A Cup of Chai With – Mario Minichilli

mario minichilli prana chai

Mario had been dreaming of travelling the world in his boat, with his family. He recently did so! We had a cup of chai and heard all of the stories from his journey. 

What was the most challenging thing you had to overcome? 

Fear. Have you ever been petrified? Literally frozen solid with fear, unable to move a muscle even though you are trying to? It was new to me. It sounds dramatic but there were times at sea, in the middle of storms, when we were days from land that I felt the universe tell me over and over again “YOU DO NOT BELONG  HERE”. I needed to meditate a lot so that I could overcome that feeling.

What is one new thing you learned about the experience and yourself during this trip?

There are too many lessons to summarise. I learned a lot about myself and about my family. About the art of seamanship. About the weather and the cruel and unforgiving sea. I learned the importance of being prepared, and I generally just ‘grew up a bit’.

What did you miss the most?

Hot showers!

Using only three words, how would you describe the experience?

Adventurous, Wonderful, Bliss

Would you do it again?

Absolutely! There were hard times, but everything else was fantastic. I loved living so close to nature, seeing stars all the way to the horizon, sustainably living off solar and wind power, traveling to exotic places but always having your cozy home with you, waking up every morning at anchor in a paradise, the sense of absolute freedom, the lack of noise (both literal and figurative). I felt absolutely blessed, like I am the luckiest guy in the world.

What destination would you recommend most? What about it stood out?

Vanuatu. The people are lovely, and their culture is centred on giving and sharing. 

What was the most harrowing moment?

Being at sea in storm-force winds and big swells.

Any great wildlife sightings out on the open ocean?

We saw a pod of dolphins in the middle of the night in waters thick with phosphorescence that made them glow ... they were like spirits, like ghosts, the light that they gave off lit up the decks of the boat like it was day! They were jumping out of the water and looking like they were coated in sparkling diamonds. It was the best thing I’ve witnessed in my 43 years.

What was the highlight of this sort of intense travel, from the perspective of family?

We became stronger and we grew closer. We worked well as a team and we learned to trust each other, and we learned that we only need each other to be content and happy.

Is there anything you would do differently if you did the trip again? 

Yes, we are upgrading our boat. QUINCO looked after us but I’d like something bigger. Something closer to an expedition vessel, something I could take into the ice.

What did you miss most about being on land?

Nothing much at all, except the people there. Life at sea is much better

Who was the most interesting person or persons you met along the way and why?

An old French couple. She was in her early 80s and he was almost 90. They had been living aboard for 20 years and were half way through their second circumnavigation, on a boat half the size of mine, with half the technology and equipment. An impossible feat, but achieved nonetheless. Why? Because it shows the power of a good attitude. They had some stories!

What was the most difficult part of working remotely?

Getting a good internet connection. 

What are you looking forward to the most in the next year when it comes to Prana Chai?

Moving at least some focus from finding growth, over to improving service.
Improving relationships with existing customers, showing gratitude to the people that have been supporting us.

Where will you be this time next year?

The next leg of the journey is the Mediterranean for a while, then across the North Atlantic. From there we might go south to the Caribbean or maybe north through Canada and into the Arctic circle.

Having had this time away living without certain necessities and being disconnected from friends and work, how do you think it will impact on you once you settle back in? 

I’m not sure. It’s going to be interesting to say the least.

Was this a well-thought-out trip? Did you stick to your original plan for travel or have to change course? Were there any split decisions you wish you could have changed? What luck did you stumble upon with your journey?

The boat was prepared well. I’m glad I went the extra mile there, because I know we had all bases covered when it got hairy. We spent more time in less places when originally we were going to cover a lot more miles (we loved Vanuatu so much we moved slowly). We got lucky a lot, yes.

Would you be confident to take time away to a greater degree and leave Prana Chai in the capable hands of the team? Did anything work-related keep you up at night? 

I felt bad that I wasn’t always reachable in an instant but I think we managed well. I want my partners to be able to hit the road as well, so I’ll be pushing them to do the same when I get back. I feel it’s important; we only live once and there is a lot to experience. We open up to new experiences when we are on the road.