Global Solo Challenge: Isolation and introspection
An article by Marco Nannini
Isolation and introspection – the infinity of possible worlds
It has now been many years since I completed the 2011/2012 Global Ocean Race. It is an experience that took me years to completely metabolise. I faced a thousand other storms since then, on land, more than at sea, before realising what was left of that adventure within me. The isolation and enormity of the oceans lay bare our insignificant smallness. While we are at sea we rediscover a humility that we did not know we had. And, in these days of Coronavirus isolation, I found myself drawing parallels.
The isolation of the sea as a place of reflection
Only at sea during the long races I did single-handed or with a short-handed crew did I experience these emotions. So I think of all those who are experiencing this situation for the first time and I am not surprised they are somehow lost. Not everyone, I would say, experiences it as an epiphany as being at sea was for me the first time. Indeed, the anxiety and uncertainties of tomorrow, seen from this isolation, makes many feel helpless. Fears devour them from within and helplessness turns into anger.
At sea I learned to wait, knowing that I could not do anything. Wait for the end of a storm, wait for the wind to return after a calm. Today we are waiting for something to change, but we don’t even know exactly how long it’ll take. Mostly I hear about “returning to normal”, but there is no point in talking about normalcy if that was the problem. This suspension gave us the elusive opportunity to reflect, to hear the chirping of birds and not the noise of modern life.
Yet when we’ll return to the streets some, perhaps not all, will have changed. Only a drastic change such as this isolation creates the conditions for an introspective moment. I am not saying that everyone will have deep epiphanies, there will be those who have never had them and won’t now. But some will have been able to enjoy that luxury reserved for those who, for sport or passion, already knew extreme isolation. This doesn’t happen just at sea, the similarities are found among mountain lovers or even in the euphoria of the marathon runner.
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