018.

Happy New Year!

xo,
Melody

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