Before I Die—A Journey from Maryland to Costa Rica
by Matthew Gardam

As 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.

The BoatI built the lifejacketsout of a cooler and a folding chair

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 biggest step.

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.

Top view of lifejacketLate 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 say that.

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.

One of my paintings: “Piano Player.”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 resounding No!

Another 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.

I have trained my dogs for the trip and have them doing business in a litter box.Was 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.