"From the first page manages to capture the reader's attention and take the mind on a journey. A gifted storyteller... An inspiration to think "why not me?". Well done and thank you." (Christine T.)
"I have had so many good conversations with friends, family, and even my boss (at my yearly job qualification) because of this book! It has touched me in more ways you can imagine." (Nadine P.)
"This book makes you think! It gives an answer to all your excuses about why you can't take a break in life. So simple, so important!! A "must read" Book!!!" (Shiri N.)
"I found the book riveting… enjoyable and mostly inspirational… The fact that reading it makes me want to change the way I interact with my own family… says it all. Well done." (Warren M.)
"This book is amazing and so inspiring!!! Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. I really loved it! Tomer Lanis is such a gifted storyteller and I am really glad that he wrote this book, sharing his adventures with his family and giving advice on how anyone can do the same. I feel inspired and motivated to follow the author footsteps. I too have this dream of taking a sabbatical and go explore the world for a few months. So, not only I now have (even more) itchy feet, but I also have a nice framework/structure that I can use to help me realize my dream." (Cecilia F.)
What would it mean to you
if you could take six months unpaid leave and dedicate this time to traveling
with your family?
“Shayli look! So many sea turtles swim here!” I call.
She can spend hours chasing the cute, docile reptiles, and the north bay of Anse d’Arlet on the west coast of Martinique is teeming with them. Every few seconds I see a head popping out for air. But this time Shayli is unimpressed. She is awakening slowly from her afternoon chilling. I am washing dishes at the back of the yacht, sitting on the stairs just above the water level. I believe sea turtles are solitary. Although some favorite feeding grounds may host many individuals, they seem to wander around independently of each other and I haven’t observed any social behavior of sea turtles swimming together. I wonder whether today is a special event for them; what brings so many of them to this bay?
The sun is low in the sky so I can’t see into the clear water, but I notice many silhouettes of their beaked heads randomly showing themselves above the surface and then diving again. A small one is looking at me from a few yards away, when I accidentally drop a bowl into the water. I try to catch it but it floats just beyond my reach. I stand up quickly and grab the boat hook, a six-foot telescopic pole we use to catch floating ropes and mooring buoys. By the time I try the boat hook, the bowl is already floating farther away and I can’t reach it. “Shayli, I need help,” I call again. I think she hasn’t had her shower today and can use this opportunity to wash herself, swim with the sea turtles, and bring back the bowl at the same time.
Shayli looks at the blue plastic bowl floating away. Without thinking twice, she takes her goggles and jumps into the water. I notice the current and I think to myself that Shayli is a strong swimmer. I continue washing the dishes and when I look up again, Shayli and the bowl are about fifty yards behind the boat. With one hand she is holding the bowl and with the other she is trying to swim back.
“Daddy! I can’t swim back!” I hear her calling. I see her drifting backwards next to a floating buoy. This must be scary. I quickly put on my fins and goggles, take Shayli’s fins with me and jump to the rescue. On my way to Shayli I see several sea turtles, a few little purple jellyfish, and I get stung twice. When I reach her, she seems to be exhausted and in pain, and yet fearless. “There are lots of jellyfish here,” she says.
I take the bowl and help Shayli put on her fins. “Ya mon! I’ve met the jellyfish,” I say. “It is going to be unpleasant, but we have to swim back to the boat.”
I look back and estimate the swimming distance to be now between 150 and 200 yards. Using her fins and both arms, I hope Shayli can make it against the current. It seems like she swims fast in the water but looking at the stationary buoys, I see that her progress is too slow. I don’t know how long it will take to swim all the way back to the boat this way. What is worse, I don’t know how long we can cope with the jellyfish.
The mystery of the sea turtles is now solved: The strong current brought into the bay a gigantic dense swarm of purple jellyfish. They are one of the sea turtle’s favorite snacks. Hundreds of hawksbill sea turtles are feasting as if there were no tomorrow. Swimming with the current towards Shayli was the easy part. Swimming against the current, we are inevitably bumping against the hordes of jellyfish which are passively moving in the opposite direction. We are familiar with the little purple kind; they aren’t dangerous but are quite painful. Their sting feels like a combination of a needle and a moderate electric shock. One of these encounters is sufficient to scare you out of the water for the rest of the day and make you check the water carefully for jellyfish the next time you plan to jump in. We have seen them several times in the Mediterranean and only once before in the Caribbean. Now let’s face it: We have to endure this torture every few seconds for the rest of this long swim.
Generally speaking, I admire jellyfish. They fascinate me. They have no brain, no central nervous system, no blood circulation, no skeleton, no muscles, no digestive system and no respiratory system. They have no senses as we know them, although some species have light-sensitive organs that determine the direction of the sun but can’t form images. They are only jelly and appear to have none of the organs which we see as vital. Nevertheless they can hunt, and they navigate the ocean in huge groups. No one knows how. If you throw ten plastic bags into the ocean, they don’t stay together for long. Jellyfish do.
Shayli once collected eight jellyfish in a bucket of water and tried to feed them with cucumber. They did not react at all. She tried bread and chicken – still no movement. But when she broke a raw egg into the bucket, the jellyfish suddenly started to swim towards it. Having no brain and no senses, how did they "know" the egg was there?? The largest of the eight managed to wrap itself around the egg, protect it from the others, and absorb the protein into its jelly. Swimming now with Shayli among thousands of them, I hope they don’t confuse us for raw eggs.
I realize that the most sensitive part of our skin is our face. This is where the stinging hurts the most, especially between the upper lip and the nose. I look at Shayli; she is breathless but she shows no pain, no self-pity and no sign of giving up.
“How are you?” I ask, and she answers with a touch of disappointment in her voice:
“When I called you, I was hoping you would come over with the dinghy.”
“Yes,” I smile in frustration, “I didn’t know about the jellyfish. But I have an idea: Let’s swim backstroke.”
We turn onto our backs. I hold the bowl in my right hand and put my right arm under Shayli’s left armpit. We can swim together now, using one arm each. “Long, slow strokes,” I say. “It is going to be a long swim.”
Shayli nods. We are glad to have our faces out of the water and away from the jellyfish. We make better speed now and smile at each other with every buoy we pass by on our way. I feel Shayli’s body trembling with every jellyfish that touches her. On the boat, Laura is already waiting for us. “The water is full of jellyfish!” Shayli calls from a few yards away.
Laura goes to the kitchen and comes back with a bottle of vinegar to wash and neutralize the toxic jellyfish cells on our skin. I take Shayli’s hand and pull her to the swim ladder at the back of the boat. As she climbs up the ladder, the sight of her skin covered with red rash is dreadful. Laura gasps and drops the bottle of vinegar. She picks it up and starts rinsing Shayli’s body carefully, from top to bottom, aiming to remove invisible tentacle scraps, which continue to release their painful venom. I am amazed to see Shayli standing tall, smiling and telling our story proudly. I listen and hear not a word of complaint or protest. After this exhausting, frightening and torturous experience, she comes out of the water as a hero, not a victim.
“Weren’t you scared?” Kay asks. He is normally the quickest out of the water with any rumor of jellyfish.
“I was a bit afraid,” she answers, “but only until Dad came.”
Excerpt from chapter 13: Against the Current
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