It’s a funny thing about habits: they’re environment-specific.
Take bananas for example. When at home, I eat a banana each morning. I’ve convinced myself that eating fruit every day is healthy. But many fruits are temperamental—are delicate or seasonal, difficult to peal or too strong in flavor to eat regularly and next to which a bananas is as reliable and accessible as tap water.
My banana eating habit even extends to land-based travel. When on a trip I don’t just buy my coffee at Starbucks, I get a banana there too. Or if Starbucks is out, I’ll walk several blocks from my hotel in search of a banana. If I don’t find one, I’m upset. I feel constitutionally out of whack. I worry I must be short of potassium or fiber or whatever it is bananas contain that I’ve decided is key to my well-being.
But at sea bananas are precious scarce after a few days. Even if they are provisioned, they’re unlikely to last. Once while exploring the Marquesas Islands on Murre, I thought I’d be smart. (Who is Murre?) I bought an entire stalk of bananas from a local farmer, all as green as go and hard as rocks. My idea was that they would ripen slowly, and I could eat them, all 50 of them, over the next couple months. As it turned out I was wrong on all counts; in the tropical heat they ripened quickly and all at once. Within a week I was out of bananas again, having had to throw most of the stalk over the side.
On Arctic Tern’s Northwest Passage, there were no bananas. There weren’t any from the start. And after the first couple days of my banana fast, which I must admit did not include cold sweats but did include some surreptitious searches in cupboards and drawers, I found I stopped longing for them. Now, to be fair, this could be because the skipper’s favorite meal was a thick, hot porridge heaped with re-hydrated prunes. Skipper was always the first to rise and took this to mean that the choice of crew’s breakfast was his. He chose porridge. Every day. And what I learned by eating porridge every day was that the only thing one longs for afterward is to never eat again. Anything. Not even a banana.
So, one of the essential lessons of my Northwest Passage: my happiness does not depend on bananas.
And how long did this last? I have been home from the Northwest Passage for three days. Yesterday I did a grocer run. I bought bananas.
I just ate a banana for breakfast. It’s good to be home.