Marco Polo Speaks

marco polo meme

I speak and speak ... but the listener retains only the words he is expecting.

It is not the voice that commands the story; it is the ear. - Marco Polo

Marco Polo states “I did not write half of what I saw, for I knew I would not be believed”. It's amazing how often we try to tell stories of our adventures and watch as people's eyes glaze over, and we realize they are not interested; they've stopped listening. We've learned to curtail our stories unless prompted, lest people lose interest in our company altogether. We've talked to other cruisers and they experience much the same reaction. It's reassuring that it's not just us.

We've discussed this phenomenon at length with fellow sailors. We think we're reasonably good storytellers; we think some of our adventures are worth sharing; so what's the problem? As Marco Polo states, “the listener retains only the words he is expecting”. If the words we speak are not expected, the listener turns off. Most people have no frame of reference for our life aboard a sailboat, for the constant travel, for foreign customs and lands, for big storms or endless seas. It's alien to them and since they cannot share the experience, they prefer not to listen. The chat turns to grandkids, or work, or recipes, or whatever seems to be common ground. Talk of sea adventures diminish in the chatter and we, then, are left to listen.

Sometimes our enthusiasm for travel and the liveaboard life is so unbelievable, our listeners think we're exaggerating and bragging rather than just sharing our stories. If they have visited the Caribbean Islands or ventured to the South Seas, it's a given that their experiences are vastly different from ours … and they'd rather recount their tales than listen to ours. Few members of our family follow our blog with any regularity. We can usually tell that they're not into our sailing life when we call and they ask where we are and what we're doing.

We've learned not to take it personally. It's not as much a lack of interest as it is a lack of familiarity with our non-traditional lifestyle. It's hard for non-sailors to comprehend the life we lead living on a sailboat. There's little common ground to share. School kids and the elderly seem to do best with the subject matter we present. They're either very eager to receive new information or patient and captive enough to listen to what we have to say. So … if you ask, we can talk your ears off, but we promise to stop when your eyes glaze over.