Seems that all too often I have to make decisions that are 51/49 either way. In 2007, whether to accept the USCG rescue that I hadn’t asked for. In 2009, whether to try for Tuvalu or play it safe and go to Tarawa. Now, in 2010, whether to get to the start of my speaking tour by taking the passage on the cargo ship as planned, or whether to fly to California instead.
It was never a straightforward decision. I wrote a blog about it back in June. Reading the comments afterwards, I was surprised how much support there was for my taking the plane – mostly so I would be on dry land and able to be online, but also backed up by some rather convincing arguments based on the hard facts of CO2 emissions.
Nevertheless, I had felt it was important symbolically to show that there are viable alternatives to flying, if one has enough time to take the slow boat (or fast boat, compared with mine!) from China. So I booked my passage (with CruisePeople, if you’re interested in doing something similar).
Then, a couple of days ago, the local shipping agent told me that the ship’s ETA in Long Beach was Sept 6, i.e. too late for the first date of the tour, I realised I was actually quite relieved that I would be able to fly instead. I was anxious about any delays, especially given my poor record of ocean-related adventures ending on schedule.
The next morning when we spoke, he told me he had made a mistake, and in fact the ETA was Sept 2 or 3, as previously notified. But mentally I had already moved on and started planning an alternative writer’s retreat in Bolinas, CA, to work on my next book, and was very much looking forward to it. So this now presented me with a dilemma.
This morning I consulted a couple of friends, summarising the pros and cons thusly:
Advantages of Bolinas:
– guaranteed to get to start of speaking tour in time, and avoid letting down my East Coast organisers who have put in so much hard work
– access to healthy and good food – no idea what it will be like on ship, but very unlikely to be organic!
– will have email and phone access for any last-minute inquiries from event organisers
– will have access to internet, to do any final research for information I want to include in my presentation
– will have peace and quiet and time to write
– I can get to my stash of stuff in my friend’s garage to pick up clothes and suitable luggage for the tour
– would get me to the start of tour in best possible shape
– met a director of Maersk the other day, and he has said he can arrange for me to travel on their ships in the future at a less time-critical juncture – quite possibly free of charge
– am frankly weary of travel and adventure for now, and would like to be “home” for a while, somewhere where the living is easy…
Advantages of ship:
– have already paid for it, and fare non-refundable. Extra costs would therefore be air fare and food for 16 days
– no distractions from email (or from social invitations) when supposed to be writing
– big adventure
– easier access to gym (although there are gyms in Pt Reyes and Stinson Beach, and of course some lovely walking around Bo, so lots of exercise options there too)
I asked my heart/gut/instincts for guidance, and they unanimously wanted to go to Bo, but I didn’t know if it was just fear of the unknown that was talking. So I tossed a coin. Bo won. And I didn’t feel a strong urge to do a best of 3. So Bo it is.
So having been so adamant that I was going to take the ship, this is a slightly embarrassing about-face. But circumstances – and appetites for adventure – change. I want a rest, and Bolinas is very therapeutic. And as my friend Jay says, “Those that matter don’t mind. And those that mind don’t matter.”
So that is my decision, and I will just have to live with it. But the sooner they invent teleporting, the better. It will save phenomenal quantities of CO2 and an awful lot of dithering.
Thank you to the kind friends who have been my sounding boards today. You’re great!
I’d like to say an extra-big thank you to Doug Woodring of Project Kaisei, who arranged for my accommodation here in Hong Kong and set up the two wonderful speaking engagements at the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. Doug is a fellow “Climate Hero” for the United Nations Environment Program, and will be speaking at the Hong Kong TEDx in September on the same bill as Dr Jane Goodall. Project Kaisei has an ambitious plan to clean up the North Pacific Garbage Patch, and I wish them all the greatest success in their mission.
Check out this video from their Youth Ambassador, a famous HK singer called Get Everyone Moving (GEM). Doug is a busy, busy man – saving the oceans is a more than full-time job – but still found time to help make my visit in Hong Kong enjoyable and productive. Thanks, Doug!
Thanks also to Rupert and the committee of the Royal Geographical Society, and Koko and the committee of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, especially the AV tech guy without whom there would have been no V. Warmest best wishes to Eric, Geoff, Chris, Chris and Tim for being such excellent dinner companions, and to Mark and Kathy Greenberg – old Oxford rowing friends whom I hadn’t seen in over 20 years, who sprung a wonderful surprise on me by turning up at my presentation on Wednesday night. I’d like to think that none of us have changed at all! 🙂