Sailing seems like the only real way to get away from it all. Unlike hiking in the woods, where there are bugs and bears (and possibly bugbears, if you're in a fantasy forest), taking a ship out on the open ocean seems like your best option for solitude and silence. As long as you don't fall off the boat and get hassled by a bunch of fish, you can spend days, weeks, or months at sea without having to interact with another living creature, human or otherwise. In a world of smart phones and social media, it sounds utterly blissful.
In theory, anyway. In practice, I lasted about six minutes in open-world multiplayer sailing simulator Sailaway (opens in new tab) before I suddenly became desperate to talk to another player. Which is weird for me: I don't play many multiplayer games, and when I do I sort of hate talking to people anyway. And for the first few minutes of Sailaway I was perfectly content to see other ships but not try to communicate with their captains. That is, until I got the feeling other captains were actively trying to avoid me, at which point I became obsessed with getting their attention.
Sailaway can be a simple sailing experience—just steer with a couple of keys and let the sim do the rest for you—or a complex one, where you do all the line hauling and sail trimming and knowing what genoa furlers are and all that other stuff I didn't bother to learn. I appreciate a game with depth, but also one that doesn't require you to know everything before you can get your toes wet.
It's a persistent online world: you can even log off and your boat will continue sailing, meaning you can take simulated months-long voyages across the sea. Luckily for the casual sailor like myself who may not want to spend months playing, you can teleport, too. Pick a spot in the world and you'll arrive there a moment later. I bounced around for a while, checking out coastlines, islands, and landmarks while I (sort of) learned how to sail.
But then I noticed in my global notifications that several people had teleported to locations near me, and then promptly teleported away or simply went offline. What's more, when I teleported near someone—not to talk to them, just to look at their boat—that person also blipped away a moment later.
It happened a few more times, and it started to bother me. Why does everyone seem to be avoiding me? Does my boat suck or something? Granted, my boat is named "My Boat", so perhaps I'm labeling myself as a newbie (or newbuoy), but still. It's not that I even want to talk to anyone, but now that people are deliberately not talking to me all I want to do is to force someone to talk to me. I suddenly feel like I've walked into a crowded party and everybody has suddenly gone quiet and are now looking at their phones, turning their backs, or leaving to use the restroom.
I start trying to talk to other captains. Nothing major, just greeting people nearby over the text chat. That's all, just a simple hello. And I get no responses back. I become something of a boat-stalker, searching the map for other ships, teleporting over to them, saying hello, following them around, and then teleporting away to find someone else. In some cases I sail directly behind them, beside them, and even teleport in front of them at attempt to collide with them.
It turns out, you can't collide with them.
But still, you have to notice some guy repeatedly teleporting around you and then steering his ship right through your hull. Say hello! Swear at me! Call me a name! Something! Anything!
I tail someone for long minutes under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco but they don't respond to greetings, then I teleport to New York's Liberty Island and get ignored in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. I teleport to the Nile River, but it's nighttime so I can't see the person I'm trying to harass, so I head to the Florida coast for a while. Still nothing.
Eventually, I do get some responses. Someone I hailed with "bonjour" fifteen minutes ago finally responds with "bonjour" but then adds a string of other French words I can't understand. Someone I said hello to in the Caribbean an hour ago finally says hello back. One sailor issues a greeting but says "hello to 'MY BOAT' owner" which I think is probably an insult. I still feel a little better that I'm not just sailing around in a purgatory filled with ghost ships.
Naturally, once people have greeted me I find I have nothing useful or interesting to say as a follow-up, and a moment later I feel immensely guilty for bugging players who are probably doing what I was there doing initially: trying to get away from annoying people who never shut up. So, I do what they all did: I teleport away and log off. I hope they don't take it as personally as I did.