We all have at least one goal that seems impossible to achieve, yet we still dream of accomplishing it. For Amy McCullough, a Loyola University Chicago alum who graduated in 2002 with a creative writing degree, her wild dream was to escape the everyday grind of paying bills and working to have uninterrupted time with the love of her life, her boyfriend Jimmie Buchanan.
Rather than wait for that to happen, she made it happen. Together, the couple decided to leave behind their jobs and apartment, sell all their possessions and buy a 27-foot sailboat. Despite their lack of sailing experience, they spent one year at sea, sailing from their hometown Portland, Oregon, to the Sea of Cortez in Baja California, Mexico — a trip that spans around 1000 miles. McCullough recorded the entire journey for what eventually became the substance of her first book, The Box Wine Sailors.
McCullough is visiting Chicago to host an author event at The Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln Ave.) in honor of The Box Wine Sailors: Misadventures of a Broke Young Couple at Sea on Friday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m.
In the book, McCullough tells her story with sass.
“I don’t plan to go and encourage everyone to risk their lives on a little boat, but if [the book] makes you feel like maybe you can do something you didn’t think you could do, then that’s great,” McCullough said in a phone interview with The Phoenix. “I just think there’s a lot of sailing narratives and adventure books but I think our story is a little bit different because we feel like pretty regular people who were just excited to do something that we had no business doing.”
The book is an adventure and romance novel mixed together. Getting the title from the large amounts of box wine the couple would drink (it was cheaper than bottled wine), McCullough not only tells the couple’s sailing story, but she also reveals what they learned from the journey in a way that empowers readers to follow their dreams.
“It made me feel like I could probably accomplish anything … Like why not do something that feels too big or un-doable because maybe you can,” McCullough said.
The boating adventure inspired the couple to prolong their return to “regular” life. For about five months, they camped across the country, visiting several national parks.
Eventually, the pair realized it was time to go back to the life they had left behind but instead of returning to Portland, McCullough and Buchanan decided to start anew in Austin, Texas.
While McCullough said she doesn’t intend to write a book about the van trip, she did mention the duo is already planning future adventures.
“We kind of have it in the back of our heads that it would probably be a pleasant sail to go from the Gulf Coast to the Caribbean and spend some time in a nice sailing area,” she said. “There’s a lot of places we’re interested in going.”
If the couple wants to keep up the trend, McCullough joked, “Maybe we’ll have to learn to fly — that seems like the natural next step.”
But even if your wild dream isn’t to set sail with no experience, McCullough has some advice: “Don’t not try to do something.”
McCullough and Buchanan are still together and share a place in Austin. In addition to writing, McCullough is a master’s student and graduate teaching assistant at the University of Texas at Austin. Recently, she and Buchanan have been working on films and music together. Their first full-length film, Operation: RAVEN premiered at the Austin Film Festival in 2014. The sequel, Beast Lover, was shown at Zed Fest Film Festival in Burbank, California.
Copies of The Box Wine Sailors will be available for purchase at The Book Cellar on Oct. 30.