November 25 – December 1, 2020.
Towards the end of November three couples and the lovely canine, Maya, converged in Tucson. All ex sailors (except for Maya). All now wandering around on the hard. We had met one of the couples, Scamper Squad, years and years ago after reading their blog and discovering they were working on their boat in the same marina as us in Indiantown, Florida. We were introduced to the other couple, Mark and Liesbet, through their blog after my friend from Scamper Squad suggested that I check it out. Like us, they had sailed, had house sat, and were traveling the country in a van. We eventually met them in person in Arizona a couple of years ago. Now the three wandering couples were in the same place at the same time, and we had big plans.
We all left Tucson for the Ironwood Forest National Monument – about 25 miles out of the city – and set up camp. Thanksgiving was coming up, and even though it isn’t a holiday Greg and I normally celebrate, we thought it’d be fun to share some good food with our friends. After all, this would be the first Thanksgiving that Liesbet, who is Belgium born, would celebrate as an American citizen. But even better than that, two days later Liesbet would celebrate her 45th birthday and the publication of a project five years in the making, a memoir of her traveling and sailing life during her 30s.
When Greg and I first set sail a few people told me we should write a book. I thought, OK, but we really hadn’t done anything yet. Any wannabe adventurer can buy a boat and think that they are going to be sailors – lots do. And then after we got on the water there seemed to be so many people doing it. And there were already so many people who’d already written books. I wasn’t sure what I could add to the canon of nautical memoirs.
And at first, I wondered this about Liesbet’s book too. But Liesbet has had a much more interesting traveling life than we have. Since falling in love with travel in her teens, she has hitchhiked in Europe, backpacked in Asia, traveled North America in a truck camper, and sailed through the Caribbean and the South Pacific. She has only lived a few years of her adult life in a traditional dwelling, has traveled in six out of the seven continents (planning to tick that last one, Antarctica, off her list in the coming years), and has visited over 60 countries.
Liesbet’s book, Plunge – One Woman’s Pursuit of a Life Less Ordinary soared to number one in new releases for sailing, sailing narratives, and travel with pets the day it was published. We celebrated with champagne, chocolate, music, and a little bit of dancing while the 5-star reviews started rolling in. Here are a few samples of praise for Liesbet’s book taken from Goodreads (bolding was added by me):
With unflinching honesty, Liesbet Collaert describes the breathtaking highs and the gut-wrenching lows of living a life less ordinary. Her writing is intensely vivid and personal. – Donna
…Liesbet Collaert writes a book that encourages her readers to stop and think about THEIR life. Are they living the best one they can? I highly recommend this excellent memoir. – Pamela
Once you start reading this book, you won’t be able to put it down. The author has a unique voice which will quickly draw you into the story of her unconventional life and the path she’s taken. – Ellen
I wish I could have been at some of the events described, her writing grounds the reader in the scenes. Sometimes, I laughed out loud, other times I had a lump in my throat. – Simon Prior
I admire the author for bearing her raw honesty in her story. I loved this book as it encompassed so many aspects of life – desires and passions, determination, love, fragility, travel, and heart. – D.G. Kaye
This inspiring memoir is one you won’t be able to put down until you’ve reached the end. – Jill
Artfully written, the author creates transitions that seamlessly flow from one period of time to another, making it a joy to read. – Martha Graham-Waldon
It’s the real deal, and is not just another sunny story about the sand, the surf and the seas. It’s inspiring and empowering. There’s laughs, and there’s tears, but I don’t want to give it all away. Read the book. It’ll touch your soul! – Alexandra
I felt totally involved in her life and when I finished, I felt as if I’d travelled the world with her. – Valerie Poore
Written more like a suspense novel than a memoir, Plunge drops you into the deep end of the ocean and exposes the underbelly of living life on your own terms. – Suzanne
She had me in tears several times as her story unfolds, and her writing is both crisp and refreshingly honest. – Alyson Sheldrake
I’ve read many cruising memoirs, and this is a top ten read for me. It’s realistic, thoughtful, and introspective, just as a memoir should be. – Amy
The writing is excellent, and I felt like I was a crewmember experiencing the hardships and strains that husband and wife endured, including starting a family. – Pete Springer
I’ve read the book and it was so much more than what I expected. It was honest, funny, and at times touching. I really felt like I was right there with Liesbet. I wrote a review but Greg’s is so much better. Here it is:
Strap on your self-inflating life jacket. Make sure you are secured to the jacklines. Is your pet close by? OK, now you have already planned farther ahead than Liesbet did before taking the ‘”Plunge”. Open to new horizons and new relationships, she has explored our world, taking the less-traveled land and sea routes. If you enjoy her story, invite her over. Like all good nomads she’d love to borrow your shower.
Here is the official blurb:
Tropical waters turn tumultuous in this travel memoir as a free-spirited woman jumps headfirst into a sailing adventure with a new man and his two dogs.
Join Liesbet as she faces a decision that sends her into a whirlwind of love, loss, and living in the moment. When she swaps life as she knows it for an uncertain future on a sailboat, she succumbs to seasickness and a growing desire to be alone.
Guided by impulsiveness and the joys of an alternative lifestyle, she must navigate personal storms, trouble with US immigration, adverse weather conditions, and doubts about her newfound love.
Does Liesbet find happiness? Will the dogs outlast the man? Or is this just another reality check on a dream to live at sea?
And here is a link to a sample of how Liesbet’s book begins on Hugh’s Views & News.
We have been traveling on and off with our nomadic friends since Thanksgiving. And although we have been having some fun together, Liesbet has managed to also dedicate lots of time promoting Plunge. She has had many interviews featured on many blogs, like this one with writer Jacqui Murray on her blog Worddreams. She has participated in a webinar for the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA). And did a Zoom Q&A for a book club that chose to read her book.
In the coming months, she will be featured in a quarterly magazine published by The Daily News in Newburyport, Massachusetts. She is working on lining up interviews with influential travel bloggers. Has reviews coming out in print publications. And a telephone interview with a major Belgian newspaper.
Honestly, I can’t imagine doing what my friend has done – writing a memoir so inspiring, so vivid, so personal. This book is more than just about sailing or travel. It is about real-life because no matter where you go or how you get there, real-life follows you – the ups, the downs, the doubts and fear, the joys and loves. And the constant change. One minute we are living our lives and the next a virus brings the world to a standstill. We have all been navigating tumultuous waters for a while now, but also hopefully managing some small joys. Like finding birds in the desert, spending time with friends in wide-open spaces, and celebrating the success of a dear friend.
* As always, pics are click to enlarge. They are better that way. You can also view the pics in a slideshow once you have enlarged them.
** Liesbet loves to answer questions about her book, her travels, her life, and Belgian dance fads. If you have any questions for her, please leave them in the comments. She is traveling in Mexico right now, looking for whales and a nice relaxing beach to kick back on so she may be a little slow responding but next time she gets an internet signal she will have some answers!
This week I will be sharing this post on My Corner of the World, Travel Tuesday, Wild Bird Wednesday, Through My Lens, and Sharon’s Souvenirs. Check out these links to see what other people are doing all over the world.