You have to be rich to go cruising?

Laundry day!
One of the biggest misconceptions of cruising is that you have to be rich to realize the dream. It’s just not true. Sure, it can be very expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are cheap ways to go as well, but most importantly: anybody can do it. It has far more to do with making a choice to be different, to sticking with it while lining up your life to make it happen.

In early January, the question, or assumption, of personal wealth was posed to me four times in the space of a week. That’s enough of a personal zeitgeist that some rumination was in order, and the result became our article for the February issue of 48 North (available at chandleries and boaty places around Puget Sound, or online the 1st of the month).

rich to go cruisingMost people are too polite to ask. The people I wished would ask usually didn’t. I’m afraid a lot of them are making incorrect assumptions. We have no trust funds fueling our journey. We planned, anticipated, and made choices that weren’t always easy. Some bets paid off (thank you, turn of the century real estate market). Others didn’t (same to you, Wall Street and currently screwed up economy). We often lived differently from others around us. One modest car, no annual ski trips, no seasonally refreshed wardrobes- unless thrift stores count. Out here, we have some very big fixed costs that we can’t do much about, but our daily living needs are minimal. Groceries cost a fraction of what they did at home, and we have beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables readily available. But those fixed costs? Mortgage, insurance, that kind of thing? That’s just us. They’re not part and parcel of a cruising plan or budget. We spend a small fraction on daily living, even compared to what felt like a reasonably conservative lifestyle before cruising.

Still, we didn’t talk outside a circle of very good friends and family about our cruising plans until they were very close to becoming reality. As a life choice, it’s a little too different for some people to grok- especially when we share our goal to make it a way of life as long as we can, and not a short sabbatical. My absolute favorite contrary reaction was from the parent of one of our children’s schoolmates. In telling her that we wouldn’t be around much soon, her face opened into one of surprise, shock, and ultimately dismay. “But what about the WASL?” she cried (non Washington residents: this is the state-mandated standardized learning test issued at regular intervals to those unfortunate to be in a school requiring compliance. It’s a total waste of time). Well, gosh, maybe we should forgo the opportunity for our children to learn through travel and unique experiences, and stay here so they can prep in a Quonset hut for a meaningless test. Um, no.

But I’m getting off track. This was about money.

Culturally, in the US, we define ourselves by our possessions. Sad, but come on…how many people can honestly say they have not fallen into this trap? The obsession we have with material things limits us in realizing our full potential. Anyone following me on Facebook knows I have gone through some gyrations recently, debating the purchase of a Kindle eReader. It’s over. A lovely piece of unnecessary accoutrement, it would cost us most of a month’s worth of groceries- our highest variable cost of cruising. That’s not worth it! I’d rather stay out here one more month, even if I have to read a few crappy pulp mysteries from the book exchanges instead of more rewarding or current content. Jamie will just have to deal with the port list we have from the weight on our bookshelves…let’s face it, I probably wasn’t going to shed any of those books anyway.

I don’t want to be defined by what we have. I want to be defined by our courage to take the less traveled road, and live every day to the absolute fullest as a family.

insipiration, again
Pictures of dolphins, drawn by the girls from what they saw next to Totem one morning

18 Responses

  1. I completely agree – the cruising life can be much less expensive than land based life. We keep it to a minimum, but still I believe that we can cut down a lot more on what we have to simplify our lives more.

  2. Behan,

    I’m a recruiter in Seattle and ran across your name on Linkedin and remembered speaking with you some years ago, perhaps when you were at Primus. What a treat it has been to read your recent blogs, relish in the amazing adventure that you and your family are on and send kudos to you for planning and executing your dream!

    Blessings and safe journeys to you and yours,

    Teresa Dahl

  3. Great post. Last time we did this (15-years ago for 4 years) we did it on the uber cheap. Worked out to around $500 US a month. This time we’re spending more (seems mainly on electronics so I can keep earning money, which is slightly ironic…) Our goal this time round though is not to deplete our savings and have enough coming in to balance what’s going out. We live much cheaper out here (‘cept for that little rerigging expense in San Francisco) so we work less and live more.
    The urge to have stuff really diminishes the further you get from places where stuff is idolized.
    Btw – we got into La Cruz early this AM and hope to connect with Seven C’s when they get here. Are you in the area yet?

  4. I find interesting how much the lower cost of living out here has changed our perceptions and requirements for when we move to New Zealand. We started looking for a house or apartment with 3 or 4 bedrooms, garage, etc. That was what we had before, right? Then we looked some more and thought… what on earth for? Now we’re looking at one bedroom with studio and two bedroom walk ups. Tiny places advertised as perfect for “a single professional or young couple”… but absolutely huge by our families current standards.

  5. Excellent post! We got the same kind of questions when we did our long roadtrips and went cruising. If you’re interested, here is what I wrote about that.

  6. Well of course we’d skip a fabulous life adventure just so our kids could take a poorly-constructed test which is being phased out, probably to be replaced by a different POS test.

    Have fun, y’all!

  7. LOL! The WASL.

    I live in Seattle and found your blog via the Bainbridge Island homeschooling list (we’re contemplating a move there, into Winslow cohousing)… I’ve been reading your blog for a while, though this is my first comment.

    Thank you for sharing so much of your journey. I am loving being an armchair cruiser. 🙂


  8. oh B, you are defined by your belief in truly providing what is important to your family, your compassion, courage and honesty to live as you (and Jamie) define it, to the fullest.

    cruising with you in spirit!

  9. wow well said, I stumbled to your website via another website , I love your point of view of like!! I wish most people would have same point of view and we would have better earth to live!! I live in San diego and I am in process of securing 38″ sailboat, and would very much do the same you guys doing , enjoying life!!! thank you for sharing.

      1. Yes I could agree with you more! I been your blog and it is great 🙂 BTW , I was watching one of “followtheboat” #43-44 episode in the youtube I truly enjoyed watching it!! I saw how much you and your enjoyed give present away to kids and that is true meaning sharing your kindness ,Please keep up great work and have safe passage and journey !!!

          1. Yes they are 🙂 you guys give me more confidence to make it happen , buy boat and live aboard and go blue water cruising!! thank you for your blog and all the informative blog keep up great work!!

    1. Hi Jodi- when I wrote this, we weren’t earning any income while cruising. Well, we had some from renting our house, but ultimately it cost us because the mortgage was higher than the rent. We made a little bit freelance writing, but it was beer money…maybe. We were about two years into cruising with about a year left in the bank, living on savings, and stopped in Australia to work at the end of that year. NOW, it’s different… six years later! We have a few streams of income. The house finally generates some. Jamie is selling fantastic sails to cruisers (shipped anywhere!). I am about to get my first royalty check for Voyaging With Kids (not much but will be more than my rate of $ for freelancing in 2010). And, the blog makes a little (wine money). It’s a mixed bag, basically, but it keeps us going for now.

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