Ever since Sheree and I met, we have always spoken dreamily of buying a boat and sailing away. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Shortly after our story began, during a camping trip with plenty of spare time available, I strategically got Sheree into reading “ An Embarassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude ” by Ann Vanderhoof. It’s a kind of travel log story that conveniently discusses only the wonderful aspects of the cruising life as the author sails through the Caribbean meeting local characters, picking up authentic recipes and seeking out quaint rum distilleries in the back hills of the Caribbean islands. By the end of the week, Sheree couldn’t stop talking about Caribbean accents, far away beaches and coconut cocktails. A few weeks later, we visited the local boat show and, again, I strategically guided Sheree over to have a look at one of those amazing half a million dollar sailing catamarans, by the end of the day she was ready to sail away. A little bit more strategic work on my behalf over the next few months to lower expectations about the half a million dollar catamaran and bada bing bada boom, we were on baby!
For years upon years after this it was our dream. We had countless conversations in our huge rural ocean front house full of “precious” belongings, sitting in front of our gigantic TV looking out over the huge garden discussing how nice it would be to just hop on a boat and go see the world.
I also remember many more occasions sitting on that same couch discussing how we were going to juggle things to meet the mortgage and credit card payments that month.
Financial stress always kept the cruising dream for us just that, a silly dream. “Maybe if things go well for us, we can go when we retire if we are still healthy enough.”
All things happen for a reason
A work contract was cancelled around the same time a new business failed miserably. All this meant we had to move back closer to the big city. After the sale of the house, we were left with a truck load of stuff and a small deposit for our next house. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but at some stage of the slum we were in from having to go back to the big city we so desperately wanted to be away from, we realised that the only way we were ever going to see the world would be to take the house deposit and just make the cruising dream happen. We contacted a few families who are out there doing it to ask some questions and find out what it is really like; then we started shopping for our boat.
Just what exactly have we given up?
Our boat is not tiny, it’s your house that is huge. Each to their own, but we stand by that. We live as a family of five in a space that is probably around as big as our living room was, and not once have we felt cramped. For sure, we are closer together and on Saturday evenings, we cuddle the kids while we watch the family movie all together on our small settee, but is that such a terrible thing?
Again, your opinion may be different, but from our perspective, we have not given up a single thing. Well, rather not a single thing that we miss; the mortgage is gone; the stuff is gone; the wastefulness is under control. Probably ninety per cent of what was in the truck load we took from the house also went, and you know what? We do not miss a single item that was in there.
So what is this minimalism thing? It’s quite simple: to be a minimalist you must live with less than 100 things, you can’t own a car or a home or a television, you can’t have a career, you must live in exotic hard-to-pronounce places all over the world, you must start a blog, you can’t have children, and you must be a young white male from a privileged background.
That is of course tongue in cheek. In a few words, our idea of minimalism is nothing more than a conscious effort to avoid being cluttered by stuff that is not important. Take a look around, find one item near you and ask yourself if truly, deep down, your life would be any less enjoyable or comfortable if you did not own that item. If the answer is no, donate it. Try it, it’s liberating. Now, pick another item… Careful though, it would be easy to keep going and before you know it your friends and family might be staging an intervention to stop the madness.
Living on a boat requires one to live a life which is a lot like minimalism, there is no room for useless stuff. This is something we would do again in a heartbeat even if we were back in a giant house with room for everything we could imagine.
What are we set to gain?
Well we have already gained a whole lot of freedom, and this is just the beginning. Don’t get along with the neighbours? Cast off the dock lines and change pen. Don’t like the landlord? Cast off the dock lines and change marina. Don’t like your teenage daughter’s new skateboarding-tatooed-loser boyfriend? Cast off the dock lines and change state. Well what do you know. More freedom for us as a family does not have to translate into more freedom for the kids 😉
Readers out there already cruising will probably scoff at this notion of freedom stuck in a marina pen, but one step at a time, we’ll be out there soon enough.
We want to gain a whole lot more time together as a family, and what better way to do that by being stuck together on a boat in the middle of an ocean. It will be our job to oversee their education and general well being. It will be our job to teach them about the big outside world they do not even realise exists. It will be our job to keep them amazed and learning until they are old enough to set out on their own adventures.
We want to gain experiences, not possessions.
We want to have lived before we die. Life is too uncertain to risk leaving all these adventures until “later”. We’re getting ready now and leaving as soon as we possibly can.
Sounds like a whole lot of free thinking socially irresponsible hippy talk? Maybe you’re right, maybe you’re wrong. We don’t care, Sheree and I could not be happier. And the kids? They can feel it. Peace and love brother.
Mechanic, electrician, carpenter, plumber, upholsterer, rigger, author, painter, sailmaker, navigator, meteorologist and captain of the S.V. Venilia.