Before I Die—A Journey from Maryland to Costa Rica
by Matthew Gardam
I sit here in Denver I think back
over the last year, and forward to
three weeks from now. Yesterday, in a
blinding snowstorm, we mailed first and
final payment for our boat. The clincher.
It’s done. Costa Rica or bust.
Born in Kempton, PA, schooled in
Philadelphia, and moved to Denver, I
now look forward to moving back east
to Maryland, onto my boat, and then on
to Costa Rica. The next step....the
After staring at a computer screen
for five years I hit thirty. I decided it was
time for a radical change in perspective.
I was making more money then I needed
and hated what the company I worked
for had become. This wasn’t a life. This
was stress; this was domination and
being dominated. This was hiring and firing
and late nights. Broken promises and
compromised integrity for the sake of the
company. This was not who I am. So I
quit, deciding it was time to do something
great, something hard, something
new, something different.
Late one night looking through
Craigslist for a new line of work I started
to wander into the boat sales section. I
was shocked to see how inexpensive they
were, and pretty soon I was hooked.
After two months I found a 36 foot
Lapworth with Costa Rica written
all over it.
My girlfriend Shana and I started
talking about this seriously and
after a few weeks we made a date
or the move: mid to late February.
At first it seemed so far away, but
we made a date and started working.
Details started to fall into place and
hard things turned out to be easy.
This was happening. The hardest
part was the commitment; everything
else was enjoyable. Shana
would not be surprised to hear me
It’s lousy sailing south of San
Diego unless you hit it mid
February, so we had to wait, and the
deal for the boat is all that went
south by winter’s end. And then I
found my strange boat. I call it this
because it doesn’t have a brand — it
was a prototype lifeboat for a large
ocean liner and the current owner
had bought it and adjusted the shape
of the hull making it look like a
tasteful version of an old Gallion.
We snatched at the opportunity, and
here I am three weeks from the
biggest adventure of my life — of
our lives. The best, and hopefully
the first of many.
Am I making the wrong decision?
The thought inevitably crops up, but I
always reassure myself with the question,
When I am on my deathbed will I
regret this? No. The answer is always a
type of reinforcement
comes from the feedback I get from my
friends - once they finally realized that
I was serious, that is. “Wow. I would
love to do that. I can’t believe you are
actually going. That’s fantastic!”
The drama. Oh, the drama! This
past year has been dripping with emotional
highs and lows. At first it was
exiting, euphoric, fresh. I started to
look at the things around me and they
seemed hollow, deflated.
There is this power you get from
the freedom that you gain by letting go.
Insecurity fades because the weight of
your relationships lightens. A euphoric
rush of sweet freedom. I could smell
the salt, oh my readers! I had to have it,
and, best of all, I knew I would.
Because I was doing it. I never stopped
and just kept working towards it and
now here I am with green lights ahead.
it easy? Yes, except for the
commitment. As you and I age, oh my
reader, we chain our inner boys and
girls up with the shackles of adulthood.
Well they are heavy. Very heavy. And
the relief always comes with a little
pain. As I rubbed my bruised wrists I
would always say to myself “Will I
regret this when I am on my deathbed?”
You just can’t beat it.
“No, which I recognized to be an
everlasting Yes.” -Wallace Stevens
Another thing that gave me the
strength was my own nature. My
Belgian blood craves perfection, or at
least a striving for it. I feel a burning
urge to have the most perfect view, and
I have decided the pacific sunset is
pretty darn close to it. Maybe it’s the
artist in me. When I paint the finished
product is always different and better
then what I started working for.
Mistakes I make shape the finish product
to create something new and better.
It creates a hunger. In three weeks I set
out on my hunt for it, the Gulf of
Nicoya, Costa Rica. I can see it. I’m
there right now. Join me on this trip my
readers and gather in close and I’ll
bring you right along with me.
Matthew Gardam grew up in a
creative family. He has been an active
artist for 5 years and plans to paint and
write during his sailing journey, with
his girlfriend and dogs, from Maryland
to Costa Rica.