Right hand over your heart, ready, begin.

These are the words that American schoolchildren hear every day in school before they begin the Pledge of Allegiance.  For some reason, this phrase came to me as I thought about getting ready for the next year of my life.  What does it even mean to be ready?  How does one ready oneself?  Is that little iamb just helping with the cadence of the teacher’s instruction?

These questions and many more are going to stay with me as I get “ready” for an awesome adventure that is about to alter my life.  In 41 days I will be flying to Israel to start a voyage, by sea, that will end, nine months later, in Florida.

I was offered the position of First Mate on my friend Andrew’s boat.  Andrew is someone that I met a long time ago in Spain through another good friend, Ivan.  In the intervening years we have actually run into each other on three continents and played for the tenth best beach ultimate frisbee team in the world.  He has also moved to Israel and undertaken Aliyah, the process by which Jews can become Israeli citizens.  Now his stint in the army is up and he is planning on setting off on this dream trip through the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic to the Caribbean.

I will be going with him and working on the boat the whole time.  Along the way we are planning on seeing the Greek islands, Sicily, Tunisia, Spain (you still alive, Antonia?), the Canary Islands, some West African countries around Senegal, possibly Cape Verde and then lots of small Caribbean nations.  It will be epic.

Like all epic journeys, it starts with preparation, usually shown as a montage coupled with anticipation-building music.   I’m lacking in red headbands or knives to sharpen, though.  So, in these coming weeks I will be applying for visas, figuring out what to do with my apartment and my stuff and packing in quality time with friends and family.

The boat is a Hunter 41.  You can see a virtual tour of the interior of a recent model here.  They are known for their spacious interiors.  Andrew is going to hire a professional sailor to give us some instruction at some point in the “easier” Mediterranean part of the trip.  Andrew’s already taken a six month course, earned his certification and racked up experience sailing by himself in the nine months since he’s had the boat.  We will be joined at various times and durations by others who want to sail with him.  There will be at least two other experienced sailors on the Atlantic crossing, which will really enhance the experience.  Andrew wants to make sure that anyone who is interested in being on board for a leg understands that it isn’t a pleasure cruise; guests are crew, too.   That being said, get in touch if you want to be a part of this and we’ll see what we can do.

I am, needless to say, terribly excited about doing this.  I had a lot of time to consider the proposition as I drove down from Portland last weekend.  I couldn’t really find a downside.  I am a little sad to be saying goodbye for a while to friends in the Bay Area.  I was planning on an awesome summer with them all.  It also throws my life into a lurch as I scramble to tie up loose ends before I go.  As Keith pointed out, however, this is like winning the lottery, it’s too good to pass up.  Who wouldn’t want to win the lottery in the midst of a recession?

I told Andrew that I have this feeling like I’m about to jump off a high rock into the water below.  There are frissons of trepidation, excitement and nervous energy right before you take that leap.  And then you do it and everything changes into that singular experience of joy.

I think I’m ready for it.