So what happens after your husband, who is also your co-founder of the company you've built for 18 years, tells you he's in love with one of your friends? The night we ended our 20-year marriage, my now ex and I binged on Game of Thrones while sharing a magnum of Ornelia, the Tuscan wine made in Bolgheri, the same village where our Lucini olive oil is produced. By 2:00 a.m. that July night -- after many truths revealed -- my fantasy of working off the grid for the past few months was jump started.
A bit of history here: my husband and I first met and worked in Los Angeles in the music business. Together we made one great CEO, so we searched for our own opportunity. After pursuing several prospects in music, it was our honeymoon to Florence and love for all things Italian that inspired Lucini. We kept our day jobs in music, went to UCLA at night, and started our first product on our kitchen table.
A few months after that July moment of truth, my two children and I began our 16,000-nautical-mile voyage followed by a series of volunteer holidays for the next two years. We took Mark Twain's advice of not letting school get in the way of an education. The trip couldn't have happened without my supportive ex, who agreed this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and co-parented by flying halfway across the world several times to meet our kids when we reached land.
This was a chance for me to make up for lost family time and to stretch us so that our "normal" expanded. Putting us in the middle of the ocean allowed us to test the theory that saltwater -- sweat, tears, and the sea -- cures everything.
Our six month on-land prep was extensive: the US Coast Guard and a local Marine taught us nautical, safety, and self-defense courses, including strategies on entering each port. I purchased a trawler, the kind of boat that can go around the world; Navy-grade night-vision equipment to track "man-overboard"; a back-up dingy; an extra rubber fuel tank; a drone for previewing marinas, an Iridium phone for when the satellite phone didn't work; and a boom swim with attached shark detractors.
After a weekend practice trip to Catalina, I thought we were ready.
Seriously? What was I thinking?
I hadn't skimped on hiring professional captains to get us safely to land on the big crossings. Even though one of them hated kids, one acted like a kid, and another was so large he couldn't fit into the head (or the loo, giving new meaning to poop deck), I wouldn't change a thing.
Our journey, christened by my kids as "Mom's Crazy Trip," gave me the most rewarding days of my life. It was a beautiful thing witnessing my children teach English in a Sri Lankan school after scrubbing algae off endangered turtles; create a water game on the small, sinking island of Fanning in Kirabati with local youngsters; and scooping elephant dung in Thailand's challenging 100˚ heat until they cracked themselves up.
During the trip, I discovered how my experiences at sea shared quite a bit of similarities to what transpires in the boardroom -- revealing what you are truly made of. Comparable to leading a company, going to sea requires preparation and risk; effective and efficient decision making; patience and grit. The sea bequeaths your quietest moments and your most stimulating ones.
It is said we are happiest in pursuit of a goal. As we did at sea, smart entrepreneurs prepare for their luck and enjoy the journey. Part of my journey was selling the company, which had grown to over sixty SKUs during our tenure.
Bio: Renée Frigo Graeff and her children now reside in Sarasota, Florida, enjoying their own rooms until the next adventure. During her journey she sold Lucini, the company she co-founded, while anchored in Tonga next to Paul Allen's preview yacht, Medusa. She currently advises celebrities, restaurants, and consumer product companies on emotional brand strategy. She is also an active investor in emerging companies and helps non-profits in her local area. From 2011-2013, she was president of Slow Food Miami. Renée's ex is now married to her friend.