If you really want to learn something about yourself, sign up to crew on a boat. There are lots of opportunities to help out on race boats, crew for coastal passages, and volunteer on tall ships, so find your passion and go for it! What will you learn?
1. It’s not about you. It’s really, truly not. Crew life is the ultimate “cog in a machine” existence. The job has to get done, and much of the time that means a whole bunch of people doing something pretty substantial together very quickly. If in the process, the bo’sun yells at you to move your ass out of the way, or another deckhand grabs something from you, or the captain ignores you as she is watching the activity aloft, it really, truly is not about you as a person. Don’t get your feelings hurt, just move on.
2. It’s harder than you think. Some things are obviously only for the brave, like climbing a hundred feet or more in the air to reef a sail in a squall. But the bigger the boat, the bigger the ropes, the heavier the equipment, the more complicated the maneuvers; even on a small sloop, the complexity can be overwhelming. You will be confused. And aggravated because you are confused. The key is patience. And focusing on learning one thing at a time.
3. You will be out of your comfort zone. And by that I mean, no privacy, cramped sleeping quarters, marine heads (ugh), constant damp and/or cold, constant small injuries (and some larger ones), unrelenting work, close proximity to people you may not like, and a thousand other things that make you unhappy. The only response is to suck it up and remember why you came. Oh, and re-read #1 above.